Wednesday, April 01, 2009

follow the yellow umbrella

Join me if you will for a whistle-stop tour of some groovy old music venues.

(Er, they're in New York, in case you were wondering...)

Day 1: Midtown Manhattan, Broadway, Fifth Avenue, etc etc

Radio City Music Hall

Perversely, like many of the skyscrapers in Manhattan, the Radio City Music Hall sprung up in the Depression Era and opened in 1932. Home to musicals, films, and in latter years, the Grammy and Tony Awards, the lavish annual Christmas spectacular, which has run throughout its history, is a Nativity re-enactment using real animals: sheep, donkeys, even camels. For the duration of the show's run, they're housed in special living quarters behind the stage and can apparently be spotted being given a Christmas Day constitutional around Midtown Manhattan. The theatre has a spectacular Art Deco interior and its "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ is the largest pipe organ built for a movie theatre.

Day 2: Greenwich Village,
a.k.a. "The Village" (1960s vintage),
now West Village.

Cafe Wha?

One of a number of establishments now on the tourist trail by virtue of having hosted early performances by one Robert Zimmerman. The establishment's own website lists Dylan as only one in a string of famous names who've popped in over the years--"Allen Ginsberg regularly sipped his cocktails here. The Café Wha? was the original stomping ground for prodigies Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Bruce Springsteen, Peter, Paul & Mary, Kool and the Gang, as well as comedians, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby..."--but a character called David Barry (??) has some interesting reminiscences.

Day 3: Walking tour of Harlem.

Originally opened in 1915, in 1934 the Apollo was given over exclusively to Afro-American performers as an opportunity to appear in the weekly "amateur nights" and, if well received, tour the U.S., make a name for themselves nationally, then return to the Apollo as a headlining act in their own right. Ella Fitzgerald was one of the earliest artists to do this, ditto Bessie Smith in 1935, and in 1959 James Brown, who later used the venue for his famous 1963 live album. So close was Brown's relationship with the theatre that when he died in 2006 he lay in state there, typically, "in a blue suit, white gloves and silver shoes." Harlemites queued up round the block to pay their last respects.

and finally, also in Harlem...

Minton's Playhouse

Founded in 1938 and frequented by early jazzers Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and Earl Hines, it later played a huge part in the development of bebop. Dizzy Gillespie was a main mover, as was Thelonious Monk and, of course, Charlie Parker.

This is what they came up with...


Wanderer said...

Top tour.
Any sign of CBGB's these days?

Hoops Hooley said...

Still standing, but ended up not on my walking route. One for next time...

Just found this virtual tour on their website!

Wanderer said...

Excellent. It is almost like just being there!