Russ Gibb: The Grande started in 1966, and within ten weeks it became a positive cash flow.
John Sinclair (MC5 manager, poet, the Blues Scholars): The most we ever got there was $1,800, but Gibb paid us $125 a night usually. We were just so fucking offended at this $125, and they were making money hand over fist. They were bringing these bands from England, and they were giving them thousands of dollars. And we’re getting $125.
Iggy Pop (The Stooges, Iggy and the Stooges, solo, vocalist): When we played for Russ we’d make $50—that was for the whole group you know. And then we worked our way up. Over time we were headlining and we were paid pretty well. But with John Sinclair, on bills with the MC5, we played for free.
Jaan Uhelszki: I got a job where I was working as a Coca-Cola girl at the Grande. As a Coca-Cola girl, you did two things: You sell Coca Cola, Sprite, and orange pop, and what you really do is make sure no one doses those said drinks. That was the bigger part of my job. They didn’t sell alcohol at the Grande Ballroom. While it wasn’t all ages, I think it was seventeen and above; all they sold was soft drinks. Nobody drank; everybody did drugs. It was a psychedelic ballroom.
Bob Sheff (Iggy and the Stooges, Charging Rhinoceros of Soul, piano): The Charging Rhinoceros of Soul were the warm-up band for the Mothers of Invention at the Grande one time. Oh God, I refer to it as cookie Sunday. I was late getting to the van, and I jumped in the van, and I hadn’t had breakfast and there was this jar full of cookies and I was really hungry. I ate about half the jar of cookies. Our bass player noticed a lot of those cookies were gone, so she asked, you know, “Who ate those cookies?” I said, “I did, I’m sorry, I’m really hungry,” Well, they were marijuana cookies, and by the time I got there I was so stoned I couldn’t get out of the car. I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. One second I was in the car, and a second later I was up the stairs, and then a second later I was on the stage. The only thing I could hear was the bass drum, which sounded like it was in a huge cave. I knew everyone else was playing, and when I played the keyboard it was like the keys were undulating and it was like a river. I got scared after the set and went outside to the parking lot. I wanted to hide until I felt better. So I got underneath the van.
Russ Gibb: The weirdest guy I ever booked was Sun Ra. But I loved him for a good reason. Whenever I’d have a big band, I wanted to do two shows a night. Now, we had a ticket policy where if you came to the Grande and you got a ticket, you were there until 2:30 a.m. We were already violating the law with the number of people we were jamming in to the Grande. I think there was a legal thing of twelve to fifteen hundred, and we were packing two to three thousand in there a night. So I could have a big band and book them two shows, an early and a late. After the first show I put Sun Ra up. With Sun Ra, you can take the first five minutes and you’re wondering what’s going on. After about a half an hour you’re going, “This is shit! I can’t stand this!” People would leave. We’d practically empty out the place, and that allowed me to bring in more people. That was my strategy with Sun Ra. I never told him. We paid him. He was happy and he was getting the gig and people were hearing him. John Sinclair was happy because he loved Sun Ra.
Steve Miller — Detroit Rock City; Da Capo Press, 2013.