In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Detroit's rock-and-roll scene was at an apex. Legendary venues like the Grande Ballroom and the Easttown Theater were premier spots to see performances by local bands like the MC5, the Stooges, SRC, and the Bob Seger System, as well as internationally renown touring acts like The Who.
But one of Detroit's best venues to see live rock-and-roll wasn't really a venue at all -- it was a mansion on the east riverfront.
In 1927, legendary Detroit speed boat racer and inventor Gar Wood had a mansion built on Grayhaven Island on Detroit's east riverfront. After Wood retired and sold his home in the 1940s, the mansion that came to be known as "The Garwood" went vacant until it was leased by 19-year-old Mark Hoover in 1969.
According to the Detroit Free Press:
When Hoover started throwing rent parties with live music in the mansion's cavernous ballroom, his more conventional roommates fell away and were replaced by a different cast of characters. They coalesced around a rock band called Stonefront, and the house took on the air of a commune dedicated to countercultural enterprise.
The Garwood eventually became a destination for touring acts travelling through Detroit:
The uniqueness of the surroundings and the loosey-goosey atmosphere of Hoover's parties soon attracted rock royalty. Some bands would finish their shows at the Grande or the Eastown and then repair to the Garwood, where they'd perform another whole set. The acts that unexpectedly graced Gar Wood's beautiful ballroom included Van Morrison, Sly & the Family Stone, the Allman Brothers, Cactus, Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes, Tim Buckley and Mountain. Leon Russell recorded one of his performances there. Johnny Winter loved the place so much he inquired about renting a room.
"They were madness. They were barely controlled chaos," said Merryman of the rent parties. "But in all those nights, there was never a fight, not one. Well, except for the time Hoover had to throw Alice Cooper out because he was too drunk. Considering the thousands and thousands of people that came through the place, there was no violence. None."
Eventually, however, the authorities shut down the parties and the tenants were evicted. A short time later, the house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Read more about this amazing chapter in Detroit rock-and-roll history in the Detroit Free Press