Grande Vase “Holy Grail” Auction

Grande Planter Vase auction begins

During the Grande Ballroom’s rock heyday, there remained in the building furnishings from its 1920’s movie palace inspired past. Amongst these items were carved benches, stained glass, cast plaster corbels, wrought iron railings and light sconces.

There were also a few ceramic kiln-fired Italian garden planters. Each of these 24 inch planters weighed approximately 50 pounds and were situated throughout the promenade and stair landings. According to Russ Gibb, one evening a pair of kids who were too drunk or high, tried to roll one of these planters down the main staircase. They lost control and it was smashed to pieces. Russ found a box and took the pieces home, glued them together and kept plants in it for nearly 50 years.

On my first visit to Russ’ in 2004, I was told this story and we speculated over the coat of arms painted on this sole surviving planter/vase. Was it the crest of the Weitzman family the original Grande owners? The Architect perhaps?

All that was known was that it was original to the building, from 1928. If that was in fact the case, this meant that the planter/vase stood sentry over everyone that passed through the Grande doors or up its stairs. Truly a unique “Holy Grail” piece of Grande Memorabilia.

Photographic evidence reveals the vase on one of the main staircase landings. In an exclusive photo, Grande Light Show artist Clyde Blair is seen seated in an original wooden chair with the planter/vase immediately to his left. The painted vines and one handle of the vase are just visible.

Clyde Blair
Grande Vase – Russ Gibb Dining Room 2004 – Emerson St. Dearborn, Mi.

In the Seventies Russ and one of his partners Michael Berry funded a seven figure endowment to fund a Dearborn High School Media Arts program. Russ managed and taught media arts at Dearborn High until his retirement. Since Russ Gibbs’ passing in 2019 his estate executors have been working to help fund scholarships in his name to benefit the programs that he began. These efforts were specified in Mr. Gibbs will and last testament.

In processing his estate items the executors were made aware of the vase and its unique historical significance to the Grande Building and Russ. It was then determined that the piece should be evaluated for auction to benefit the Media Arts Scholarships at the Russ Gibb Digital Media Center for the Arts.

It was concluded that an auction would be held to give the public a chance to own this rare piece. Its intrinsic value as a cracked and re-glued Italian vase with a couple of holes is minimal, yet its value as a rare piece of Grande Ballroom memorabilia is incalculable.

The Grande Vase is available for inspection and bidding starting December first 2021 at Village Antiques 22630 Michigan Ave. Dearborn, Mi. 48124 313-563-1230

The opening bid is $250 and new bids can be submitted in person ONLY, no online or phone bids will be accepted. The Auction will close December 31, 2021 at 11:59 P.M. No shipping. Pickup only.

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A Grande Opening 1928 – Burns Shoes – Web exclusive

In The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace there were a few stories that did not make the final edit of the book or were discovered too late. So too were some great newsprint images that were not publication quality. One such story that is tied to the original Grande building opening month of 1928 was that of Burns Shoes, one of the charter merchants.

Burns’ flagship store was located at Grand River and Griswold in the Holden building. The store at Grand River and Beverly was their Northwestern chain expansion and fourth location. This location featured a very narrow “L” shape with minimal frontage on both streets, skirting the perimeter of the corner drug store. A main floor plus a children’s department in the basement was packed floor to ceiling with shoes. Note that the vertical “blade” BALLROOM GRANDE marquee was yet to be installed on the Grand River Exterior.  A.E. Burns spared no expense in advertising their grand opening, such that a multiple page “Burns Section” was published in the back of the Detroit Free Press.


Detroit Free Press October 19, 1928

“Joy Road Zone Spreads Fast”

 Burns Shoe Store finds it Necessary to Establish New Store at Grand River.

At the intersection of Joy Road and Grand River is probably the fastest-growing shopping center in the city of Detroit, according to an explanation advanced Saturday by officials of the Burns Shoe company. Nine large downtown retails stores, serving the city at large, have established branch stores here in recent months.Practically every article of merchandise necessary in maintaining a home and equipping a family is represented in these branches. There is a branch candy and baked goods store; a branch jewelry store, shoe store, lingerie stores, music and radio store; and a branch of a popular downtown 5c to $1.00 store.

Lots of other stores

In addition, there is one of the best equipped markets in the city here. Two theaters offer high grade entertainment, There is a school of music. School of dancing, Two ballrooms and a large recreation building. Seven branches of downtown banks have been built here for the convenience of residents in this Grand River and Joy road area. And there are many specialty stores, which, added to the rest, make it possible to purchase practically anything in this new shopping center, it was explained.

“We have selected a location for our new branch store which will enable this company to better serve the people of Detroit,” said one official. “It is practically within sight of the intersection and it fronts on both Grand River and Beverly Court. It is,to all purposes a replica of our downtown store, having a basement in which the more popular-priced footwear is featured.”



A.E. Burns Shoes – Grand River entrance

Zenite glass panel

Zenite glass panel from retail storefront transom. (Salvaged 2020)


Ornate children’s basement department looking south up the Grand River stairs.



Main floor and staircase looking in from Grand River entrance. Rear stock wall to Beverly Street is visible.



2016 Inspection team passes Grand River Burns staircase to rear of building. Note pillars separating stores 5 and 6.

Store 5 (Burns Shoes) Store 6 Economical Drugs (Cunninghams) Blueprint

Store 5 (Burns Shoes) Store 6 Economical Drugs (Cunninghams) Blueprint

Flagship Store

The Holden building was completed in 1916 and became A.E. Burns’ flagship store. Today it is owned by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services and was most recently home to the Detroit Institute of Music Education or DIME.



Burns Shoes at the Holden Building October 1928



Detroit Institute of Music Education (Holden Building)


For more, Get the book at AMAZON



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Grande Ballroom – Bogle Family Collection

Since starting to write about the Grande Ballroom in 2003 I have spent countless hours in libraries poring over microfilm and archives. Many nights crawling the InterGoogle for scraps of data and images of the old venue. Every once in a while though, providence will smile upon me and grant me an envelope in the mail with an artifact, or I’ll get a phone call or an email; “Do you have these?”.

Interior photographs and older exterior shots of the Grande have been rarer than hen’s teeth. This is due largely to the fact that all most of the focus at events was on the narrow scope of the stage and from the audience perspective.

The best interior shots I have seen to date are a set of color slides manager Tom Wright showed me. His were taken shortly after his crew repainted the interior of the Grande to neutral colors in 1968. They were very proud of their work and Tom covered many angles in these shots. They remain in his personal archive.

This week I was contacted by George Bogle Jr. of Houston Texas. George is the the son of the Rev. George Bogle who operated his House of Prayer ministry at the Grande in the latter half of the Seventies. The Bogles were fine stewards of the building and their story is included in the “God Squad” section of the book. Rev. Bogle recently passed away and George Jr. forwarded me 4 images, two interior and two exterior that are nothing short of mind blowing. I have included a forensic commentary on each in this post. Thank you Bogle family!!

Reverend George Bogle Sr. 1935-2021

Soul Center

In early 1966 owner Gabe Glantz was renting his ballroom venue to Disc Jockeys like Frantic Ernie Durham from WJLB and Bill Williams from WCHB amongst other parties. Evidenced in this image is a temporary “Palladium” banner in a ’60’s hip font hanging from the front of the building. This suggests a pop music hop or dance was held. We can see that flagship department store MAAS Brothers has already liquidated and we know that Jack and Jill corner store auctioned their contents in June of 1966. J&J replaced Cunningham’s and had been in business since the ’40’s.

The Grande Ballroom – Spring 1966 – G.Bogle

A WCHB record hop spring/summer 1966 with jocks Bill Williams and Lebaron Taylor. Taylor went on to work for CBS records and became a senior VP at Sony Entertainment. He was once named on Ebony magazine’s “Top 50 black executives in America” list. One can imagine what recording stars appeared at the Grande this weekend.

The Grande Ballroom – Summer 1966 – G.Bogle

Note the WCHB from late 1966 including hop masters Bill Williams and LeBaron Taylor. Also the great Ed Love who is still on WDET Detroit!

WCHB Flyer – December 1966

An undated historical Image of the Grande in all its glory. Note the marvelous paint scheme flags and furniture. The original hardwood door finish and all the padded benches in place. As so much original furniture is present, this may be a very early image. The “griffin” column corbels look pristine and unadulterated. A beautiful example of how inexpensive materials were used creatively to give the appearance of a timeless stone palace.

The Grande Ballroom interior – G.Bogle
Grande “Griffin” Corbel

Note the darker ceiling and new evidence of electric amplification. These items along with the hanging tapestries date it to the House of Prayer era.

The Grande Ballroom interior – c.1976 – G. Bogle.

Hoping you all enjoy these images! – Leo Early – Easter 2021

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Elizabeth Sulflow-Willoughby – Grande Ballroom Diorama

Recently I had reached out to the brilliant artist Elizabeth Sulflow-Willoughby regarding her fantastic scale building dioramas. Elizabeth had posted on social media stunningly accurate 3-d depictions of Detroit music haunts and hot spots. She has created marvelous views of the Old Miami, El Club, St. Andrews Hall and even the Temple bar.
Since prior to our current nationwide lockdown, the Friends of the Grande were planning the next phase of fundraising for the building, I suggested to Elizabeth that a commision of a Grande Ballroom piece would be a worthy auction item. After providing her with copies of the original blueprints and some exterior photos, we saw the spectacular result in just a couple of weeks!
Elizabeth focused on the Beverly Court elevation and original entrance. Paying tribute to the Rock Era on the north end it morphs towards the recent Gabe Gault corner mural (commissioned in 2018). This creation was her largest piece yet. Thank you Elizabeth, you really DID Kick out the Jams !!!
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Strategic Stabilization at the Grande

This month, thanks to the generous donors of our fall GoFundMe campaign, the Friends of The Grande and Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church were finally able to engage contractors for roof stabilization.

Job#1 has always been to maintain access to the areas were ingress to the ballroom floor and roof had been compromised by debris. This was mandatory for easy and safe movement of labor and materials to those levels of the building. Fortunately, we have had limited snowfall this winter and our contractor, CGA, completed 90% of the required work just before the second significant snowfall of the season. As evidenced in these photos, CGA then completed their spectacular job of removing or displacing a significant amount of detritus. Blue tarps are now covering the concrete or steel stair treads to help protect them from additional debris, snow and ice.

Next Steps

  • Stabilize the brick roof access cupola –  The “little shack” that protects the roof stairs is compromised and needs repair. The critical steel stairs are now free of debris and are in relatively good shape.
  • Roof platform – It will next be necessary to lay down materials on the surface of the roof to allow safe transit from the access cupola to the repair areas of greatest concern. This step will likely require a hydraulic lift apparatus. A safe platform on the roof will allow for ready inspection by engineers and roofing contractors. Given a budget, patchwork repairs of the roof could proceed (Weather permitting) as the first steps towards sealing and drying the building.

Much thanks to Rev. Smith, Deacon Johnson and Deborah East at CHMBC for this collaborative help in moving the Grande forward.


Leo Early – Friends of the Grande – January 2020




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Grande Ballroom Emergency Roof Fund Crowdfunding

For Immediate release:

Detroit’s Friends of the Grande are partnering with the Grande Ballroom’s current owners, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church in a $20,000 Crowdfunding campaign.
Necessitated by the recent partial collapse of wooden roof peak infrastructure, the combined group is hoping to raise these funds to strategically restore this critical portion of the building. A 45-day goal has been set.
More at:
Leo Early
Friends of the Grande
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Moonshot Grande

The following story was removed from The Grande Ballroom Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace during the editing phase when we needed to reduce word count. I am sharing it here today on the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing. Enjoy.



In July of 1969 Rick Lockhart was a teenager actually living at the Grande Ballroom. Originally a resident of Kentucky Street in Dearborn, he had originally been hired by his neighbor Russ Gibb to perform clean up chores in the building and surrounding neighborhood.

Gibb Homestead 7729 Kentucky Street, Dearborn.

Sadly soon fired by Gibb, the teen was immediately re-hired by Grande owner Gabe Glantz. It would be Glantz that would help Lockhart to become emancipated from his parents and gainfully employed as his 15-year-old Grande “Man Friday”. Residing in office and loft spaces in the venues, Lockhart would be associated with the Glantz family for 10 years including stints at the Grande Rivera and the Michigan Palace.

Gabe Glantz

At the Grande on Sunday July 20 most records indicate that the headlining act was Spooky Tooth with opening act the Stuart Avery Assemblage. However, Rick Lockhart and other patrons vividly remember the Stooges were added to the bill the evening of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

On this gorgeous low-humidity Detroit summer night, Rick (a.k.a. “Sonny Boy”) recalls an incoming phone call at the Grande office. “We just landed on the moon Sonny Boy, who is playing?” Gabe Glantz bellowed;  “well it’s Iggy, you can hear ‘em” Lockhart replied; “Go tell Iggy we just landed on the moon!” commanded Glantz; “So I had to go run up to the stage and Iggy is standing there with no shirt on…got the hamburger out, he’s getting’ ready to smear himself with hamburger. He’s got his socks off that … he’s stuffed down in his pants…he used to love to take his socks off. So, I tug on his pant leg and he looks down. and he gets close and I whisper, “Mr. Glantz just told me to tell you that they landed on the moon”. Iggy got all excited and told everybody, “I’m gonna play a special dedication”. The Stooges then launched directly into “1969”. “It was pretty emotional for me”; Lockhart recalled. The Eagle had landed Sunday July 20,1969.





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Russ Gibb Memorial May 17 – Gibb Scholarship fund.


The public memorial for Russ has been set for May 17 from 4-7pm at the Dearborn Community and Performing Arts Center on Michigan Avenue and Greenfield. It will be held in Studio A. Peanut M&Ms and Diet Coke will be available… and don’t forget to get a haircut. We will remember the legend who was among us. Please no flowers – contributions to the Russ Gibb Memorial Scholarship will be accepted instead via checks to the “Dearborn Cable Communications Fund” alternately, A GoFundMe account has been started for the cause.  Also to benefit the fund,  limited run of Dennis Loren’s commemorative poster will be made available for sale.

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Russ Gibb Grande Flash Mob 5.5.19

Who: Friends, Students. Colleagues and Compatriots of Russell J. Gibb – “Uncle Russ”
What: A “Flash Mob” gathering as an unofficial, impromptu remembrance of Russ Gibb featuring an eco-friendly “bubble release”.
When: 2:00 P.M to 4:00 P.M. Sunday May 5, 2019. Bubble Release “Zero Hour” = 02:30 P.M.
Where: The Grande Ballroom 8952 Grand River, Detroit

-Bring the kids to this family friendly meet up.
-BYOB “Bring your own bubbles” and get ready to blow!
-Wear bright colors and or Grande finery.
-Have fun! as this will be a celebration of Russ’ life.
-Respect the neighbors and the building. Much has been done recently to put the Grande on the path to restoration, so no souvenir hunting please. Take only photos, leave only footprints. The adjacent urban garden on Beverly is public but property of the former Grande owners, the Adventist Church. Enjoy it respectfully.
-Be careful of crossing Grand River on foot. There is no crosswalk at Beverly Court.
-Take photos and share with the hashtag; #grandegibb
-Spread the word!

-Park at fire hydrants and the bus stops.(unless you need a ticket)
-Consume alcohol. As this is family friendly, we would like to keep it low key and not attract the ire of authorities.
-Block driveways, sidewalks or other thoroughfares.

See you there!

The Gibb Estate is finalizing plans for formal official services. This event is being held as an unofficial gathering for fellowship and in remembrance of our dear friend.

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Jim Dunbar – Gibb friend and California radio great passes

We’ve learned today that Jim Dunbar, California radio great and lifelong friend of Russ Gibb passed away, age 89 on April 22.

Jim and his younger brother Bill grew up on Hartwell street in Dearborn, their father an executive at Detroit Seamless Steel Tube, later Sharon Steel. The brothers attended Lowrey Junior High and Fordson high where they would meet Russ Gibb. Jim studied piano and played Alto Sax and Clarinet in his high school combo, “Ronnie Richards and his Rhythm Ramblers”, a group bankrolled by Richards’ stage dad. The trio of Jim, Bill and Russ got into plenty of mischief, even venturing into areas of the city like paradise valley. Jim and Bill sophisticated Jazz fans and Russ the planner and toastmaster. Jim and Russ both developed an early fascination for radio.

Dunbar, who was two years older than Russ, broke into radio first while still in college at Michigan State University. Jim would soon get a gig in Flint and then at WXYZ in Detroit. Later he would get married and move west.

Gibb recalled driving to the coast for Jim’s summer wedding by car, paying cash for a new Ford Thunderbird (a memory partly discounted by the fact that Dunbar had been married since December 22, 1958 and arriving in San Francisco in 1963). Young Steve Kott from the Civil Air Patrol recalled their visit was by air in the spring of ’66. Dunbar was already acquainted with rock concert promoter Bill Graham through his KGO television talk show. “Bill and I had a mutual respect for one another and I thought it would be of interest to Russ to go to the Fillmore. I wanted to introduce him to Bill Graham.”

Jim arranged for members of the Dunbar family, Russ and Steve Kott to make the trek down to the Fillmore Auditorium for a show. Jim, always the jazz fan did not care much for the music: “I thought it was ridiculously primitive.”

This important connection facilitated by Jim Dunbar would famously spark Russ’ idea to bring a Fillmore style venue to Detroit, the Grande Ballroom.

1947 Fordson Sophomore class. Russ is highlighted, to his right is younger brother Bill Dunbar.

SF Chronicle Article 


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Russ Gibb Remembered

Russell James Gibb June 15,1931 – April 30,2019

Tuesday 09:00 P.M.

I am sitting here writing this obituary of sorts in the middle of a spring evening thunderstorm. “It was a dark and rainy night”, I think Russ would laugh at that cliche. He was a very well read individual and would be bored at any attempt to document his life in great detail. I once asked Russ when he was going to write his memoirs. He said; “that’s for someone else to do!” Ever the visionary, ever the seer.

Tonight I received a phone call from Steve Kott, Russ’ friend for practically 60 years informing me of his passing.

I personally don’t find it necessary to reiterate all the minutiae of Russ’ life story because it solidly a matter of record now. His contribution to the arts is well documented because it WAS very significant. When the Friends of the Grande listed the ballroom on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, Russ was THE primary motivator and empresario that MADE the Grande significant. It might not have made that list were it not for Russ’ dreams realized and the scene that sprouted from them.

Russ was an extremely sharp guy, well educated yet hungry. A tightfisted, hard working Scotsman he was always looking to make an extra buck … a serial entrepreneur. Always keeping his head on a swivel, he saw opportunities well before most people were wiping the sleep out of their eyes. He capitalized on those leading edge baby boomers’ dollars and scaled his sock hops up until he was holding outdoor festivals for tens of thousands of freaks and fans. He had gotten the jump on virtually every mid-sized psychedelic ballroom in the country after reconnaissance trips to California and the Grande became THE midwest stop for touring acts from around the globe.

Detroiters benefited greatly from the scene that Russ and his partner Gabe Glantz created at Grand River and Beverly. The stories live on today with the Grandkids of his “opinion makers” and music heads that packed the ballroom every weekend.

In interviewing Russ I discovered that we were both Napoleon Hill fans. Napoleon wrote “Think and Grow Rich” (1937) which is in the top ten of all time for self help books. Russ had discovered Hill while at Fordson High School. He explained that for a very long time he carried a slip of paper in his wallet with Hill’s famous quote “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”  That became a primary motto for him in his quest to succeed. Russ also shared with me stories (that never made my book) of successful businessmen that had offered him help and capital to achieve his business goals. Russ had always paid that kindness forward.  He and his partner Michael Berry had scored big with early cable television rights. They pooled their money and created a trust for Dearborn media arts education. That program today is model for the nation.  Whether it was through funding education, sponsoring an exchange student or advising a young startup, Russ always remembered, and gave back. So in short, Russ believed wholeheartedly in visualization, self actualization and in spreading the wealth.

Also, Russ always said that the Scots never spoke ill of the dead, so I won’t Sir … I promise.


Detroit News 

Detroit Free Press

Dearborn Press and Guide

Metro Times

Detroit News – Sue Whitehall

Detroit Free Press 5-1-19

Russ complaining to me about his missing limo – Grande 40th Concert 2006

L2R Tom Wright, Russ GIbb, Tom Lubinski and Leo Early. Old Stoner Productions and Friends of the Grande honor Russ. Grande 40th Concert 2006

Russ and Alberta Muirhead


Russ (in bowtie) with Group W executives and Mayor John O’Reilly striking the deal to bring cable t.v. to Dearborn.


Michigan State FairGrounds

On his BSA behind the homestead at 7729 Kentucky Street

Russ at Fordson High, Dearborn 1947

Russ with “Blackout” #1

Russ and his parents ’round the piano at 7729 Kentucky c. 1937

Russ’ parents Jim and Jessie Gibb

Jessie and Russ Trans-atlantic convoy U.K trip c.1940

Russ w. Christmas phonograph c.1938


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