The Who: Showing Love to Detroit’s Grande Ballroom & Uncle Russ Gibb

By: Jim Johnson

Louder Than Love is a documentary on Detroit’s legendary Grande Ballroom, one of rock’s special birthplaces that served as the launching pad for a great number the music world’s biggest icons, including The Who!  But last night when the Who kicked off their “Who Hits 50” North American tour at Joe Louis Arena, It was love that was loudest.

The Who’s first American Tour in 1967 was managed by a young artist named Tom Wright who had met Pete Townshend in England a few years prior.  Wright was also the manager of the Grande Ballroom owned by Detroit disc jockey and Dearborn High teacher “Uncle” Russ Gibb.

Unfortunately, in recent years, Tom has fallen into ill health.  Enter Mr. Gibb to produce another show!  This one to benefit Tom and his family. It takes place at the Diesel Lounge in Chesterfield Township on April 30th. The show features Detroit area rock stalwart, Scott Morgan perhaps best known for his ’60’s rock group, The Rationals. (“Respect”).

More information on the be can be found on the benefit’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/535944333249563/ As well as a GoFundMe account for Tom.

All of this brings us to the remarkable  meeting that took place Saturday, before the Who Hits 50 show, at Joe Louis arena.  First, something I’ve rarely, if ever, seen before.  A sound check performed for a couple hundred people in the late afternoon.  After the soundcheck, a reunion of old friends.  Russ Gibb Roger Daltry & Pete Townshend.

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Personal Photo Jennifer Crum

Personal Photo Drew Drialo

Pete and Roger, aware of Tom’s circumstances, wanted to help! Re-aquainting and revisiting old memories, the 3 turned the clock back to the late ’60’s.  The rock icons were also very generous, signing many old photos and memorabilia.  Pete also autographed a guitar and Roger offered a signature on the very microphone he was to use that night for an auction the night of Tom’s benefit.

The icing on the cake? A spectacular video tribute to Russ Gibb the Grande Ballroom and the city of Detroit to open what most likely will be the last live performance the Motor City will ever see by the Who. In addition, a major shout out from the band onstage during their performance.

I’ve seen this band on many occasions during my career in Detroit. Never better than last night! Add to that, the intersection of 4 lives 50 years later…….Russ, Tom, Roger and Pete.  From brotherly love born at the Grande a half century ago, the circle completed at the Joe Saturday night.

Check out The Who live at the Grande Ballroom in 1969:

 

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