Please enjoy these timelines documenting the auditorium's history, which include milestone events, as well as performances on the famous stage.  As research proceeds, these lists will continue to be updated.  Everyone is invited to share information about events held, such as images of posters, ticket stubs or other documentation in order to verify events and/or to add to the timeline by emailing (Kelly@lmaky.com).

 

Historic Timeline

 

1929:   The Greek Revival-style building commemorates the men and women who served in World War I. Organist Charles Courboin plays the inaugural concert on what remains today the world’s largest Pilcher organ, with six chambers and 5,288 pipes.

 

1931:   Sergei Rachmaninoff performs.

 

1933:   Ignace Paderewski performs.

 

1934:   George Gershwin performs.

 

1935:   Ethel Barrymore performs.

 

1935:   George M. Cohan performs.

 

1935:   Helen Hayes performs.

 

1937:   Pilcher repairs the organ after the Great Flood damages it.

 

1939:   Marian Anderson performs.

 

1948:  Artur Rubinstein performs.

 

1954:   A $170,000 renovation to improve acoustics involves lowering the ceiling, closing off the side balconies, and reducing the seating capacity from 2,349 to 1,742.

 

1954-1974:  WHAS Crusade for Children is held here.

 

1959:   Frankie Avalon, Dion and the Belmonts perform.

 

1961:   At the Crusade for Children, a not-yet-famous Diane Sawyer places second when the Crusade queen crown goes to someone else.

 

1964:   Tickets to the Rolling Stones show cost $4. (Collectors today are offering $5,000 for the show’s poster.) Other ’60s and ’70s shows at the auditorium: Chicago, Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Petty, Rush and Billy Joel.

 

Mid-’70s:         The new Louisville Ballet starts performing here. The ballet doesn’t want to pay for union stagehands, and the workers go on strike. WHAS starts hosting Crusade for Children at its own studio.

 

1978:   Mikhail Baryshnikov performs with the Louisville Ballet. The building joins the National Register of Historic Places and becomes a Louisville Landmark.

 

1980:    Peking Opera.
 

1983:   The ballet leaves for the new Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

 

1980s:  Iron Maiden, R.E.M., Patti Smith, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Pretenders perform. Plays are also popular.

 

1994:   The building gets an elevator. Metro government starts sharing the building for its training and meetings. Organist Tim Baker, who has worked on the Pilcher organ since the early ’70s, starts the William H. Bauer Foundation to oversee the organ’s upkeep. The auditorium raises funds by showing silent films from the ’20s, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Phantom of the Opera, with the organ accompanying.

 

1996:   Poet Ron Whitehead hosts the Official Hunter S. Thompson Tribute. Johnny Depp, Roxanne Pulitzer and David Amram attend. Writer Paul McDonald says, “It was a wild evening” and that Thompson was “blasting anyone within close range with a fire extinguisher.”

 

1997:   Ani DiFranco performs.

 

2011:   The organ goes out of order while Baker and pro-bono craftsmen, as Baker says, “apply technology to a 1929 instrument.”

 

2015:   The auditorium schedules more than 100 events. “I’ve been told we host more national dance competitions than any theater in the U.S.,” says executive director Dale Royer, who has worked here since 1977.

 

2017:   After 40 years of service Executive Director, Dale Royer retires and Kelly J. Gream assumes leadership as the new director.

Plans begin to refurbish, repair and begin updates to improve the experiences for guests, patrons and clients.

New website, ticketing service and marketing plans are introduced to promote the business as a multi-purpose facility.

 

2018:   Special events as pipe organ fundraisers, holiday parties, corporate functions, weddings, private events and group tour experiences begin to be scheduled.

           

Facility becomes a union-free professionally stage managed performance venue.

 

2019:   90th Anniversary is celebrated with a community presentation and free concert by “The Thoroughbreds” performing on Memorial Day.

 

Bluegrass Honor Flight Hosts 75th D-Day Celebration and Concert

Stage One Family Theater performs two productions at the auditorium after fire damage to the roof closes the Kentucky Center temporarily.

 

2020:   91st Spring Season is cancelled due to the COVID-19 public pandemic which leads to the Commonwealth of Kentucky requiring major venues to close for an estimated six months.

 

91st Anniversary is celebrated virtually by requesting participation by the community via auditorium website and social media formats.

 

Louisville METRO Government discontinues office lease and moves out of the building.

 

Louisville Memorial Auditorium Foundation, Inc. is created as the fundraising non-profit organization to ensure the landmark is around another 90 years.  The focus will be raising funds to add modern heat and air systems to the facility, including updating the seating, lighting & sound systems, plaster repairs to the historic auditorium while supporting the ongoing preservation of the world’s largest Pilcher Pipe Organ.

 

Artistic Performances

 

1931:   Sergei Rachmaninoff 

 

1933:   Ignace Paderewski

 

1934:   George Gershwin

 

1935:   Ethel Barrymore, George M. Cohan and Helen Hays

 

1937 - 1946:  Louisville Civic Orchestra 

 

1939:   Marian Anderson

 

1943:  William G. Meyer Presents Jose' Iturbi

 

1943:   Boris Karloff in Arsenic and Old Lace

 

1944:  Philadelphia Opera Company Presents “The Bat”

 

1944:  Charles L. Wagner  Presents “FAUST”

 

1944:  4th War Loan Revue and Radio Broadcast WHAS

 

1948:   Arthur Rubenstein

 

1948:  Gladys Swarthoust

 

1948 - 1958:  Louisville Philharmonic Society 1948 – 1958

 

1948-2019:  The Thoroughbreds

 

1953:  South Pacific

 

1954 - 1974:  WHAS Crusade for Children 1954- 1974 (order of appearance)

Pat O’Brien and Pedro Gonzalez

Don Cherry, Eydie Gorme, Professor Backwards (Jimmy Edmonson), Rosemary DeCamp, Hal Leroy, Leo Carrillo, Ish Kabibble

Cab Calloway, Steve Lawrence, Captain Kangaroo, Zippy the Chimp

Homer and Jethro, Sergeant Preston (Richard Simmons), Jonah Jones

Jimmy Nelson, Marvin Miller, Bobby Hackett, Gretchen Wyler

Lee Marvin, Peg Leg Bates

Popeye, Dick Roman, Molly Bee, John Bubbles

Johnny Nash, The Eddie Heywood Trio

Buffalo Bill, The Chipmunks, Cozy Cole

Henry “Red” Allen, The Irvin Twins, June Valli, Johnny Johnson

Don Goldie, Jack Haskell

Bobby Lewis, Grady Nutt

Doc Severinsen, Paula Wayne

Clark Terry and Marilyn Maye

Johnny Hartman, Jo Ann Hale, Linda Bennett, Judy Marshall, Sherry Sizemore

Diana Trask, Hal Frazier, Bobby Lewis

Chuck Woolery, Merv Griffin

Clyde McCoy, Urbie Green, Frank Linkenberg

No national entertainers participated in Crusade 19 ( 1972 )

Marla Adams, McLean Stevenson, Jo Anne Worley

Tommy Leonetti, Mary Stuart, Arnie Lawrence

 

1957:  Bill Haley and His Comets

 

1956:  The Modern Jazz Quartet

 

1959:  The Crickets, Dion & The Belmonts, Jimmy Clanton, Frankie Sardo, Frankie Avalon, Fabian  (Buddy Holly scheduled to perform on February 11, 1959, but died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959.)

 

1960:  World of Suzie Wong

 

1964:   Tickets to the Rolling Stones show cost $4. (Collectors today are offering $5,000 for the show’s poster.)

 

Mid-70s:         The new Louisville Ballet begins performing.

 

1974:  Aerosmith performs.

 

1975:  Alice Cooper

 

1975:  Jimmy Buffett

 

1975:   Kiss and Rush

 

1976:  John Mellencamp

 

1977:  Supertramp

 

1977:  Billy Joel

 

1977:  The Babys, Piper

 

1977:  Burton Cummings

 

1978:  Midnight Star

 

1978:  Cactus with Bob Seger

 

1978:  The Outlaws, Travers Band, Head East

 

1978:  Starz

 

1978:  Ramsey Lewis

 

1978:   Patti Smith Group performs.

 

1978:  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 

1978:  Martin Mull

 

1978:   Mikhail Baryshnikov performs with the Louisville Ballet. The building joins the National Register of Historic Places and becomes a Louisville Landmark.

 

1978:  Tom Waits

 

1979:  Triumph

 

1979:  Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Robinoos

 

1979:  Alex Bevan, Phoebe Snow

 

1979:  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Fabulous Poodles

 

1980:   The Peking Opera performs.

 

1980:  Robert Palmer

 

1980:  The Pretenders

 

1981:  Leon Russell & New Grass Revival

 

1982:  UFO and Saxon

 

1982:  Rainbow, Iron Maiden, 38 Special

 

1983:   The ballet leaves for the new Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

 

1983:  Servant, DeGarmo & Key, Randy Matthews

 

1985:  Steve Taylor

 

1986:  Stryper

 

1986:  Arlo Guthrie and John Price

 

1986:  REM

 

1986:  Michael W. Smith

 

1989:  John Prine & David Bromberg

 

1989:  Violent Femmes

 

1989:  Petra

 

1996:   Poet Ron Whitehead hosts the Official Hunter S. Thompson Tribute. Johnny Depp, Roxanne Pulitzer and David Amram attend. Writer Paul McDonald says, “It was a wild evening” and that Thompson was “blasting anyone within close range with a fire extinguisher.”

 

1996:  Warren Zevon

 

1997:  Ani DiFranco

 

2010:  Miss Kentucky Teen USA and Miss Kentucky USA Pageants

 

2016-2019:  Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker

 

2018-2019:      Stage One Family Theatre Presents "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" & "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing"

 

2018:   State Ballet Theatre of Russia's Swan Lake

 

2019:  Honor Flight Bluegrass Presents WWII 75th D-Day Celebration Concert

 

2019:  Louisville Chorus