Historian Billy Mitchell poses outside the Apollo Theater in the Harlem section of New York June 11, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
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Few American stages have produced as many music legends as Harlem's landmark Apollo Theater, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, and not many people know more about its rich past than its long-time historian Billy Mitchell.Since 1934, the Apollo has launched the careers of many of America's greatest black artists -- legends of blues, jazz and soul, swing, gospel, Motown, funk and hip-hop.Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was a teenager when she won an Apollo amateur night contest in 1934 .In between, the Apollo has showcased jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, singers Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, composer and band leader Duke Ellington, singers James Brown and Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and many more.Mitchell's own history is deeply entwined with the Apollo and the legends it has produced.
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