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fillmore east
Photo by Amalie R. Rothschild via The Local East Village

 The Allman Brothers Band just announced that after 45 years they will disband at the end of 2014. The news hit  fans hard, who have been following the Southern Rock band since brothers Gregg and Duane Allman formed the group in 1969. Taking our cue from a great Allmans tune, Back to Where it All Begins, today we’re looking at the history of Fillmore East, today a bank.

Second Avenue in the 1920s was New York’s Yiddish Broadway or “The Yiddish Rialto.” Right smack in the middle of what was the Yiddish Rialto (which spanned Second Ave. from 14th Street to East Houston) stands 105. This is how it appeared in 1936:

1936-courtesy-NYPL commodore theatreImage via NYPL Digital Gallery

Built in 1925 as a Yiddish American vaudeville theater and film space called the Commodore Theatre, the building was designed by Harrison G. Wiseman. The inside housed Corinthian columns, painted murals, and proscenium arch. Wiseman was also responsible for The Louis N. Jaffe Art Theatre Building, a City landmark on Second Avenue.

With 2,830 seats and a single screen, The Commodore became part of the famed Loew’s chain (never designated a Loew’s Wonder Theatre though) as the Loews Commodore, and later, the Village Theater.

Its tenure continued through the Depression, ’40s, ’50s and much of the ’60s. Who can say what would have happened had Bill Graham not arrived in New York on a mission? This man, a visionary frustrated with the lack of music venues, created two of the most iconic concert halls in American history; one in San Francisco and the other in New York City’s very own Lower East Side. On March 7, 1968, Loew’s Commodore Theatre became the Fillmore East.

Photo Courtesy Linda McCartneyPhoto via Linda McCartney via Blacklisted Journalist

inside the fillmore WolfgangsImage via Wolfgang’s Vault

Notable performers at the Fillmore East beside The Allman Brothers include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Ike and Tina Turner, The Doors, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and more. In 1971, The Allman Brothers released “At Fillmore East,” their first live album.

Live at the Fillmore East Allman Brothers
Photo Courtesy of Jim Marshall

rothschild_fillmore_eastPhoto by Amalie R. Rothschild

On June 27, 1971, the Fillmore East took its last bow. This comparably small concert hall at 105 Second Avenue left proverbial footprints large enough to rival those of Radio City and the Beacon. The Beacon Theatre, once a Vaudeville theater, has been mecca to Allman fans every since 1989 with over 220 shows and counting…down. The Allman Brothers will have their final run at the Beacon in March.

Get in touch with the author @RebelKnow or contact her at BoweryBoogie.com.

1 Comment

  1. Donna Cohen says:

    Reading this piece rocketed me back to the show I attended at the Fillmore East in 1969. My boyfriend at the time was a Hugh live music fan and took me to my first live show. I didn’t know what to expect but when I entered the theatre I was struck by the beautiful decor and the people all around me. I was a classical musician, a cello player, Music, especially rock was my passion. My first live show was the Allman Brothers it was magical I wanted so badly to be on stage with them strumming madly on my cello following every note Duane ripped on the slide guitar and Gregg pounded out on the organ. I was lost in heavenly sounds which touched a musical chord in my heart.
    My current boyfriend and his daughter have been attending Allman shows together for many years, it’s a bond that will always be theirs, a part of their lives never to be forgotten.
    it’s been said “all good things must end” I’m sure when they read this piece they will wipe tears from their eyes as I did.

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