Farewell, Gary Grimshaw: Rock Art Legend

Tribute to the man whose posters and covers defined the Detroit rock scene.

Farewell, Gary Grimshaw: Rock Art Legend
Gary-Grimshaw-by-Leni-Sinclair-770.jpg

GARY GRIMSHAW, WHO DIED last week in Detroit’s Receiving Hospital aged 67, was as much of a defining presence on the Detroit rock scene of the ’60s and ’70s as John Sinclair and the MC5 – with whom he’d grown up. <em>Kick Out The Jams</em>: the original MC5 album cover designed by Gary Grimshaw.

“Grimshaw was the best artist in our neighbourhood,” the 5’s Wayne Kramer told Gary Graff of Michigan’s Morning Sun last week. “We drew hot rod cars and he knew the secret of how to capture chrome, which made him the coolest to a Downriver greaser like me.”

With a mind-bending style that was a grittier, more dystopian cousin of the West Coast poster oeuvre minted by Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse and others – work he had absorbed as a sailor on shore leave in the Bay Area – Grimshaw designed posters for shows by the MC5, The Who, Hendrix, The Yardbirds and Cream, and became synonymous with Detroit’s counterculture Mecca, the Grande Ballroom.

Grimshaw’s MC5 association led to him designing the original, hemp-centric cover for their incendiary Kick Out The Jams album and serving as Minister Of Art for MC5 manager-provocateur John Sinclair’s stoner-revolutionary White Panther Party. Grimshaw’s work also graced publications including the Ann Arbor Sun, San Francisco Oracle and Creem magazine, for whom he served as Associate Art Editor.

Although plagued with ill health in recent years, his connection with the Detroit rock scene, after a return to the city in 2003, remained umbilical, and Grimshaw designed posters for the Detroit Cobras, The Dirtbombs and The White Stripes.

Grimshaw (left, with wife Laura) was the co-author, with photographer Leni Sinclair, of the 2012 book Detroit Rocks! A Pictorial History Of Motor City Rock And Roll 1965-1975. His art work can be purchased from http://www.garygrimshaw.com/

PHOTO: Leni Sinclair