Duke Ellington performed regularly here, and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday both launched their careers at the venue’s amateur night. You can say that the Apollo Theater was the ‘Motown’ before Motown. Today, the theater stands as an artifact on the bustling 125th street.
The Cotton Club might be Harlem’s most famous surviving jazz venue, but during the Harlem Renaissance that started after World War I and ended sometime during the Great Depression, it was also the neighborhood’s most notorious. It had been opened by Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion, as the Club Deluxe (or Club De Luxe) in 1920.