Philadelphia Convention Hall, also known as Municipal Auditorium, was located in West Philly near the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The venue played host to many events, including the 1940 and 1948 Republican National Conventions, and the 1959 Penn Relays Jazz Festival. Luminaries such as Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela spoke there.
On October 19, 1957, the Philadelphia Jazz Festival was held at Convention Hall. Jazz trumpeter and Philly native Lee Morgan was on the bill, along with, among others, trumpeter Miles Davis, pianist Horace Silver and organist Jimmy Smith.
Convention Hall was demolished in 2005.
SCOOP USA Publisher Sonny Driver, owner of the First Nighter, says he first saw Miles Davis at this West Philly jazz spot owned by Tubby Northington.
Like a lot of black entrepreneurs, Northington raised money for the Civil Rights Movement.
Opened on Feb. 16, 1929, the Uptown began life as a movie house. In the 1950s, it became a jazz venue. The jazz greats who graced the Uptown stage included Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Gloria Lynne, Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Brown, Jr., Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Jimmy Smith.
John Coltrane and Miles Davis played there 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.
Linda Richardson, president of the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation, hopes to bring back the good times. In 2001, UEDC purchased the theater with the goal of renovating the theater into a technology center, artist lofts and office space.”
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.