Legendary Michigan Rock Clubs, The Grande Ballroom, The Brewery and The Silver Dollar Saloon
Michigan has had a love affair with music for a long time now. The 60’s brought us the Motown Sound. And it reveberated from coast to coast on AM radio in the United States. Rock and Roll was also a potent style of music that was also taking the U.S. by storm. The early days in the Detroit music scene were exciting, with new bands like Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, Dick Wagner and The Frost, along with many others. These artists played all over the state building their fan base in places like Grand Rapids and Lansing, and naturally the Detroit area.
There are two very historic venues in Michigan that supported local rockers, along with regional and national acts. In Detroit it was the Grande Ballroom which opened in 1929 as a dance hall. Later in its life It acquired the nickname of “Detroit’s Rock and Roll Palace”. Over here In Lansing, it was The Brewery Rock Club that opened in 1972, at the time the owner Rick Becker, said "It was too loud, too dark and too nasty," and the name was later changed to clean up its reputation as a rowdy place. From 1974 on in Lansing it was the Silver Dollar Saloon, booking acts like ZZ Top, Aerosmith and Bob Seger.
Detroit and The Grande Ballroom
The Grande Ballroom made the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, and owner and former Detroit DJ Russ Gibb was the one who made the Grande Ballroom the institution it represents in history. On April 20, 2019 Russ passed away.
Russ, who was a social studies teacher in Dearborn, took a trip to the west coast to check out some of the venues in San Francisco. He saw the Byrds in concert at the Fillmore Auditorium. He returned to Detroit determined to create what he had just experienced in San Francisco.
After considering several locations he settled on the Grande Ballroom located in the area where he had grown up. He reached out to John Sinclair who was in touch with the counterculture movement and who was also the manager of the MC5. The Grande opened the evening of Oct. 7, 1966, it was a small crowd waiting to see the Chosen Few and The MC5.
Some of the bands that played at the Grande Ballroom were:
John Lee Hooker
The Jeff Beck Group
Big Brother and the Holding Company
The Velvet Underground
The Steve Miller Band
Country Joe and the Fish
Quicksilver Messenger Service
In Lansing it was The Brewery and The Silver Dollar Saloon
The Brewery opened on April 19, 1972 at 3411 E. Michigan Ave. and brought Lansing some of the biggest names in the business and catered mostly to the 18-21 year olds. They opened right at the time the drinking age was lowered from 21 to 18.
Here are some of the bands you would have seen at the Brewery:
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
And Many More!
The Silver Dollar, too, became famous locally because of the rock acts that played there and it was well known for the reputation of its last years. It's list included the likes of ZZ Top, Aerosmith and Bob Seger before turning to country music.
Here are some of the Acts seen at the Silver Dollar:
Flo & Eddie
Brian Auger & The Oblivion Express
Pure Prairie League
Mott The Hoople
Tommy James & The Shondells
Blue Oyster Cult
The Silver Dollar Saloon served mostly college kids, executives and street people. It’s capacity was only 600, and those attending required a neat appearance. Jeans were cool, but no motorcycle jackets. And silver dollars were provided as change when you paid at the door.
They experimented with a DJ in 1985, which did not last long. Then they switched to country around 1991. The building was seized for unpaid property taxes in 2006 and was razed in 2009. It was where the Midtown Apartments are today.
Most photos in this gallery came from videos by these authors
Here’s a gallery of the venues for a little trip back to the Rock and Roll years in these historic Michigan music venues:
Grande Ballroom, The Brewery and Silver Dollar Saloon - Legendary Michigan Rock Clubs
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