Radio DJ behind 'Paul is Dead', Russ Gibb has passed away

News 02/05/2019

The infamous DJ who sparked the biggest worldwide rumour in rock history, Russ Gibb, has now passed away at the age of 87 years old.

In October 1969, Gibb was a part-time personality at WKNR in Dearborn, Michigan, answered a listener call who claimed that the Beatles bassist, Paul McCartney died and have been replaced with a doppelganger. As proof, the caller insisted Gibb to play Beatles' track, "Revolution 9" backwards. Among the backwards gibberish, the phrase "Turn me on, dead man" could be heard multiple times if you listen extremely closely. Beatles fans believed it to be a sign of McCartney's death conspiracy.

"The whole thing just exploded," Gibb later recalled. "The phones were ringing off the hook. People were calling with their own clues. It was nonstop." Gibb embraced the rumour and held discussions with listeners on the air to further the conspiracy. "It was really a phenomenon," he noted. "For a while, it seemed like it might really be true."

The story was then picked up by other news outlets across the globe. The Beatles, including McCartney who is still alive at the time (and now) tried to shut down the rumour with denial. 

However, the rumour was far from all of Gibbs contribution to the rock industry. For six years, Gibbs had operated the iconic venue, Grande Ballroom in Detroit, which was a popular stop for '60s and early '70s artists, including the Who, Cream, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, and more.

Roger Daltrey of the Who described Grande as "one of those places, the ones you had to play when you came to America. If you played there it was a sign that you were important."

Proud of his Detroit roots, Gibb told Detroit Free Press in 2003, "Detroit has a beat: the pounding out of Fenders, the pounding of bumpers, the day-by-day grind that made us. You had to have the beat because even on the line, things came through with a rhythm. Every three or four minutes, that line would move and you'd have to pound on the hubcaps. There was always a rhythm to Detroit.