Singin’ and Winnin’ at the Apollo

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“Where Stars are born and Legends are Made”

On this 75th Anniversary of the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night, Melvin Sheppard came into the Lower Manhattan StoryBooth to tell the story of how he won first place for seven consecutive weeks in the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Hour.

He was discovered at a talent show by Apollo Theater’s legendary “executioner” and dance virtuoso, Sandman Sims. Unfortunately, he came in second place on his first try singing Marvin Gaye’s, “Stubborn kinda Fella”. Years later he returned determined to win first place, and he did for seven consecutive weeks.

Now, after winning first place for four weeks running, a contestant is crowned the Winner, and earns a performance in the professional show. So, why did Mr. Sheppard have to compete for seven weeks you might ask? Well, it went like this. He won first place for three weeks, but tied with a group for first place on the fourth week, and again on the fifth week, and again on the sixth week. But, oh my goodness, the seventh week was the charm. When he changed his song from Al Green’s, “Let’s Stay Together”, to Otis Redding’s, “Try A Little Tenderness”, he rocked the joint and his competitors didn’t stand a chance.

Despite the fact that Melvin Sheppard sang with musical giants like the Drifters, and enjoyed a solo career for many years, singin and winin at the Apollo was the most exhilarating experience of his career.



3 Responses to “Singin’ and Winnin’ at the Apollo”

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  • Great post Nzingha! It was a true pleasure to meet Melvin and hear his story. As a long time resident of Harlem he shared some great experiences. I’m proud to know him.

    Comment from Carl on February 17, 2009 at 12:02 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • It goes without saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”.

    This story should inspire us all, if you have a dream go after it.

    Comment from Joyce Scott on February 16, 2009 at 3:48 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Wish we could hear that Otis Redding sang by Melvin. Thanks for the great post.

    Comment from Chaela on February 12, 2009 at 11:57 pm - Reply to this Comment

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