When Detroit dance promoter Russ Gibb was planning the 1966 opening of the Grande Ballroom, he asked MC5 frontman Rob Tyner to recommend a poster artist. That is how Gary Grimshaw became the primary poster and light show artist for the Grande Ballroom and began to emerge as one of America’s most influential poster artists.
Russ Gibb had been hosting regular dances at a Detroit club called the Pink Pussycat, and was a deejay at WKMH and WKNR. In September 1966, he attended the wedding of deejay friend Jim Dunbar in San Francisco. An evening out on the town with the wedding party included accepting a radio industry invite to Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium to see a new band called The Byrds. Russ was amazed at the young crowd that was paying to hear new groups perform original music at The Fillmore, and he queried Bill Graham on everything from ticket sales to strobe lights.
Seeking to recreate The Fillmore experience in Detroit, Gibb leased an old big-band ballroom located at 8592 Grand River Avenue, and the Grande Ballroom was born. It opened on October 6, 1966. By July 1967, Russ had started to book both national and international acts and the Grande was considered an essential band tour stop. Russ Gibb also helped promote the St. Louis Pop Festival, the Detroit Pop Festival, and the Cincinnati Pop Festival.
Performers that appeared in Russ Gibb shows at the Grande Ballroom and at other regional venues included Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Byrds, Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Who, The Doors, Procul Harum, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and many, many others, including the Grande’s famous house band, the MC5. Their concerts were advertised by the stunning art of Gary Grimshaw, Carl Lundgren, David Carlin, and Donnie “Dope” Forsyth, among others.
All of the Russ Gibb and Grande Ballroom items are included in Eric King’s book and are designated as G/G items. Grande/Gibb items tend to be very scarce compared to Bill Graham or Family Dog items. G/G Series print runs were quite small and few posters were reprinted. The standard postcard set includes 81 different cards for shows held at the Grande proper, but most collectors include a few extras such as the Pop Festivals and Grande Family cards. To complete a set of the posters requires time and effort, as well as a thick pocketbook. Even though many posters are in the Grande Ballroom Series, some items are represented by as few as three known copies.