Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Grande Ballroom

Designed in 1928 by Charles N. Agree for dance hall entrepreneurs Edward J. Strata and his partner Edward J. Davis, the Grande started off as a dance hall with jazz and big band sounds for Detroiters.  Located at 8952 Grand River Ave, the building was designed in the Moorish Deco style with storefront space on the first floor and a ballroom with Moorish arches on the second.

Shifts in music changed the dancing scene for most ballrooms and many closed, yet the Grande was taken over by Mr. and Mrs. John T. Hayes in 1955, with the best intentions of reviving ballroom dancing.  The couple wanted a wholesome and entertaining place for young people in a world that was becoming increasingly more rock and roll.  By 1961, the Grande was the only venue in the city with any resemblance of what ballroom dancing used to be. At the Hayes’ Grande, there was no liquor or any such enticements for troublemakers.  With reluctance to change with the times, the Grande was eventually closed. It was turned into a roller-skating rink and then a mattress storage facility.

On October 7, 1966, the Grande reopened to a crowd of about sixty people that came out to see local bands, the Chosen Few and The MC5.  Bought by Russ Gibb, the Grande was spun around from wholesome ballroom dancing to indecent rock and roll euphoria.  Gibb, along with John Sinclair, would go on to run the Grande as a place where bands could write their own material and have their own identity.

Gibb started booking local acts including: MC5, Stooges, SRC, The Frost and the Rationals, and in 1967, Gibb would bring in famous touring rock acts, the first being Vanilla Fudge.  With the success of local bands and Vanilla Fudge, Gibb shifted from local bands to touring acts and included well known acts such as: Led Zeppelin, John Lee Hooker, the Yardbirds, Cream, Pink Floyd, Canned Heat, the Jeff Beck Group, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, the Velvet Underground, Canned Heat, the Steve Miller Band, Country Joe and the Fish, Blue Cheer, Tim Buckley, and more, all played at the Grande.

By the late 60s, Gibb had been booking bigger venues including the Michigan Palace and in other cities he had properties in.  Gibb stated that he could do bigger shows with less hassle elsewhere. He complained about issues of greed, and people thinking that they were dopers, which forced them to deal unnecessarily with the cops.  The Grande’s final show came on New Year’s Eve 1972.

Written by Stacy Newman