The neo-classical theater known today as The Apollo Theater was designed by George Keister. The construction site is located at 253 West 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, now also known as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass Boulevards, respectively.
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Two of New York‚Äôs leading burlesque entertainment operators, Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon, obtain a thirty-year lease on the newly constructed theater and open it as Hurtig and Seamon‚Äôs (New) Burlesque Theater. Blacks are not allowed in the audience. Powerful theatrical landlord and president of the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America, Sidney Cohen, holds the mortgage note.
The cultural explosion known as the Harlem Renaissance is underway, contributing to the increase of African-American entertainers and residents in the area.
Prohibition begins, outlawing alcohol in the U.S. and giving rise to an illegal subculture of nightclubs and other venues in Harlem where whites increasingly frequent and discover African-American talent firsthand.
Frank Schiffman and Leo Brecher take over the Lafayette Theater (6 blocks from Hurtig and Seamon‚Äôs (New) Burlesque Theater) and begin presenting black entertainment to black audiences there.
Sidney Cohen buys Hurtig and Seamon‚Äôs (New) Burlesque Theater.
Newly elected mayor, Fiorello La Guardia], begins his campaign against burlesque.
Ralph Cooper creates The Harlem Amateur Hour at Schiffman's Lafayette Theater.
Sidney Cohen and his manager, Morris Sussman, change the format of their shows from burlesque to variety reviews and redirect their marketing attention to Harlem's African-American community.
Cohen renames "Hurtig and Seamon's Burlesque" as the new "125th Street Apollo Theater".
On Friday, January 26th, the Apollo officially opens, welcoming African-Americans to the audience for the first time with "a colored revue" called "Jazz a la Carte" featuring Ralph Cooper Sr., Benny Carter and his orchestra, and "16 Gorgeous Hot Steppers".
Ralph Cooper persuades Cohen and Sussman to let him bring his popular "Harlem Amateur Hour Radio Show" to the Apollo. The show is renamed "Amateur Night."
Harlem's "Tree of Hope", which some believe brings good luck to those who touch it, is cut down from in front of the Lafayette Theater. A section is salvaged and makes its way to the Apollo's stage where performers and visitors traditionally rub the trunk to this day.
A young dancer-turned-vocalist named Ella Fitzgerald wins her Amateur Night debut. The house band's drummer, Chick Webb, drafts her to become his band's lead vocalist.
Future Jazz vocal legend Billie Holiday wins Amateur Night.
Cohen sells the 125th Street Apollo Theater to theatrical rivals Leo Brecher and Frank Schiffman. On New Year's Eve, Bessie Smith, "Empress of the Blues," plays the Apollo.
Lena Horne makes her Apollo debut, singing with Noble Sissle's orchestra.
On March 19th, Count Basie plays the Apollo for the first time.
The Apollo is the only theater in NYC to hire blacks in backstage positions.
Sarah Vaughan wins Amateur Night and is discovered by Billy Eckstine.
In support of WWII efforts, The Apollo presents 35 tickets daily for soldiers at Harlem Defense Recreation Center.
Billy Eckstine's band debuts at the Apollo.
Nat "King" Cole and his trio sell out the Apollo Theater for two straight weeks.
Dinah Washington appears for the first time at the Apollo.
Sammy Davis Jr. makes his first appearance on the Apollo stage with the Will Mastin Trio.
Billy Ward and the Dominoes, featuring a dynamic soul singer named Jackie Wilson, perform at the Apollo. The band also hires 17 year old Clyde McPhatter after he wins Amateur Night. McPhatter later becomes lead singer of The Drifters.
Sidney Poitier stars in "The Detective Story," live on stage at the Apollo.
Boxing legend Joe Louis performs a comedy routine at the Apollo.
Pearl Bailey headlines performance with Duke Ellington
Future icon Bo Diddley performs at the Apollo.
While in New York for his January 28th TV debut on The Dorsey Brothers Show, young Elvis Presley makes regular visits to the Apollo Theater for inspiration from the theater‚Äôs performers.
James Brown wins Amateur Night.
One of the most daring and inspirational acts in Rock & Roll/music history, Little Richard, performs at the Apollo.
Buddy Holly and the Crickets appear at the Apollo.
International star Josephine Baker plays the Apollo in a quarter million dollar wardrobe.
Johnny Mathis plays the Apollo.
The Shirelles debut at Apollo as one of many popular "girl groups" from late 50s-mid 60s.
1950s - early 60s
Apollo presents modern jazz artists including Miles Davis, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.
Atlantic Records and Stax Records present their soul artists, including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Aretha Franklin, at the Apollo.
B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Odetta perform at Apollo.
Jackie Wilson performs solo at the Apollo.
Nancy Wilson, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes all make their first appearances at the Apollo.
Entertainment guru Berry Gordy brings the Motown Revue to the Apollo featuring their emerging stars: Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Little Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Martha & the Vandellas, Mary Wells, Junior Walker & the All-Stars and The Contours.
Pacheco y su Charanga becomes the first Latin band to headline at the Apollo, opening the door for future headliners such as Tito Puente, Joe Cuba, Mongo Santamaria, La Lupe, Gracellia Grillo-Perez, Celia Cruz, Willie Col√≥n, the Fania All-Stars and others.
The Beatles make their first trip to New York City and state that the Apollo Theater is the place they want to visit more than anywhere else.
James Brown records a precedent-setting, live in concert album at the Apollo.
Jimi Hendrix wins Amateur Night in February.
Racial tensions in the United States are high and Harlem explodes into riots. Angry crowds respect the Apollo Theater and leave it untouched while destroying surrounding businesses.
Gladys Knight and the Pips win Amateur Night.
The Parliaments' first performance at the Apollo goes poorly. They reinvent themselves as Parliament/Funkadelic and return to great acclaim years later.
Buddy Holly and the Crickets appear at the Apollo.
Comedic greats including Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, Nipsey Russell, Slappy White, Flip Wilson and Redd Foxx are hits at the theater during the 60s and 70s and Harlem glows as the star of TV's I Spy, Bill Cosby, plays the Apollo in 1968.
Eleven-year-old singing sensation Stephanie Mills wins Amateur Night for six consecutive weeks.
The Jackson 5, featuring a 9-year old Michael Jackson, travel to the Apollo to win Amateur Night and break into show business, succeeding on all fronts.
The "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin returns to the Apollo Theater. Masses of her fans are turned away from the sold-out engagements.
Philadelphia International label brings the Delfonics, the O‚ÄôJays, the Stylistics, the Spinners and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes to the Apollo.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono perform at Apollo.
New York in general, and Harlem in particular, fall on hard times and the Apollo struggles. Many stars who once needed to perform at the Apollo can now make considerably more money performing at larger NYC area venues.
B.B. King's blues concert for Harlem school children is held at Apollo.
In January, Bobby Schiffman, son of Frank Schiffman and the owner and manager of The Apollo, closes the theater.
The doors reopen briefly for fundraisers to revive the Apollo, including one featuring Millie Jackson, The Manhattans, and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.
Reggae icon Bob Marley performs seven sold out shows at the Apollo from October 25-28.
In November, the IRS forces the new owners to close the Apollo again for unpaid taxes.
Percy Sutton‚Äôs Inner City Broadcasting Corporation and a group of private investors purchase the Apollo Theater.
The Apollo receives city, state, and federal landmark status.
On May 5th, the theater celebrates a 50th Anniversary grand reopening with a television special, "Motown Salutes the Apollo," featuring heralded Motown artists such as the Temptations and Diana Ross.
Amateur Night is re-launched on Christmas Eve with 1933's originator, Ralph Cooper, as the weekly M.C.
While new and legendary R&B artists continue to play the Apollo, future hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons keeps the theater contemporary by bringing in rap acts like Run-DMC, Public Enemy, L.L. Cool J, and The Beastie Boys.
Showtime at the Apollo, featuring a weekly sampling of celebrity and amateur entertainment, debuts on national television. Hosts have included comedians Sinbad, Steve Harvey, Whoopi Goldberg, Mo'Nique and Anthony Anderson.
The Cosby Show, prominently features the central cast dancing in front of images of the Apollo marquee and blade in the show's opening theme and credits for its 6th and 7th seasons.
Hip-hop continues to rule as The Notorious B.I.G., Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Jay-Z sell out the theater. R&B acts make a comeback via Jodeci, R. Kelly, Faith Evans, The O'Jays, Boyz II Men, LeVert and Mary J. Blige. Comedian Dave Chappelle performs during Amateur Night... and is booed off stage. He later says the experience helped him work harder on his craft.
Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization, is established to manage, fund and program the Apollo Theater.
Amateur Night host and creator Ralph Cooper, Sr. passes away on August 4. His wake and funeral services are held at the Apollo Theater.
Prince plays the Apollo.
The Apollo Theater Foundation launches its first performance series with a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Other performances follow including Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Boys Choir of Harlem and Betty Carter - Jazz Ahead '95.
KORN becomes the first hard rock band to perform on the world famous stage.
Chris Rock films his televised comedy special, "Bigger & Blacker," live at the Apollo and donates money toward theater improvements. Rappers Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh perform in the special.
Harlem is revitalized as improved civic services and economics inspire many to remain, return to, or move to the village ‚Äì and even more to visit it. Harlem's returned diversity is reflected as performers ranging from Common, Gorillaz, Tom Jones, Annie Lennox, and Morrissey hit the Apollo stage.
The Apollo Theater and Jazz at Lincoln Center initiate a partnership to present Jazz for Young People Concert at the Apollo, featuring jazz great Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Democratic presidential hopefuls Vice-President Al Gore and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley debate before the Apollo Theater (and national television and radio) audience on February 21. CNN‚Äôs Bernard Shaw moderates and the Reverend Al Sharpton asks the first question.
Dance Theatre of Harlem presents their first Apollo performance season.
Maxwell, David Byrne, and The Strokes make their Apollo debuts to sold-out audiences.
George C. Wolfe's new musical, Harlem Song, opens to enthusiastic reviews and completes a six-month run at the Apollo.
The Apollo Theater Academy is launched to introduce high school students in New York and New Jersey to the broad range of career opportunities in the entertainment industry.
The Apollo Theater hosts a grand celebration of its 70th Anniversary. Celebrities include Oscar© winner Denzel Washington, pop star Ashanti, country music icon Willie Nelson and R&B diva Patti LaBelle.
The Apollo Theater Education & Community Outreach initiative is launched.
A new phase of restoration to theater is completed, adding over 1,500 new house seats, a restored 125th-Street facade, a state-of-the-art, electronic marquee, a new stage, improved handicapped accessibility and a renovated greenroom.
The Apollo launches the Salon Series, an incubation and performance program for new artistic works and works-in-progress by mid-career performing artists.
The Theater marks its second annual Spring Benefit with the inception of the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame. 2006 inductees are Ella Fitzgerald, Little Richard, and Gladys Knight and the Pips.
On December 25, James Brown dies.
On December 28, thousands of fans stand in line for hours to see James Brown at The Apollo for the last time as the theater hosts a public viewing of Brown‚Äôs body on the main stage.
The theater hosts a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Kwanzaa, featuring Forces of Nature Dance Theatre led by artistic director Abdel Salaam.
Björk and Shakira perform at the theater for the first time.
James Brown is posthumously inducted into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame.
Oscar©-winners Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington attend the world premiere of their film, American Gangster, at the Apollo Theater on Oct. 19.
José Feliciano "fulfills a dream" by performing at Apollo Theater on December 18.
The Apollo Rising Capital Campaign is launched to support the theater's restoration and renovation, future expansion and new initiatives.
The Apollo celebrates James Brown's 75th Birthday.
Barack Obama comes to the Apollo to appeal for New York's support for his presidential bid. Months later, he's elected the nation's 44th (and 1st African-American) president.
The Apollo celebrates its 75th Anniversary.