Russ Gibb, Detroit DJ, teacher and rock promoter, dies at 87

May 1, 2019

Russ Gibb, a Detroit-area rock promoter, radio disc jockey, teacher and pop culture provocateur, has died at 87

DETROIT — Russ Gibb, a Detroit-area rock promoter, radio DJ, high school teacher and pop culture provocateur, has died. He was 87.

Andy Fradkin, Gibb's friend and former student who handles his financial and legal matters, said he died Tuesday of heart failure at a Garden City hospital. The longtime Dearborn resident suffered from health problems for several years, Fradkin said.

Gibb leased Detroit's former Grande Ballroom and gave Iggy Pop and the Stooges their first major show in 1968. That also provided a venue for such acts as Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Who and the Grateful Dead.

One of his best known gambits was as a DJ in 1969 when he entertained rumors about the supposed death of Paul McCartney not long after The Beatles' "Abbey Road" was released. Discussion about the hoax lit up WKNR's airwaves and helped propel the underground conspiracy into a global phenomenon.

"Russ knew how to work the system — he could always put on a good dog-and-pony show, as he would say," Fradkin said of Gibb, who taught at Dearborn High School for 30 years. "It was about, 'How do you get people talking?'"

Gibb, who also hosted radio call-in shows on other stations, as well as a live, local cable TV show, had "a whole cadre of different things and different chapters of his life that influenced a ton of people," Fradkin said.

Punk pioneers MC5 recorded their debut album, "Kick Out the Jams," live at the Grande. On Tuesday, guitarist Wayne Kramer tweeted , "My dear old friend Russ Gibb has departed this earth. He will be sorely missed. He was one of a kind."