253 W. 125th St.
New York, N.Y. 10027
In his 1993 book “Showtime at the Apollo,” author Ted Fox wrote “the Apollo probably exerted a greater influence upon popular culture than any other entertainment venue in the world.” Originally known as Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater when it first opened in Harlem in 1914, the Apollo is the single most important concert venue for African-Americans in American music history. Some of the most beloved American entertainers made their very first public appearances at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night, a talent show first introduced in 1934, intended to showcase talented new performers. One of the earliest winners of the weekly Amateur Night events was the then 17-year-old Ella Fitzgerald, who was orphaned just two years earlier. Other legendary entertainers followed and got their careers started at the Apollo Theater, including Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Dionne Warwick, The Supremes, The Miracles, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
1805 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, Calif. 94115
During the height of the 1960s counterculture movement that swept the nation and most prominently in San Francisco, the Fillmore Auditorium was a platform for many of the most famous rock bands of that era overshadowed by the Vietnam War. Led by concert promoter Bill Graham, the Fillmore hosted a number of talented local bands that epitomized what’s forever known as the San Francisco Sound, including such fabled acts as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Steve Miller Band and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Other premiere acts such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, The Who, Elton John, Pink Floyd and Cream all performed at the Fillmore. Following up upon his success in San Francisco, Graham opened up the Fillmore East in New York’s East Village. Some of the most acclaimed live albums were recorded at Fillmore East, such as The Allman Brothers’ “Live at Fillmore East,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Band of Gypsys” and Grateful Dead’s “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Grateful Dead.” Due to increased popularity in rock concerts and greater demand for tickets, Graham closed Fillmore West in 1971 and moved shows to nearby Winterland Arena, another historically important venue in San Francisco and the 1970s location for what is regarded as the greatest rock film ever, Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz,” the farewell concert of the rock group The Band and a number of special guests, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Neil Diamond.
2301 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, Calif. 90068
Just as in New York City, Los Angeles has a significant number of legendary concert venues, including the Hollywood Bowl. Built during the time when Hollywood became the world’s filmmaking capital, the Hollywood Bowl, with its familiar white shell-shaped roof, is one of the world’s largest natural amphitheaters. Since opening in 1922, the Hollywood Bowl has presented many of the world’s greatest music entertainers, from opera singers such as Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli to popular music entertainers such as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, who performed there twice during the 1960s. The Hollywood Bowl has been home to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra since the 1920s and is also the summer home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, currently led by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. More recently, performers like Carrie Underwood, John Mayer, The Eagles, Aretha Franklin and The Beach Boys in a 50th Anniversary Tour have all performed at the Hollywood Bowl.
Madison Square Garden
4 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10001
Billed as “the world’s most famous arena,” New York’s Madison Square Garden has hosted many of the most heralded concerts in music history, in addition to historically significant sporting events. Often referred to as “the Garden,” the landmark venue first opened in 1879 near Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, not far from the birth of Tin Pan Alley and the Flatiron District. By 1968, the fourth and current Madison Square Garden opened its doors, above Penn Station, the nation’s busiest transportation hub a few blocks from Times Square. Several historical music events have been held at the Garden, like George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, The Rolling Stones’ 1969 North American Tour, Elvis Presley’s four sold-out shows in 1972, John Lennon’s performance with the Plastic Ono Band that same year, Led Zeppelin’s three sold-out performances in 1973 that spawned the band’s live album “The Song Remains the Same,” Lennon’s final stage appearance during an Elton John concert in 1974 and more recently the benefit Concert for New York City after the 9/11 attacks and the Concert for Sandy Relief in 2012, reportedly the largest event ever held there. Although The Beatles never performed at Madison Square Garden, it is the world’s only venue where all four members appeared for at least one solo concert.
116 5th Ave. N.
Nashville, Tenn. 37219
Opening its doors in 1892, Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium was a longtime home to the Grand Ole Opry, the iconic country music program that began on the radio in the 1920s and helped earn Nashville the titles “Country Music Capital of the World” and “Music City.” The weekly music series featured many performers who later became country western superstars, such as Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash and the Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn. The Ryman Auditorium also hosted Johnny Cash’s music variety show during the late 60s and 70s, featuring his wife June Carter Cash and friend Carl Perkins, along with a host of weekly special guests, which included Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Merle Haggard, James Taylor, Tammy Wynette and Louis Armstrong. Although the Grand Ole Opry moved to a larger, permanent location a few miles outside Nashville in 1974, the long-running music program returns to the Ryman each year from November through February to host a series of Grand Ole Opry shows, featuring top performers from the contemporary country music scene.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.