Opened on Feb. 16, 1929, the Uptown began life as a movie house. In the 1950s, it became a music venue. The jazz and blues greats who graced the Uptown stage included Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Gloria Lynne, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Brown, Jr., Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Jimmy Smith.
John Coltrane and Miles Davis played here one Christmas Day, but after the first show, they left for New York City because the promoter didn’t pay them.
In 1958, legendary disc jockey Georgie Woods began producing rhythm & blues shows at the Uptown. The 2,040-seat theater became a stop on the “chitlin’ circuit.” The Uptown was where jazz met R&B. Saxophonist Sam Reed was the house bandleader. The Sam Reed Orchestra included Bootsie Barnes, Jimmy Heath and Odean Pope.
The Uptown’s heyday was the 1960s and ‘70s. Since the final curtain in 1978, the interior of the Uptown has deteriorated almost beyond recognition. With the exception of the seats, none of the original artifacts remain.
For information on how you can help restore this Art Deco palace to its former glory and preserve an iconic piece of Black music, visit the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation.