Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment
October 1, 2010 - January 2, 2011
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Harlem's Apollo Theater the Smithsonian presents Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment which begins its national tour at the Charles H. Wright Museum. Drawing on wide-ranging materials, including historic photographs, film, recordings, and artist interviews, this multimedia exhibition includes one-of-a-kind and rarely displayed artifacts such as James Brown's cape and jumpsuit, Michael Jackson's fedora, Ella Fitzgerald's dress, Duke Ellington's score for "Black and Tan Fantasy," Miles Davis' flugelhorn, LL Cool J's jacket and hat, and many, many more.
Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment traces the evolution of the Apollo—from its origins as a segregated burlesque hall to its starring role at the epicenter of African American entertainment and American popular culture. Nearly all forms of entertainment—comedy, dance, swing, jazz, rock 'n' roll, soul, hip hop and more—were welcomed on the Apollo stage. Serving as a place where African American performers could start and advance their careers, the Apollo hosted some of the best-known names in entertainment—dancers Charles "Cholly" Atkins, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson; band leaders Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington; comedians Redd Foxx and Jackie "Moms" Mabley; and musicians ranging from Louis Armstrong, James Brown and Lionel Hampton to Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and The Jackson Five.
Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment was organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in collaboration with the Apollo Theater Foundation. The exhibition's national tour is made possible by a generous grant from Time Warner Inc. Additional funding was provided by JPMorgan Chase & Co. The exhibition's national tour is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Local sponsors include DTE Energy, Masco Corporation, Ford Motor Company, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Erb Family Foundation.