Apollo Theater

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The Apollo Theater in New York City is one of the most famous music halls in the United States, and the most famous club associated almost exclusively with African-American performers. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was the home of Showtime at the Apollo, a nationally syndicated television variety show consisting of new talent.
The Apollo Theater is located at 253 W. 125th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, specifically in Harlem, one of the United States' most historically significant traditionally black neighborhoods.

The Apollo Theater Legends, and Hall of Fame has inducted such renowned performers and music-industry figures as Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Quincy Jones, and Patti LaBelle.

An Apollo Hall was founded in the mid-19th century by former Civil War General Edward Ferrero as a dance hall and ballroom. Upon the expiration of his lease in 1872, the building was converted to a theater, which closed shortly before the turn of the 20th century.
However, the name "Apollo Theater" lived on. In 1913 or 1914, a new building, designed by the architect George Keister, and who also patterned the First Baptist Church in the City of New York, opened at 253 West 125th Street as Hurtig and Seamon's New (Burlesque) Theater, operated by noted burlesque producers Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon, who obtained a 30-year lease. It remained in operation until 1928, when Bill Minsky took over. The song "I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful)" by Harry Sullivan and Harry Ruskin, written in 1929, became the theme song of the Apollo Theater. Sidney S. Cohen, president of the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America, purchased the Apollo in 1932 upon Minsky's death. Sources vary as to the next transfer. According to the Apollo Theater Foundation, Cohen sold it in 1934 to Frank Schiffman and Leo Brecher, who renamed the hall the 125 Street Apollo and reopened it on January 26, 1934, with an advertisement in the New York Age that referred to the Apollo as "the finest theater in Harlem". After Cohen's death, business partner Morris Sussman teamed with Schiffman, who ran the Harlem Opera House, and a merger between the two Apollo Theater was formed.
The Harlem Renaissance was occurring at the time, following the World War I-era Great Migration of blacks from the southern U.S. states, and Schiffman and Brecher opened with "a colored review" entitled "Jazz a la Carte", featuring Ralph Cooper, Benny Carter and his orchestra, and "16 Gorgeous Hot Steppers", with all proceeds donated to the Harlem Children's Fresh Air Fund. Schiffman's motivation for featuring black talent and entertainment was not only because the neighborhood had become black over a long period of gradual migration, but because black entertainers were cheaper to hire, and Schiffman could offer quality shows for reasonable rates. For many years, Apollo was the only theater in New York City to hire black talent.
Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut at 17 at the Apollo Theater, on November 21, 1934. Fitzgerald's performances pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its "Amateur Nights". She had originally intended to go on stage and dance, but intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead, in the style of Connee Boswell. She sang Hoagy Carmichael's "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection", a song recorded by the Boswell Sisters, and won the first prize of US dollars $25.00.
The Apollo Theater grew to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance of the pre-World War II years. In 1934, it introduced its regular Amateur Night shows hosted by Ralph Cooper. Billing itself as a place "where stars are born and legends are made," the Apollo became famous for launching the careers of artists 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 the performances 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. One unique feature of the Apollo was "the executioner" a man with a broom who would sweep performers off the stage if the highly vocal and opinionated audiences began to call for their removal. Jimi Hendrix won the first place prize in an amateur musician contest at the Apollo in 1964. Amateur Night marked its first tie on October 27, 2010, with guitarist Nathan Foley, 16, or Rockville, Maryland, and cellist and singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson, 25, a London, England, student at the Manhattan School of Music, sharing the $10,000 prize.

Early Caucasian performers at the Apollo Theater: One rock and roll fan site, without citing its source, claims that on August 16, 1957, Caucasian performer Buddy Holly played the Apollo. Conversely, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture claims Caucasian rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins "performed at the Apollo Theater in New York City two weeks before the reputed first white artists, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, arrived on the scene." Hawkins himself claimed in 1998, without specifying a performance date, "I was the first white artist to play the Apollo Theater." Another Caucasian performer Jo-Ann Campbell claims she performed November 30, 1956, and the week of May 3, 1957. A fan site claims that Caucasian performer Jimmy Cavallo and the House Rockers performed there in December 1956, in support of the movie Rock, Rock, Rock.

The Apollo Theater club fell into decline in the 1960s and 1970s, and was converted into a movie theater in 1975.
The Apollo was revived in 1983, when Inner City Broadcasting, a firm owned by former Manhattan borough president Percy E. Sutton purchased the building. It obtained federal, state, and city landmark status, and fully reopened in 1985. The Little Rascals, produced by former actor Jimmy Hawkins, performed at a fiftieth anniversary show at the Apollo that year. The musical duo Hall & Oates played the grand reopening in 1987, which was released on an album that year.
In 1991, the Apollo was purchased by the State of New York.
On December 15, 2005, the Apollo Theater launched the first phase of its refurbishment, costing an estimated $65 million. The first phase included the facade and the new light-emitting diode (LED) marquee. Attendees and speakers at the launch event included President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons.
As of 2009 it is run by the nonprofit Apollo Theater Foundation Inc., and draws an estimated 1.3 million visitors annually.
The Jazz Foundation of America has celebrated its annual Apollo Theater benefit concert, "A Great Night in Harlem", at the Apollo Theater every year since 2001.
In 2010, Paul McCartney performed at the Apollo.