Posts Tagged ‘The Howard Theater’

Howard Theater Walk of Fame

On this lunchtime bike ride, I stopped riding and walked my bike one the sidewalk starting north on 7th Street beginning at S Street (MAP), and rounding the corner onto T Street before ending at The Howard Theatre in northwest D.C.’s U Street neighborhood.  I did this so that I could see the sidewalk medallions that comprise The Howard Theater Walk of Fame.

The concept for the new walk of fame was in development since 2008 by the Shaw and LeDroit Park communities in their passion to preserve and honor the rich history of the historic Howard Theatre, and was subsequently commissioned by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Cultural Tourism D.C., a nonprofit that promotes the arts across the city.

After a call for artists in 2016, D.C.-based design firm Hackreative along with sculptors Jay Coleman and Joanna Blake were selected to design the medallions. Their pieces draw design elements from the architecture of the Howard Theatre itself, including the braided arch and banner on the building’s sign, and the block frame around the marquee.

The walk of fame consists of fifteen medallions memorializing and recognizing different artists and musicians that have performed at the Howard Theater since it first opened in 1910, who were chosed by a panel of representatives from the commissioning groups, plus a few Shaw and LeDroit Park leaders.  The medallions honor Pearl Bailey, Chuck Brown, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Cab Calloway, The Clovers, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Hampton, Moms Mabley, Abbie Mitchell, Billy Taylor, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and a combination of Howard Theatre managers and owners.  Upright signs that detail the history of the theater and the artists represented bookend the project.

After today’s ride, I later went home and listened to performances by the artists recognized by the walk of fame.  That music was a perfect way to end the day, and a long workweek.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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The 9:30 Nightclub

As this year is coming to an end, I have been looking over the statistics that my online hosting service, WordPress, provides regarding readership of this blog.  And this year was the biggest year, with the most number of views ever.  Now, I don’t ride to the places where I do, or take the photos and write the postings that you see in this blog in order to amass statistics.  I do it because I enjoy riding a bike.  And learning about the places to which I ride in order to write about them enhances my enjoyment.  But I must confess, it’s also been interesting for me to learn about how many people view what I’m posting, as well as the other information which WordPress provides, such as the countries where the readers are located.

So that I could put the numbers in perspective in my head, and because I daydream a lot, I imagined myself as a rock star.  And I thought about the people who viewed the blog as members of the audience for my imaginary band’s concerts.  The statistics indicate that we would sell out the Verizon Center here in D.C.  But that would only represent a fraction of the blog views.  The band could then sell out other popular venues here in the city, including the concert hall at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, D.A.R. Constitution Hall, The Howard Theater, the U Street Music Hall, The Black Cat club, and the 9:30 Nightclub.

But even the combined audiences for all of those performances would not equal the total number of blog views.  Which means my band and I could take the show on the road for a U.S. tour.  And since this is just my imagination, a warm-up show preceding the actual tour would first take place at the legendary but now closed CBGB’s in New York City’s East Village.  From there the band would head across town the next night for the official kick-off of the U.S. tour with a standing room only performance at Carnegie Hall.  Then we’d play one more New York City gig, at the Apollo Theater, before we hit the road again.  From there, the band would then play to sell-out shows at The House of Blues in New Orleans, The Troubadour in Los Angeles, The Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood, and The Fillmore West in San Francisco.

But even with the combined attendance at all of the sold-out shows here in D.C. and throughout the U.S., the band would then have to go on a brief world tour to increase the total attendance to the point where it would equal the number of views for this blog.  So in my mind the world tour would begin where the Beatles began, at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.  There would then be another show in England, at The 100 Club in London, before moving on to Paris and playing at the reopened Le Bataclan.  We would then play Club Ta in Hongdae in Seoul, South Korea, the Ruby Room in Tokyo, and the Ding Dong Lounge in Aukland, New Zealand.   Then we would wrap up the final leg of our world tour with a sold out show in the concert hall at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

By the end of the tour we would have played in only a half dozen countries altogether.  But based on the location of the readers of this blog, as identified by WordPress, the audience would have been comprised of people from 125 different countries throughout the world.  And I must say, it’s difficult to believe but at the same time amazing to me that people in 125 different countries have read my blog.  There are currently 195 countries in the world.  So my goal for the coming year is to gain at least one reader in each of the remaining countries.  Maybe then my imaginary band and I will go back on tour.  And until then, I’ll just keep riding my bike and exploring our nation’s capital one ride at a time.

The Howard Theater

The Howard Theater

The Howard Theatre, which is located at 620 T Street (MAP) in the U Street Corridor of northwest D.C.’s historic Shaw/Uptown neighborhood, is an entertainment venue with a storied history of highs and lows since opening over a century ago. And that is the reason I decided to make it my destination on this lunchtime outing.

The Howard originally had a capacity of more than 1,200, and featured orchestra and balcony seats and eight private boxes, with a lavishly decorated interior. And the theater’s original exterior matched its lavish interior, combining architectural elements of the Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance, and neoclassical styles. However, it lost its original ornate facade in 1941 when it was redone in the then-fashionable Streamline style. And it has been reduced in size over the years, currently being able to seat only half of its original capacity.

After its initial opening in 1910, The Howard became known for its variety of acts, including vaudeville performers, plays, and even circuses. However, despite its early success which lasted through the 1920’s, the Howard was forced to close down at the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

The building became a church for a short time, but was was able to reopen a couple of years later under new management, and this time became a venue devoted to discovering and hiring only the best in black talent. Though The Howard did not discover, Duke Ellington, a native Washingtonian, it was responsible for launching many other careers, such as Ella Fitzgerald’s. The astounding success of The Howard resonated throughout the East Coast as it energized the debuts of other black owned theaters, such as The Apollo in Harlem, The Uptown in Philadelphia, and The Royal in Baltimore, or, what was known at the time as The “Chitlin’ Circuit.”

Over the next couple of decades, many notable Jazz performers headlined at The Howard, including Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Nat King Cole, “Moms” Mabley, and hometown favorite Duke Ellington, bringing along with them an unparalleled level of fame and prestige to The Howard. Other types of performers were intermittently mixed in with these acts during this time. These acts included performers like Danny Kaye, Abbott and Costello and Cesar Romero, as well as Pearl Bailey, who made her debut at the Howard.

Then in the 1950s and 60s, The Howard became a venue for rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues, including such artists as Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Lena Horne, Lionel Hampton, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and Marvin Gaye, to name but a few.

After the riots which followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, coupled with societal changes brought about by desegregation, brought about unrest and disturbances which served to debilitate the area, drive out many locals, and eventually cause degradation of the once vibrant neighborhood. This made it difficult for The Howard to attract patrons, and in 1970 it was forced to close down once again.

Many attempts were made to revive The Howard in the years that followed. One attempt occurred in 1975, and attracted many stars and received significant publicity, both from the audience and performers. Acts such as Redd Foxx and Melba Moore were among those featured at the reopening. Later in the decade, Go-Go bands played the venue, including the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, another native Washingtonian, along with The Soul Searchers, also performed at The Howard. Despite this success, this run lasted only five years. The venue failed to regain its former glory or financial viability, and closed down once again in 1980.

Most recently the theater, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was reopened after a 32-year hiatus and a $29 million multi-year renovation project. After being listed by the D.C. Preservation League as one of its Most Endangered Places in the city in 2002, groundbreaking for extensive renovations of the theater was held a couple of years later, and The Howard finally reopened in 2012 with a grand re-opening gala and benefit concert hosted by Bill Cosby and Wanda Sykes.

Today the reopened theater honors the glory of the past while ushering in an exciting future. Through the addition of state-of-the-art acoustics, and video and recording capabilities, The Howard is able to retain the intimate feel of its classic space for traditional audiences, while expanding to include new digital-age audiences as well. It is open six days a week, year-round, with dining amenities

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]