One of the unwritten pop music stories in New York City is the role played by everyday, humdrum neighborhood theaters and venues as rock and roll hotbeds. Some of the biggest names in rock history — names inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — have played some of New York City’s most provincial of neighborhoods.
In the early 1970s it was possible to stroll into a theater on a weekday afternoon in Borough Park, Brooklyn — a Hasidic Jewish enclave then as now — and hear the Grateful Dead play several hours-long concerts.
In the early 1970s it was also possible to buy a ticket and hear the Kinks or Jethro Tull when they roared into town, and not necessarily at Madison Square Garden or at Forest Hills. They played here, in humble Port Richmond, Staten Island, at the Ritz Theater at (Port) Richmond Avenue and Anderson Avenue.
The Ritz had an arrangement with Ungano’s on West 70th in Manhattan, which presented all the big names, and many of them came out to Staten Island when concerts were presented here from 1970 to 1972. In addition to the aforementioned, Vanilla Fudge, Captain Beefheart, Mountain, Black sabbath, Edgar Winter, the Allman Brothers, Humble Pie, King Crimson, Yes, the Byrds, Sweathog (the Shondells without Tommy James), J. Geils, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Badfinger, the post-Morrison Doors, Uriah Heep, the Chambers Brothers, Fleetwood Mac (before Buckingham and Nicks), Delaney and Bonnie, Grand Funk Railroad, Hot Tuna, the James Gang (with Joe Walsh), Frijid Pink, Procol Harum, Richie Havens, Three Dog Night and T. Rex all played at the Ritz during that two-year period.
Long before that, the Ritz was a vaudeville and movie theater from 1931-1968. The likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Mae West, Jack Benny all appeared here.
At the very least, the Ritz should have a memorial plaque affixed to its exterior. It should be a modern monument to concert entertainment.
Few realize it’s there, and fewer know its history.
Information from It’s All the Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago