Where Stars Are Born: The Harlem Apollo
'Mr Apollo' Billy Mitchell reveals how the Apollo Theatre in New York became a world famous, launching the careers of stars like Ella Fitzgerald, The Jackson 5 and James Brown.
Over 80 years since its doors first opened, 'Mr Apollo' Billy Mitchell reveals how the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York became one of the world's most celebrated music venues, launching the careers of stars like Ella Fitzgerald, The Jackson 5 and James Brown.
Shortly after the Apollo opened in 1934, Ella Fitzgerald became the first female to win their renowned Amateur Night talent contest when she was only 17. The popularity contest has since proven an effective measure of star potential, becoming a launch-pad over the decades for some of the nation's greatest entertainers like Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix and D'Angelo.
James Brown will be forever associated with the Apollo, having regularly performed there to sold-out audiences throughout his career. When the 'Godfather of Soul' proposed the idea of recording a live album at the Apollo with no new songs, his label refused. Undeterred, Brown funded the album himself and Live At The Apollo (1963) went on to spend 66 weeks on the album charts, selling so fast that record stores failed to keep up with demand.
As an epicentre of black culture, the list of artists whose careers were elevated by the Apollo is truly remarkable. Listen as The Jacksons, Martha Reeves, Solomon Burke and Smokey Robinson, among others, help Billy shine a spotlight on this musical institution.
Producer: Neil Kanwal
(Photo: A James Brown concert poster from the Apollo Theater is seen at an auction preview . Credit: Getty Images)