The First Annual Detroit Rock & Roll Revival, Detroit, Michigan State Fairgrounds May 30-31, 1969

The First Annual Detroit Rock & Roll Revival, Detroit, Michigan State Fairgrounds May 30-31, 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

This was one of Michigan’s biggest festival shows at the time with over 35 bands treading the boards over two days. The rock scene in Detroit orbited around the famous Grande Ballroom, home to the MC and The Stooges as well as the James Gang, Ted’s Amboy Dukes and many more. To ensure the gig got a good crowd, they shut the Ballroom that weekend. Clever move. 

Produced by Russ Gibb who ran the Ballroom and would be the man behind several other festivals in the area, it was largely regarded as a huge success by which I mean, no-one took a bath financially. 

Chuck Berry was the notional headliner on the Friday but everyone had come to see local boys the MC5 along with Johnny Winter, who was playing up a storm all summer long. 

This show marked his first appearance in Michigan but he was tearing it up at what seemed like every festival that summer of 1969. It was also significant for it being one of Grand Funk Railroad’s first shows after forming out of a band called Pack. They played on the Saturday afternoon and received $1250 for the pleasure - which isn’t bad money for 45 minutes work! I bet no new band would get that sort of fee today 51 years later. 

After the show Russ Gibb held a private party and jam session at the Ballroom for “the press, participants and 'other beautiful people' of the Detroit Rock and Roll Revival”. Groovy man. 

Gary Grimshaw’s beautiful poster advertising the event was really striking, evolving out of and influenced by the west coast tradition of Kelly & Mouse and Rick Griffin which he'd seen in San Francisco while skipping town to avoid jail time for a bust (which he eventually beat in court) He did a lot of Ballroom posters and worked on underground press publications for many years. He's grown up with a couple of the MC5 guys and was very much an important cog in the Michgian counterculture wheel. 

The complete band line up was a who’s who of late 60s Michigan rock n roll. Brownsville Station, Caste, Chuck Berry, David Peel and The Lower East Side, Dr. John the Night Tripper, Dutch Elm, Grand Funk Railroad, Johnny Winter, Lyman Woodard, MC5, Plain Brown Wrapper, Savage Grace, Sky, SRC, Sun Ra, Teegarden and Van Winkle, The Amboy Dukes, The Frost, The Gold Brothers, The James Gang, The New York Rock and Roll Ensemble, The Rationals, The Red, White and Blues Band, The Stooges, The Third Power, The Up, Train, Wilson Mower, Pursuit, The Bonzo Dog Band(!!)

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