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    Harlem's Apollo Theater 1953 Duke Ellington / Ruth Brown Concert Handbill.
    A rare and amazing month-long concert flyer for the legendary New York nightclub featuring the talents of Duke Ellington, the Orioles, Billy Ward and the Dominoes, Ruth Brown, Tiny Bradshaw, Big Jay McNeely, The Five Royales, Willie Mabon and others. A stunningly terrific original advertising piece that clearly illustrates why the Apollo was such an important nightclub in its day.

    The action begins Friday, January 16, 1953 with Willie Mabon and his #1 R&B record in the country right now, "I Don't Know." That single hit the charts in early December and logged an amazing two months in the top spot on Billboard magazine's R&B singles chart. (In the spring, Mabon's "I'm Mad" would also go to #1.) And look how much fantastic fun the designer had with this first week of dates... a long, symmetrical rectangle filled with musical notes, many different type fonts and photos of the stars. Just amazing eye candy on this piece that's two-thirds of a century old.

    The next week, January 23, kicks off with Atlantic Records' Ruth Brown, who was in the middle of a streak so hot she could've burnt the nightclub down. Brown was just a week away from releasing "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean," an evergreen R&B smash that went to #1 for a month. Her previous six singles had all gone Top 10, including the chart-topping "Teardrops From My Eyes" and "5-10-15 Hours." The next year, 1954, she'd have a pair of numero unos also: "Mambo Baby" and "Oh What a Dream." No wonder they called Atlantic Records "the house that Ruth built."

    Tiny Bradshaw was opening for Ruth, and gets an equal-sized photo because he had logged four Top 10 R&B hits himself up to this point. But rock fans love Tiny for writing the classic "Train Kept A-Rollin,'" which The Rock and Roll Trio (50's), the Yardbirds & Led Zeppelin (60's) and Aerosmith (70's) all later made their own.

    Los Angeles' honkin' sax man Big Jay McNeely carries the week of January 20, and have you ever seen a better picture on a vintage flyer? Beautifully captures Jay's flamboyant style. "Newest and Greatest," it says, although fans were surely waiting for his #1 hit from 1949, "The Deacon's Hop." And how about the Five Royales being underbilled below Jay? They're the sleeper on this handbill. Only a week earlier their second single, "Baby Don't Do It," had hit the charts and would soar to #1. Likewise its follow-up, "Help Me Somebody." They'd have a nice run of seven Top 10 hits throughout the 50's.

    Flip the flyer over and you're faced with three monsters of musical talent covering the next three weeks. The Apollo really knew how to get bang for its buck when it came to handbill advertising! And thank goodness they always included generous-sized photographs.

    The week of February 6 featured hometown heroes Billy Ward and the Dominoes, who had won a talent contest at the Apollo three years earlier. Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Clyde McPhatter was their lead singer at this time, and they were in the middle of a six-year run that produced a dozen Top 10 R&B hits.

    Then the Orioles came to town, another incredibly prolific hit-making doo-wop group. (And yes, from Baltimore.) 1953 would see the release of their biggest hit, "Crying in the Chapel," which would spend a month at #1 and later be covered famously by Elvis Presley.

    And then one could argue that the best was saved for last. Duke Ellington, one of the 20th Century's towering musical giants, held down the week of February 20. Hard to believe the Duke was already celebrating 30 years as a performing bandleader at this point.

    Measures 8.5" x 5.5". In Near Mint condition with very slight evidence of handling at corners with some bending and creasing. In this condition, we can only think that it was put in a book and forgotten about for over half-a-century, the lucky fate that does befall some smaller vintage handbills like this. COA from Heritage Auctions.

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