It was June of 1964 and I was about to turn 13 in August, when The Rolling Stones embarked on their first American tour and Detroit was their sixth show, but I was too young to go. I still remember so clearly seeing them in the newspaper for the first time. They didn’t look at all like the Beatles with matching suits and evenly cut long hair. The Rolling Stones looked more like the bad boys of rock’n’roll, each showing a different style of cool, wearing a sweater, vest, jacket and differing long hair styles and the pointy black leather boots. I fell in love with Mick Jagger immediately and I knew that the Stones were the band for me. I had heard some of their music, but hadn’t really seen pictures. Their edgy Rockin’ Blues music style definitely fit their images.
The first song that I recall hearing from the Stones was “Not Fade Away”. It was the A side of their first single.
The song is credited to Buddy Holly. The song “Not Fade Away” was first recorded by Buddy Holly and the Crickets in 1957. The rhythmic pattern of the song is a variant of the legendary Bo Diddley beat.
Watching the Stones perform that song on the Mike Douglas show. Mick, his lips, playing his maracas, standing on one leg and shaking it, is the first coolest scene of my rock and roll adventure.
With my love for Mick Jagger, I didn’t last but a year and a half at Catholic High School. When the Mother Superior saw all the magazine clippings of Mick taped inside my locker, she had them ripped up and thrown away. She made up a story about something I had done and had me kicked out of school. Nuns were always right back then even when they were wrong. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me though! I enrolled in a much more advanced public school where I learned from new friends about the Rock’n’Roll Palace called the Grande Ballroom..Thank you Mick! They threw away my magazine clippings, but my love for you and your music did not fade away!
My music journey began at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, Michigan in the late 60’s. That is where my real love for rock music first started. The proprietor and promoter of the Grande (pronounced Grandee) was “Uncle Russ” Russ Gibb. He was also a teacher and disc jockey and best known for the “Paul is Dead” phenomenon on radio station WKNR-FM in Detroit in 1969 and I remember listening to it as it was being discussed. I highly recommend the book “The Grande Ballroom” Detroit’s Rock and Roll Palace by Leo Early with a forward by Russ Gibb. The cover photo below, taken by Tom Weschler, is of The Who performing at the Grande. On page 162, there is a photo of the MC5 taken by Leni Sinclair. I was so excited to see that that particular photo was used for his book because I am in it watching the MC5 play, standing in the background in the white blouse. I was a huge fan of the MC5 who were the main house band at the Grande.
MC5 photo by Leni Sinclair
The Grande was located on the second floor of a building at the corner of Beverly and Grand River Roads in Detroit. Built in 1927, it served as a Big Band Auditorium, Square Dance barn, Polka Hall and a roller skating rink. But, from 1966 to 1971, the Grand Ballroom was the coolest psychedelic Live rock and roll club in the area. Local bands MC5 and The Psychedelic Stooges (Iggy and the Stooges) who were another house band. I’d always get there early to watch The Stooges, who usually played first. But I stood away because I never knew what Iggy would do next. The people who sat in the wooden chairs at the front obviously didn’t know he’d be jumping off the stage right onto them and knocking them down. I’d watch their shocked facial expressions, especially from the girls who were dressed up. I wanted to warn them, but maybe some already knew about his famous stage diving and enjoyed it all.
I remember watching them play the songs “Now I wanna be your dog” and I think “1969” because I was standing there thinking, “it’s only 1968”. Iggy was ahead of the game and is now considered the “Godfather of Punk”. That raw constant driving guitar and bass and those “tell it like it is” and “in your face” lyrics. Back then it was difficult to know what was going on because the Stooges were way ahead of their time.
My girlfriend introduced me to Kathy Asheton, sister to Ron and Scott Asheton of the Stooges who were the guitarist and drummer respectively. The song “T.V. Eye” which is on the Stooges 1970 album called “Funhouse” is about something Iggy overheard Kathy say to her girlfriends. T.V. Eye stands for “twat vibe eye”. She’d say “he’s got a tv eye on you” to a friend whenever she’d see a guy checking one of them out. I haven’t seen her since the 70’s but she was really nice and such a cool and funny person to be around. One time she took us to Iggy’s house when he wasn’t home and showed us his personal record collection, one of which was “Iggy and the Iguanas”. I didn’t know then, that he had been a drummer before. Sadly, in 2009 her brother Ron died of a heart attack and then about 5 years later Scott also died of a heart attack.
Kathy Asheton organized “Celebrate the life of Ron Asheton” which was at the Michigan Theatre on April 19, 2011 in Ann Arbor featuring Iggy and the Stooges. It was a great show and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was a sold out show that drew National media attention.
Donations for Ron’s favorite charity, the Humane society for abused and abandoned animals, were being taken up and as it’s my favorite charity too, I was more than happy to give generously. You can donate directly at the RonAshetonFoundation.org. A great quote by Ron Asheton…”My best friends are my four legged ones”.
(In 1994 on my music journey, another kind of TV eye shows up. Keep reading).
The Grande had live rock bands, psychedelic light shows and strobe lights, artwork, incense, dancing, a promenade around the dance floor to meet new people and socializing with friends and within my group of girlfriends, we expressed ourselves by creating our own fashionable outfits, sewing a new one practically each week. There were people doing other things like drugs and smoking pot. And I’ve only recently heard that there was a mattress under the stage where people had sex. My first thought was “YUCK” there was probably rodents under there. I mean the place was old and not in that good of condition. The plumbing was bad and the toilets would overflow.
In between bands performing, David Miller, the Disc Jockey and MC at the Grande, played many records by the band Cream, especially “I feel free”. He was personal friends with the band. That song “I feel free” became my personal anthem back then because the Grande freed my soul. It was always one of the first songs I’d hear when I’d get there early.
The MC-5 were from Lincoln Park, Michigan, and they were the Grande Ballroom’s main house band and my favorite local band. They played very high energy, loud rock & roll. They are best known for literally kicking out the jams! And at times some British bands didn’t like having to play after them and they would wonder why the crowd wasn’t responsive. I would think “It’s because Detroit rock’n’roll just kicked your ass”. One of my favorite lyrics from their song “Kick out the Jams….” Is “let me be who I am” which is another part of my personal anthem back then. Feeling free and accepted for who you are was what the Grande and it’s music helped me to do.
Poet, writer and political activist John Sinclair was the manager of the MC5 and was involved in the reorganization of the underground newspaper The Fifth Estate. From 1965 on, he advocated for the legalization of marijuana in Michigan. And last year 2018, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize pot for recreational use. So we’ve come a long way and John Sinclair is the Legendary pioneer of pot. Medical marijuana has been legal here for 10 years and I’m so thankful for it and how it helps my severe pain from peripheral polyneuropathy caused by chemo.
I wasn’t interested in the anti establishment, free love and counter culture movement at the time I just wanted to hear the music and have fun. I was 15 years old when I first started going there and you had to be at least 17 and show ID to get in. I used my sisters ID that showed I was was 19. Security guards would just laugh and let me in. Once inside, some kids would throw their ID’s out the window to a friend who was waiting below and who would use it again.
I read an interview where Michael David bassist of the MC5 referred to the Grande as “our Palace ” and it really was our palace because it made us feel like royalty. We were very privileged to see and hear such awesome now legendary musicians. I definitely was born at the right time where music is concerned…a child in the 50’s a teen in the 60’s and adult in the 70’s.
I knew Michael personally and I liked him a lot. But as I was so young, it was more of a crush on a good looking musician and it was exciting watching him play in the band and then talking to him afterwards. I wrote a poem for him. I wasn’t going to tell him, but a friend told him I had written one, so he wanted to hear it. And so I recited it to him.
“I am Michael’s bass guitar
I’m always near, never far
With his gentle hand he pulls my string
And holds my neck to make me sing”
The MC5 Fred Smith, Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer, Dennis Thompson and Rob Tyner.
Currently trying to verify the photographer, but I believe it’s Leni Sinclair)
A few years ago I was watching the YouTube of the MC5 playing “Looking at You” at Tartar fIeld at Wayne State University from 1970 and remembered that I was there. I was shocked to see myself after so many years. I remember standing there in between the speakers. I’m happy to be a small part of the history of the band.
MC5 “Looking at You” with over 800 thousand views on one YouTube. Below..Screenshot from the video. Video taken by Leni Sinclair.
Pink Floyd played at the Grande on July 12, 1968 and opened for The Who
In the picture of “The Who” below you came see Nick Mason, drummer of Pink Floyd on the side of the stage watching them play. May also be Roger Waters sitting next to him.
Photo by Tom Weschler
Below Photo of Pink Floyd at the Grande
Photo by Tom Weschler.
Below: Grande postcard announcing The Who and Pink Floyd
artwork by Carl Lundgren
English symphonic rock band the Moody Blues, played at the Grande on November 17, 1968. Their second album “Days of Future Passed” came out in November 1967
I can recall hearing the songs “Knights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon”
I remember asking a friend “What is that violin sound?” and she said it was called a Mellotron. A Mellotron was able to reproduce flutes, brass, violins, even an eight-voice choir.
Hearing these types of songs from such amazing bands for the first time Live at the Grande is what really made it a magical palace to be at and an awesome music adventure to be on.
A complete Grande Ballroom concert list can be found here.
I’m just talking about my generation..
Detroit’s Grande Ballroom was the first stop on The Who’s 1969 American tour.
The concert dates were May 9, 10 and 11 and it was also when and where The Who premiered their rock opera called “Tommy”.
My girlfriend and I got to the Grande early and took a spot in front of the stage and sat on the floor until the band came out. Not sure which of the 3 nights this was, but we ended up watching the entire show right in front of (guitarist, singer) Pete Townshend. The Who created a music monster that night and it was trying to break through the Grande walls. We could feel it.
Standing in front of Pete, I felt like I was about to faint from the extreme volume coming from his amplifiers which were about ten feet away or less. I watched them play the songs “Magic Bus”, “Happy Jack”, “Boris the Spider”, which were my favorites, and many more.
It was a wild scene and I was so close to all the action that I ducked my head at times for fear I’d get hit when Pete was swinging his arm and playing guitar. At the end of the show during “My Generation” Pete began smashing his guitar into the amp and onto the floor and fans were grabbing at and taking pieces of it. Keith moons drums exploded and he was throwing them across the smoke filled stage. I had never seen anything like this before, it was crazy and extremely cool up close. I wasn’t even high on weed or anything. I didn’t need it. Music was always the best high for me.
I remember Roger Daltrey wore a suede fringed vest. But I couldn’t remember what Pete wore. While writing this (Sept. 2019) I wasn’t absolutely sure if Pete wore his famous boiler suit (jump suit) at that time, so I asked him via his Instagram page where he uses the moniker “yaggerdang” (that name comes from a sound he makes on his guitar). After I asked the question, he replied an hour later and wrote “Yes”. Thank you Pete. It’s really cool how he talks about what’s going on with the tour and about his life on the road and he answers fans questions. He posts selfies there, so we know it’s him.
On Sunday Oct. 13, 2019, the photo below was posted on The Who’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
So my rock music journey continues…
On May 28, 2019, before the start of their Detroit area concert, The Who paid tribute to Russ Gibb who sadly passed away on April 30 at the age of 87. Photos of Russ and The Who at the Grande were shown in slides on the video screen above the stage. And at the end it read “Goodbye Russ…Thank you for such great times..You will be missed!” The Who played the Grande 9 times between ’68 and ’69. Russ Gibb became friends with the band particularly with Pete Townshend because Tom Wright, the manager of the Grande was also an old friend of Townshend.
British blues rock band, Savoy Brown, played the longest set ever. The crowd kept screaming for “MORE” and wouldn’t let the band stop. Their boogie totally rocked the Grande and the fans rocked with it.
On the album “A Step Further” by Savoy Brown (1969) there is 24 minute live performance of the “Savoy Brown Boogie” recorded live in London, England, where Chris Youlden, vocalist, thanks the Detroit crowds. “This is the Boogie by Savoy Brown. I wanna thank and dedicate to the people at Detroit in memory of our good times which were spent boogying in your town”.
Chris Youlden, vocalist and occasional rhythm guitarist for Savoy Brown 1969 at the Grande Ballroom
Photo by Daniel Vanneste
I remember so well the night Savoy Brown were playing endlessly because I thought “it’s cool but it’s really late and I have to drive all the girls home”. When I got my drivers license and used car, I would drive many girlfriends to and from the Grande. It’s really sad though that recently two of them told me that they didn’t remember me. Well I was too busy up front driving you all over town. Women can be so cruel to other women. Going back to the past sometimes we find out people weren’t as nice as we thought they were.
One of my great experiences at the Grande was hearing the older blues artists like John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Albert King, BB King, Howlin Wolfe and James Cotton. The British rock bands were influenced by the American blues and R&B artists. When they brought their blues inspired music to America, the new younger audiences were very eager to also witness the original American blues artists in rock concert halls across the US and Europe..
Even before my Grande Ballroom music adventures, the song by The Lovin Spoonful “Do you believe in magic” struck a chord in me that I remember where I was when it hit me 54 years ago. It was after a High School dance in 1965 and I was on a bus going home, a friend had a transistor radio and that song was playing. I always believed in magic, but this song told how there’s magic in music. And the lyrics “How the music can free her” told me how music can help free me from feeling down about life. But it was the lyrics “If it’s jug band music or rhythm and blues just go and listen” that would point me to the Grande where I would listen to and watch the now legendary rock bands.
British rock bands of the late 60’s and early 70’s told enchanting tales with their lyrics and music. Some of their English folk rock ballads are noted for their Medieval, Elizabethan, Renaissance, baroque and classical influences. Their use of the musical instruments from those eras, like dulcimer, recorders (woodwind) and harpsichord, made the songs even more magical and enchanting. The musicians were like white knight troubadours in fairy tales. Music was my escape from a life where I wasn’t too happy. My family was a bit dysfunctional and I was the youngest of three and at times ignored. To escape it all, I would let the music take me away and I’d dream of a happier more peaceful life. It was what I did best and so I continued down the road to see if music would help me find true love and a real place where I would live happily ever after. So I made music a part of my life and it became a part of who I am.
I think of all the English rock bands that played at the Grande, Procol Harum was there the most around 10 times during 1968 and ’69 and I was probably there for most of their shows. They are most known for the song “Whiter Shade of Pale” which for most, is the anthem of the late sixties art and rock music scene. It is one of the best selling music singles of all time.
Procol Harum are known for their baroque and classical influence, which is what I liked about them. Grande regulars would say that “Kaleidoscope” is the song that reminds them most of being at a Procol Harum show. While on a trip to London in 1971 (which I talk about later) I met and got to know their bass player.
On October 22, 1968, I went to see John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers at the Grande. They started playing the Marquee Club in London as early as 1963. In April 1965, guitarist Eric Clapton, formerly of the Yardbirds, joined the Bluesbreakers. Then in 1966, Clapton formed the power trio called Cream.
Also on that same night, the band Cream were in concert down the street at the Olympia in Detroit. While taking a quick break from watching Mayall, I happened to be standing in front of Russ Gibbs office, when I overheard someone saying that Eric Clapton was coming over. So, I waited at the top of the stairs and then I saw him. I quickly went over to the side of stage to get a good spot to watch. I knew it would be legendary to see Eric Clapton jamming with John Mayall at the Grande after his concert with Cream. It would be Clapton’s final appearance there. I love British blues and here were the two greats performing together again.
Over the years whenever I would talk about the Grande, I would tell that story because it’s one my favorites. It was sometime during the 80’s that a local Detroit radio station asked listeners to call in and tell their rock’n’roll stories and that it would be recorded. I told the above Mayall – Clapton story. Months later when Clapton went on tour, that radio station used my recording during an advertisement to promote the Eric Clapton concert here in the Detroit area.
And that advert for the Clapton gig was used many times during the days leading up to the concert. I’d get in the car to go somewhere and turn on the radio and there I was again and that was pretty cool.
Another John Mayall concert at the Grande in March of 1969 (photo below) a couple of my favorites were “Room to Move” written by John Mayall and “Parchment Farm” written by Mose Allison. I love Mayall’s harmonica playing, it’s so incredibly cool.
John Mayall The Godfather of British Blues (me..very far left)
Photo by Ruth Hoffman
If it weren’t for the awesome musicians on my journey, my life would be hideously boring. I wouldn’t have any music memories. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have a story to tell, so Thank You so much! And Special thanks to those musicians who were on my road who have passed away, you are always in my heart.
And thank you to all those other wonderful people living and now resting in peace for your involvement in making the Grande Ballroom a truly wonderful Music Palace where I found my rock’n’roll heart and soul and where I became free to be who I am.
When Led Zeppelin first played at the Grande, it was for three consecutive nights on January 17, 18 and 19 of 1969. Their debut album had just been released on January 12th. Fans of Jimmy Page and the Yardbirds, as I was one, knew that this would be a super group. To others, the name wasn’t well known.
The Grande Ballroom handbill promoting the show read “Led Zeptlin”. I was there for their first performance. It seemed as though there were only about 200 people there. I had heard from a local musician that this was the band we should definitely see. There was a festival going on that same night in Detroit with several bands playing, so that was one reason the Grande was a bit empty. Plus, there was a winter storm in the area and that kept people away.
I had seen the Yardbirds play at the Carnaby Street Fun Festival in Detroit in November of 1966. I had their records and my friends and I adored them and their music.
That first night of Led Zeppelin, the band was having sound problems and I had heard that due to an ice storm their amplifiers hadn’t arrived in time and that they were using rented amps from a local music store. So they didn’t have their high powered Marshall amps that they were accustomed to. I remember watching Jimmy Page play his guitar with a violin bow and thinking how cool it was and how strange a sound it made, like nothing I’d ever heard before. Even though, to me, it may not have been their best show, they would become one of the greatest rock bands in history..
From photos I’ve seen of another night, Robert Plant looked nice in deep blue velvet jean style trousers and a dusty rose colored sweater. Jimmy Page wore olive green velvet trousers and a shirt of lace fabric with long billowy sleeves. For me personally, it was Jimmy Page who first brought British fashions to Detroit and the Grande when he was with the Yardbirds. The beautiful fabrics and styles made the rock music scene even more romantic and dreamlike. I believe that of all the guitarist I’ve ever heard that Jimmy Page plays the most beautifully.
On January 18, 2020, Jimmy Page posted the comments and photo below on his Instagram and Facebook pages. So, I’ll let him tell what the shows were like.
Ruffled pirate shirts were already in our stores, but there was nothing locally like the fashions of the London shops. We copied the British style and created our own fashion, sewing a new outfit practically every week. We wore velvet bell bottoms, satin blouses, sashes worn around the waist, vests, antique blouses and jewelry. I was one of a group of girls some called the “Grande girls”. I was their driver on many occasions, just in case they had forgotten me.
So that was my take on the first night of Led Zeppelin at the Grande and I wish I had listened more and taken a closer look at them. It was over 3 years later that I was really able to get a much closer look. That was the nature of my music journey, I never knew who I’d meet next.
On November 3, 1968, Jeff Beck group played at the Grande, one girlfriend remarked that she thought she saw Roger Daltrey of The Who walking around. Turned out that it was the singer of the Jeff Beck Group, a guy named Rod Stewart that fans kept calling Jeff. Also a musician named Ron Wood was in the band. A few years later I more than cross paths with those 2 guys on my journey. Or shall I say they take a journey with me. I’ll talk about that in chapter two.
Jeff Beck Group at the Grande (photographer unknown)
There is a bootleg recording of the Jeff Beck Group at the Grande, which you can listen to on YouTube. It’s amazing to hear after all these years. Such awesome music being played, sometimes while I chatted with friends. I’m getting goosebumps listening to it now while I write. I loved the song “I ain’t superstitious” and it still plays in my mind every now and then because I’ve had my share of bad luck, but I won’t let it stop me. It’s insane how good Jeff Beck was on guitar as far back as 1968. The great Nicky Hopkins on piano, played “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin. A lovely tribute to her and Detroit. Rod Stewart’s voice is incredible but it’s difficult to hear over Jeff’s guitar.
On July 26, 1969 they played the Grande again, but broke up right after that performance.
The Rod Stewart album that came out in 1969 (American version or yellow album) is still one of my all time favorite albums. Stewart sings with such powerful authentic soul that it just grabs at your heart and the songs tell stories that are full of emotion. The beautiful sound of Nicky Hopkins on piano is unforgettable. Ron Wood plays awesome bottleneck guitar on “Man of constant sorrow” and along with the vocals it still makes me cry today.
I love “An old raincoat won’t ever let you down”. “I wouldn’t ever change a thing” “Cindy’s Lament” all written by Rod Stewart. Every song fits the collection so well.
All of the exceptional musicians on this album each playing their parts so beautifully and together they created a perfect timeless album.
Stewart’s second awesome album, “Gasoline Alley” which came out the next year had more incredible musicians who would become part of the band called The Faces.
After the Grande closed its doors, the music scene moved to the Eastown Theatre, also in Detroit. And that’s where we saw The Faces, several times.
And who do you think asked my friends and I for a ride to his hotel? I guess the rest of the band left without their singer.
To be continued with more cool stuff down the road and with pictures of the Faces! Here’s one below from 1970 at the Eastown Theatre taken by my girlfriend, Marg Field. (Me under the arrow)
Photo by Marg Field
Back to Iggy for a moment. Below is one of my fave pictures of him taken by John Sinclair’s wife, Leni. For me, it really represents the music scene then and how Iggy was a fan supporting his fellow local musicians. SRC lived in Ann Arbor, also.
Iggy with SRC (Scot Richard Case) at a free concert in Michigan 1971. (Leni Sinclair)
Watching the MC5 At the Grande Ballroom (also pictured John Sinclair, standing at left)
Photo by Charlie Auringer