The Grande Ballroom Posters – The Psychedelic Era Outside of San Francisco

by Katy Trosch

gg3-233x300 The Grande Ballroom Posters - The Psychedelic Era Outside of San FranciscoEvery poster collector is familiar with the psychedelic sixties in San Francisco. Understandably so, as this is where the psychedelic era of poster art began. What is talked about less, however, is the impact of a small music venue in Detroit, Michigan. The Grande Ballroom has a rich history and is responsible for producing some of the coolest, rarest, most collectible concert posters of all time.

The History of The Grande gg1-184x300 The Grande Ballroom Posters - The Psychedelic Era Outside of San Francisco

Schoolteacher and local DJ Russ Gibb acquired the Grande Ballroom in 1966. Inspired by the Fillmore in San Francisco, Gibb decided to turn the Grande into a venue for dance concerts. The venue soon became a hub for teenagers involved in the counterculture movement in Detroit. The Grande was unique, bringing in a wide array of diverse acts. Psychedelic bands such as The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company performed there. British rock bands including The Who, Pink Floyd, and Cream loved the Grande. And punk rock pioneers and Michigan natives The Stooges and MC5 got their start at the venue.

Everyone who performed at the Grande loved the venue. While it should be widely recognized as one of the greatest music venues in rock history, it is often overshadowed by other venues that existed at the time. The story of the Grande is perhaps the greatest untold story in music history. For the full story, I highly recommend checking out the documentary Louder Than Love-The Grande Ballroom Story. You can watch the trailer on YouTube, and purchase the full-length version on Amazon.

gg4-174x300 The Grande Ballroom Posters - The Psychedelic Era Outside of San FranciscoPosters from The Grande Ballroom

For the opening of the Grande, Russ Gibb approached MC5’s frontman Rob Tyner and asked him if he knew anyone who could design a poster. Tyner’s recommendation led to Gary Grimshaw becoming the primary poster artist for the venue. Grimshaw designed some of the first psychedelic posters outside of San Francisco. He had first encountered psychedelic posters while in the Navy, while his ship was being repaired in the Bay Area. He visited the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom and became familiar with the art form. When he began designing posters of his own, he chose to employ a more legible lettering style than the artists in San Francisco. Grimshaw wanted to create something that a larger audience could understand. He felt as though illegible psychedelic lettering was somewhat exclusive. Other artists that designed posters for the Grande include Rob Tyner himself, Carl Lundgren, and Donnie Dope.

Collecting Grande Posters gg2-177x300 The Grande Ballroom Posters - The Psychedelic Era Outside of San Francisco

Posters from the Grande Ballroom tend to be much harder to come by than those from the Fillmore and Avalon Ballroom. They were printed in smaller quantities, and not many were reprinted. Furthermore, few of the posters remain in good condition. For several of the Grande shows, only handbills were produced. Investing in Grande posters requires time, patience, and a lot of cash. However, if you have the opportunity to invest in them, take it. These posters are worth a lot today, and are sure to increase in value as time goes on! Keep an eye on GoCollect’s Concert Poster Price Guide, as we hope to have the Grande Ballroom collection available for you to browse soon. This will help you make informed collecting decisions and stay up to date with concert poster values!

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