The Appollo Theatre

"….the Apollo probably exerted a greater influence upon popular culture than any other entertainment venue in the world. For blacks it was the most important cultural institution–not just the greatest black theatre, but a special place to come of age emotionally, professionally, socially, and politically. Ted Fox, “Showtime at the Apollo

The Apollo Theater was constructed on 125th Street in Harlem, New York. It was originally Hurtig and Seamon's New Burlesque Theatre, and African American admissions were not permitted. It orginally featured burlesque, however, the citiy's mayor at the time, Fiorello La Guardia, did not like burlesque, and campaigned about it. So in January, 1934, African Americans began to perform, and the attention shifted from Burlesque, to the new celebration of Black culture in New York City.  Initial African American performances featured Ralph Cooper, Sr. Benny Carter, and "16 Gorgeous Hotsteppers". From then on, the Apollo theater became a place to celebrate African American performers, and featured some well-known names, such as Ella Fitzgerald. This venue helped many other famous black performers start their careers later on, such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and even Michael Jackson.

The Apollo Theater's home page

The Appollo grew to prominence during the hrlem renaissance of the pre World-War II years. In 1934, it introduced its regular Amateur Night shows hosted by Ralph Cooper. Deaming itself as a “place where stars are born and legends are made,” the Apollo became famous for launching the careers of asrtist such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, and Sarah Vaughan.  The Apollo also featured preformanes of old- time vaudeville favorites like Tim Moore, Stepin Fetchit, dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, Clinton “Dusty” Fletcher, John “Spider Bruce” Mason and Johnny Lee, as well as younger comics like Godfrey Cambridge.

The Apollo Theater featured some of the most well known performers in African American History, like Duke Ellington
Ella Fitzgerald preforms at the Apollo Theatre
Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut at the age of 17 at the Apollo theatre, on November  21, 1934. She won the opportunity of competing in one of the earliest “Amateur Nights.” She had originally intended to go on stage and dance, but after being intimidated by the Edwards Sister, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead. She sand Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection,’ a song that was recorded by the Boswell Sisters, and won the first prize of $25.00.


Juimi Hendrix won the first proze in an amateur musician contest at the Apollo in 1964