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.

1934:  Katharine Cornell and Basil Rathbone in The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

1934: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

1934: Corinne Griffith in Design for Living.

1934: Cesar Romero and Bert Lytell in 10 Minute Alibi.

1934: Margaret Anglin in Her Master’s Voice.

1935:   Ethel Barrymore performs.

1935:   George M. Cohan performs.

1935:   Helen Hayes performs.

1935:  Philip Merivale and Pauline Frederick in Mary of Scotland.

1935:  Ethel Waters and Dorothy Stone in As Thousands Cheer.

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

1937:   Kirsten Flagstad, Soprano.

1937:   Ruth Gordon, Dennis King, Paul Lukas and Sam Jaffe in A Doll’s House with Boyd Martin R.

1937:  European Ballet.

1937:   Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

1937:   Eugenia Leontovich in Tovarich.

1937:   Gordon String Quartet Maurice Evans in King Richard II.

1937:   John Charles Thomas, Baritone.

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:   Due to the Covid-19 public pandemic, the Commonwealth of Kentucky required major venues to close resulting in the cancellation of the 91st Spring and Winter Seasons. Limited operational guidelines allowed private events to be held with smaller guest counts.

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.

Wyncote Foundation awards a $75,000 matching grant to the auditorium’s foundation to further restoration of the world’s largest Pilcher Pipe Organ.  The William H. Bauer Foundation donates an additional $33,000 to support the project which will repair and restore the massive pipe organ that produce the impressive sounds of the unique instrument.

William H. Bauer Foundation premieres “Magic of Christmas Past: Pipe Organ Concert and Silent Movie” via social media as a holiday gift to the community.

2021: Business resumes hosting events following approved COVID-19 public health operational guidelines from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

2021:  “Walls of Fame” were added to the client Green Room honoring the rich history of artists who have performed at the landmark venue.  Framed posters, memorabilia and pictures of famous artists such as George Gershwin, Frankie Avalon, Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello are on display, including both local and regional performers in the collection

2021:  The auditorium receives a $10,000 donation to professionally clean the beautiful stonework in the main lobby.  The process will bring life back to the majestic space that welcomes guests to the historic landmark while also hosting a variety of events.

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

2020:  The auditorium hosts professional boxing for the first time with Carlos Dixon, WBC Youth Super Featherweight