Moms Mabley (1918-1990)
Moms Mabley was a legendary personality in comedy and became a staple of what became known as the "chitlin' circuit" — a chain of performance venues that primarily booked Black acts through the 1960s. When she came out as a lesbian, her career went on to critiqued normative perceptions of race and sexuality in comedy. Mabley's gritty humor and grandmotherly personality charmed audiences from the Howard Theatre to Carnegie Hall, while giving her the platform to comment on the most pertinent social issues.
Pearl Bailey (1907-1994)
Pearl Bailey spent her early singing days in Washington, often opening for other burgeoning contemporaries like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Eventually becoming a mainstay of "Black Broadway" herself. Bailey's voluminous voice went on to perform in a wildly successful, all-Black production of Hello, Dolly! This, along with her performance in Porgy and Bess, would solidify her career in musical theatre, earning her a Tony Award.
Lionel Hampton (1908-2002)
Lionel Hampton, a prominent force in the swing area, demonstrated unparalleled dexterity of the vibraphone. In addition to popularizing the instrument, his association with Benny
Goodman, a white jazz clarinetist, would serve as an important example of integration—at a time when Jim Crowe-era oppression left many Black artists struggling to appeal to mainstream audiences. Hampton's own band would go on to set the state for rhythm and blues with jumping hits like "Flying Home" (1939).
Ruth Brown (1928-2006)
Ruth Brown was discovered at Crystal Caverns—Bohemian Caverns' predecessor—when Cab Calloway's sister, Blanche, arranged the gig. She was later discovered by Atlantic Records. After signing to the emergent label in 1949, Brown pivoted from ballads to rhythm and blues (R&B), and garnered her first hit "So Long" (1949). This would be the first of many of her R&B successes, earning the fitting nickname "Miss Rhythm". Brown's cadence slowed slightly during the 1960s before becoming a vehement advocate for artist royalties in the 1970s; she was instrumental in the founding of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which continues to support the civil rights of musicians.
The Clovers (1946- )
The Clovers could first be heard wooing their classmates at nearby Truxton Circle's Armstrong High School. The original trio, Harold Lucas, Billy Shelton, and Thomas Woods, became a quartet with the addition of lead singer John "Buddy" Bailey—and the "Four Clovers" were born. Matthew
McQuater and Harold Winley would eventually replace Shelton and Woods; with Bill Harris onboard as their signature guitarist, the group was primed for their first hit "Don't You Know I Love You" (1951). The Clovers' anthem "Love Potion No. 9" (1959) culminated a decade of doo-wop and R&B chart-topping dominance during the 1950s.
Chuck Brown (1936-2012)
Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go-Go", launched his career in the 1960s as part of two groups, the Earls of Rhythm and Los Latinos. He started his own group, The Soul Searchers in 1966, with which he would define the go-go sound. A derivative of funk, R&B, and other influences—and combined with his signature congas—go-go quickly became sensation in the Washington metropolitan area. However, Brown's prowess on the guitar and gritty voice on the anthem "Bustin' Loose" (1978) thrust go-go into the national vernacular. He and other go-go bands performed at the Howard Theatre in the late 1970s when it reopened after the 1968 riots. Later, Brown remained a prominent figure in the Washington area, continuing to perform and make appearances on local television.
Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)
Marvin Gaye nurtured his talent in the church, playing piano as a child, before meeting doo-wop groups during his time at nearby Cardozo High School.
His sound was decidedly soulful and gospel-inspired, yet innovative—Gaye would prove to be influential in the pop genre while also shaping the sound of the Motown record label. Gaye rose to prominence with a series of 1967 duets with Tammi Terrell: "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", "Your Precious Love", and "You're All I Need to Get By", which set the stage for his first No. 1 Billboard hit, "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" (1968). After advocating for more creative control from Motown, Gaye released two projects tittled afterhis most-known anthems: "What's Going On" (1970) and "Let's Get it On" (1973).
James Brown (1933-2006)
James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul" landed his first hit, "Please, Please, Please" (1956) with a group, The Famous Flames before embarking on a meteoric solo career that would span half a decade. Shifts in instrumentation and rhythmic philosophy, such as in Brown's first solo success "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (19650, would lay the foundation of funk, pop, disco, and—a couple of decades later—hip-hop. One of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Brown's energetic, dance-filled performances inspired the likes of Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, and Prince.
Billy Taylor (1921-2010)
Billy Taylor, one of the most visible advocates for jazz, spent
the early days of his youth jamming with friends in the lunchroom of nearby Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School. The Howard Theatre and U Street corridor served as incubators for swing and jazz, and Taylor took full advantage of the talent in the neighborhood before moving to New York to pursue his career. The next couple of decades would see major success, including the Civil Rights Movement anthem "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" (1952). Taylor then pivoted his career to focus on music education and jazz appreciation, forming Jazzmobile in 1961, a program dedicated to this cause, and worked for CBS to conduct hundreds of interviews of musicians.
About the Howard Theatre Walk of Fame
The Howard Theatre Walk of Fame celebrates the District of Columbia's rich musical history and is homage to the iconic artists that played the legendary venue.
The Walk of fame was conceived by the neighboring Shaw and LeDroit Park communities, stemming from a desire to preserve and honor the rich history of the historic Howard Theatre.
In 2008, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development teamed with Cultural Tourism DC to research, collect, and prepare relevant historic information related to the Howard Theatre. From this extensive research fifteen (15) artists who had performed at the Howard Theatre
were selected to be honored on the Walk of Fame. The selected artist-honorees represent a wide variety of musical genres, made important contributions to the cultural life of the District and achieved a national reputation for artistic excellence. Together, these honorees represent a diverse and dynamic selection of performing artists since the Theatre's founding in 1910.
In 2016, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities issued a request for proposals for the design of the Walk of Fame. Washington, DC-based design firm Hackreative was selected to develop, design, and install the project.
Hackreative project team members included:
Curry Hackett (Principal, urban design)
Jay Coleman (Artist, sculpture)
Joanna Blake (Artist, sculpture)
Harry G. Robinson, III, FAIA (Consultant, urban design)