Gary Grimshaw in July 2001 at the Ledson Winery poster show in Santa Rosa, Calif. (corridortribe.com)
Famed Detroit rock poster artist Gary Grimshaw died Monday morning at Detroit Receiving Hospital after a long illness. He was 67.
Grimshaw had just been honored Friday by the Scarab Club, which had his wife Laura affix his signature to one of the ceiling beams, an honor reserved for artists such as Diego Rivera, Tyree Guyton and Norman Rockwell. (Grimshaw was hospitalized, and not able to sign the beam himself). The Scarab Club is exhibiting Grimshaw’s work until Feb. 15.
Grimshaw’s vivid fliers and posters for the legendary Grande Ballroom in the late 1960s featured artists such as the MC5, Cream, the Yardbirds and Paul Butterfield. His style went beyond psychedelic, and is instantly recognizable to rock poster fans, and highly collectible.
“Heaven will be a little more psychedelic today,” said his friend, former Detroit concert promoter Gail Parenteau, now living in New York. She called him “as brilliant a rock star as any of the legendary bands and events he imagined in his iconic poster art.”
Another friend, Becky Tyner of Detroit, said: “He gave a visual punch to the music scene, he used colors — he was the artist of a generation,” said Becky Tyner. “But it wasn’t just limited to the ’60s or ’70s, he’d been doing things recently, too.”
Grimshaw was born in Detroit, and grew up in Lincoln Park. He loved to draw cars and comic books from an early age.
He was best friends with Tyner’s late husband Rob, lead singer of the MC5, having grown up on opposite sides of Dix in Lincoln Park. “They both wanted to be beatniks, they were reading Jack Kerouac,” said Tyner. “They were too young to drive, so they’d talk Rob’s mom or Gary’s mom into driving them to the Minor Key in Detroit, to see Cannonball Adderley.”
After graduating from Lincoln Park High School, Grimshaw served in the Navy. Upon his return from Vietnam he was active in the Detroit area anti-war movement, a member of the artistic collective Trans-Love Energies as well as John Sinclair’s Rainbow People’s Party.
Grimshaw’s art was wild and imaginative, although personally he was quiet and soft-spoken. In the 1970’s, he worked as an associate art director at Creem Magazine.
After a sojourn in San Francisco starting in 1990, he and wife Laura moved back to live in the city he loved in 2005. He continued to create rock posters for such artists as Patti Smith and the White Stripes.
In recent years Grimshaw had many medical challenges, including several strokes. He was in a rehab center in mid-December when it was determined that he needed to go to Detroit Receiving. He never left.
Several friends, including WCSX’s Doug Podell, and musician Scott Morgan, organized a benefit to offset some of Grimshaw’s medical expenses March 22 at the Macomb Theater. Many musicians, including Jack White, have contributed items to be auctioned off that day.
Grimshaw is survived by his wife Laura, as well as a son by a previous marriage; Alan Morgan Grimshaw, and two sisters.
Funeral arrangements are pending.