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Sat, 02.04.1928

Chicago’s Regal Theater opens

*On this date in 1928, the Regal Theater opened.  This was a 20th century night club and music venue, popular among Blacks.  

The Regal was a major complex that featured films, dance, music, and comedy and a prominent entertainment venue for over four decades in Chicago, Illinois. This theater was designed by Levy and Klein; influenced by the Harlem Savoy Ballroom in New York City and was owned by a white business association in Chicago. This complex was able to seat about 3,000 people and had several big names come through to perform. The theater was one of the first entertainment complexes available for Black audiences and also employed Black staff. This theater featured silent films, musicians of all types mainly jazz and blues, and some of the biggest names throughout music history.

With the ability to see Black performers, films, and shows, Blacks were immediately drawn to the theater. Several big names were brought in to perform the popular music of that era. Some of the performers that were brought in included: Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, The Temptations, Miles DavisNat “King” ColeDuke Ellington, Paul Robeson, the Jackson Five, and several others. Typically, the shows featured at the Regal consisted of an opening musical act followed by a silent film which was accompanied with music for dramatic effects. The owner strategically placed the theater in the area because of the Savoy Ballroom and South Center Department store that were both up the street which was a nightclub and shopping center for Blacks.  Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois.   

The theater part of the Balaban and Katz chain, the lavishly decorated venue, with plush carpeting and velvet drapes, featured some of the most celebrated Black entertainers in America.  On what for a time was known as the Chitlin' Circuit, the Regal also featured motion pictures and live stage shows. Cab Calloway, Louis ArmstrongSarah VaughanLena Horne, Dinah Washington Sammy Davis Jr., Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, and performed frequently at the theater through the 1920s and 1940s.  Other acts who have performed at the Regal over the years have included such icons as The Sheppards Sam CookeJackie Wilson, The Supremes, Wayne Cochran, The Esquires The Temptations, The Four Tops, Herbie Hancock, Della Reese, Les Paul, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Lola Falana, Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five, Solomon Burke, International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Dionne WarwickJames Brown & The Famous Flames, The Isley Brothers, John Coltrane, Dorothy Dandridge, Revella Hughes, Five Stairsteps, Peg Leg Bates, Dave Peyton and Martha and the Vandellas. Closed in 1968, the theater was later demolished in 1973.  

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Dere’s an ol’ man called de Mississippi Dat’s de ol’ man dat I’d like to be! What does he care if de world’s got troubles? What does he care if de land... OL’ MAN RIVER by Paul Robeson.
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