Wednesday, May 1, 2019

R.I.P.: 'Uncle Russ' Gibb, Former Detroit Radio Personality

Russ Gibb
Russ Gibb, the farsighted arts lover and entrepreneur who helped ignite Detroit's live rock scene, died Tuesday in Garden City after a series of medical struggles.

He was 87, reports The Detroit Free Press.

Gibb — a larger-than-life character known to local music fans as "Uncle Russ" — transformed the Grande Ballroom into Detroit's psychedelic-rock palace in 1966, a game-changing move that launched an indelible chapter in Detroit music history. It was just one hallmark in a colorful life that included decades as a beloved video-production teacher at Dearborn High School.

The gregarious, quick-witted Gibb was forever a young soul: He was in his mid-30s — notably older than much of his clientele — when he leased the Grande on Detroit's west side and turned it into the city's hippie-era rock mecca, helping nurture the careers of homegrown bands such as the MC5, the Stooges, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent while putting visitors like Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Who and the Grateful Dead onstage for the city's ravenous rock audience.

He'd been savvy enough to get in on the rock 'n' roll game early, staging sock hops at area schools in the early '60s and working as a disc jockey.

Gibb was on the air at WKNR-FM in October 1969 when a listener called to discuss rumors, then circulating on the underground, that Beatle Paul McCartney had died. Gibb gleefully took up the discussion on his show, pushing the story into the limelight and ultimately helping kick off a cottage industry of "Paul is dead" conspiracy theories based on clues from Beatles lyrics and imagery.

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