Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

AADL Talks To: Gary Grimshaw

Gary Grimshaw is one of the most renowned and recognizable poster artists to come out of the 1960s. His most prolific period as a graphic artist was his time spent with John and Leni Sinclair in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, first in the Detroit-based Trans-Love Energies commune and then in Ann Arbor with the White Panther Party/Rainbow People's Party. In this interview we talk with the former White Panther Party Minister of Art about creating art for the Grande Ballroom and the White Panther Party, the night John Sinclair met both him and the MC5, and how he made his art then and now.

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AADL_Talks_To-Gary_Grimshaw.mp3 17.32 MB

AADL Talks To: Judge Damon Keith

In June, 1972, then-U.S. District Judge Damon J. Keith of Detroit foiled the Nixon Administration's plan to use the Ann Arbor CIA Conspiracy trial as a test case to acquire Supreme Court sanction for domestic surveillance. Keith's ruling - that the Justice Department's wiretapping was in violation of the 4th amendment - led to a unanimous Supreme Court decision making domestic surveillance illegal…during the same week as the Watergate break-in. In this interview, Judge Keith, now Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, recalls his memories of the case and his famous Keith Decision. He also talks about how he handled similarly difficult cases, and the legacy of his work.

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AADL_Talks_To-Judge_Damon_Keith.mp3 21.91 MB

AADL Talks To: Pun Plamondon

Pun Plamondon was a directionless teen with left-wing leanings when he met John Sinclair, Leni Sinclair, and Gary Grimshaw in Detroit in the mid-1960s. He grew to become the co-founder of the White Panther Party/Rainbow People's Party as well as its Minister of Defense. In that role he found himself on the run as one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Criminals and the subject of a case before the United States Supreme Court. In this episode we talk to Pun about that journey, including the formation of the White Panther Party and Rainbow People’s Party, being there for some of the key events in 1960s Ann Arbor, and finding his Native American roots.

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AADL_Talks_To-Pun_Plamondon.mp3 57.26 MB

AADL Talks To: John Sinclair (March 22, 2010)

In this interview from March 22, 2010, poet, author, and activist John Sinclair reflects on music in Ann Arbor - from the MC5, the free concerts in the parks and the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz festival, to his specific memories of local clubs and musicians. He also talks about the influence of both the Beat generation and black music on his cultural and political awakening, the origins of the White Panther Party, and the importance of newspapers.

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AADL_Talks_To-John_Sinclair1.mp3 39.55 MB

AADL Talks To: Leni Sinclair

In this interview, photographer and activist Leni Sinclair recalls the origins of the Detroit Artists Workshop and first Trans-Love commune in Detroit, and their strategic retreat to Ann Arbor following the Detroit Riots. She also talks about the groups' politicization as the White Panther Party and reflects on life at their Hill St. commune, including what led to its breakup in the mid 1970s.

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AADL_Talks_To-Leni_Sinclair.mp3 27.56 MB

AADL Talks To: Bruce Conforth

Rob talks with University of Michigan Professor of American Culture, Bruce Conforth, about the cultural and historical significance of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, in particular John Lennon's decision to appear at the Rally and the role Ann Arbor played in the 1960s.

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AADL_Talks_To-Bruce_Conforth.mp3 21.39 MB

Freeing John Sinclair Concert with Commander Cody Band and John Sinclair

December 10, 2011, marks the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena, held to protest the ten-year prison term given John Sinclair for the possession of two marijuana cigarettes (he was released soon after the Rally). On the evening before the anniversary, we'll celebrate the launch of our Freeing John Sinclair website (coming December 9!) with a FREE concert at The Ark featuring the Commander Cody Band (Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen played at the original Rally), with special guest John Sinclair & Beatnik Youth.

Admission is FREE, and first-come, first-served, so get there early!

Friday, December 9, 2011 | 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:30) | The Ark | Ann Arbor

Paul is dead: old evidence brought to light

If you're a Beatles fan old enough to have owned the 'White' album and fondly recall playing it backwards listening to "Turn me on, dead man" -- as well as other clues that Paul McCartney was dead -- you have Fred LaBour to thank, and you can do so at The Ark on Monday, December 5. LaBour, bassist for the fun retro-cowboy band Riders in the Sky, was a U-M student back in October of 1969 when he wrote a satirical review of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album for the Michigan Daily that began with the headline, "McCartney dead; new evidence brought to light." In his review, LaBour invented several clues that McCartney had died and was replaced by a double named William Campbell, thereby fueling an urban legend that quickly swept America. The Ann Arbor News covered the hoax a week later in October 1969, and Alan Glenn, chronicler of Ann Arbor in the 1960s, wrote about the story in 2009.

Riders in the Sky will appear at the Ark on Monday, December 5, in which LaBour (as his stage alter ego, "Too Slim") plays a mean double bass.

"Freeing John Sinclair" website and events coming in December

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, which took place in Ann Arbor on December 10, 1971, the Library will launch a website documenting the history of the White Panther Party and Rainbow People's Party in Ann Arbor circa 1968-1975. The site will include the full run of both parties' underground newspaper, the Ann Arbor Sun; a series of original essays; audio files from the Bentley Historical Library's John and Leni Sinclair Papers; and dozens of hours of interviews with people central to this period in Ann Arbor history. For all of this and more, check out freeingjohnsinclair.org on December 9!

To launch the site, the Library is sponsoring a series of events and an exhibit titled "Rock and Revolution", on display at the Downtown Library from December 2 - January 15.

Related events in December are:

December 2, 7:00 pm: "Rock and Revolution" exhibit opening with appearances by Gary Grimshaw, Leni Sinclair and an illustrated talk on Michigan rock poster art by Michael Erlewine. (Downtown Library)

December 9, 8:00 pm: a free concert with the Commander Cody Band and special guest John Sinclair & Beatnik Youth (The Ark, 316, S. Main St, Ann Arbor) (map)

December 10, 1:00 pm: "Culture Jamming: A Long View Back", a panel discussion featuring John Sinclair, Leni Sinclair, Pun Plamondon, David Fenton and Genie Parker. With host and moderator, U-M professor Bruce Conforth (Pendleton Room, Michigan Union, 530 S. State St, Ann Arbor) (map)

AADL Talks To Jim Toy and Jackie Simpson

November 18 marks the 40th anniversary of the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center, making it the oldest LGBT student organization in the country. I spoke with Jackie Simpson, the director of the Spectrum Center, and Jim Toy, one of the two people who founded the organization in 1971. Jackie and Jim talked about the beginning of the organization, its history and ongoing development, and the challenges and joys of the center today. Make sure to visit the Spectrum Center’s website to check out all the great events planned for the anniversary weekend!

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AADL_Talks_To-James_Toy_and_Jackie_Simpson.mp3 23.1 MB
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