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Doctor Thornton Comes Full Circle at the Apollo Theatre

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Dr. Yvonne S. Thornton and her husband Dr. Shearwood J. McClelland with President Barack Obama at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York.


Coming Full Circle

When I was a youngster, back in grammar school, my sisters, mother and I had an all-girl family band known as, "The Thornton Sisters". We had recently performed on Ted Mack's Original Hour on television in 1959 (the prototype for talent shows like, Star Search and American Idol) and soon our father wanted us to audition for the Amateur Night at the World Famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem, where he frequented often with my mother before they were married. My Mom with her sister, as a song-and-dance sailor act, also had auditioned for the Amateur Night at the Apollo when she first came to New York City from West Virginia, but they didn't make the cut.

Twenty-five years later, as a member of "The Thornton Sisters", my mother and her five daughters were good enough to be selected to appear in the Amateur Night contest. The Thornton Sisters went on to win six consecutive weeks at the mighty Apollo Theatre, culminating with a week with the "stars"--Dee Clark, Shep & the Limelights, Ernie K-Doe, Carla Thomas, Dee Dee Sharp and others. We were a hit, but our Dad insisted that we keep studying so that the road would lead, not to fame in music, but to careers in medicine.

On January 19, 2012, I revisited the Apollo Theater; this time as a guest of Barack Obama, President of the United States of America. His historic fundraiser, at the Apollo Theater, was the first held by a sitting President. The energy level was high and he addressed us with his plans for leading America to a better place. During this "Evening to Remember", we also were entertained by India.Arie and Al Green (who tore the house down). Following Al Green's performance, the President sang a few bars of "Let's Stay Together" (View video here) to the surprise and delight of all those gathered in the audience. ".and the Sandman did not come out" was a reference to an old Apollo tradition of having sub-par and mediocre performers literally pulled off the stage with a large hook by Howard "Sandman" Sims. Patrons of the Apollo Theater still remain the toughest audience in show business. They only accept excellence and on that night excellence is what they received.

I had the good fortune of giving the President an inscribed copy of my second memoir, "SOMETHING TO PROVE". When President Obama asked my name and I replied, "Dr. Thornton", I knew my parents were smiling in heaven (especially my Dad) at their kid from the housing projects who ascended to where she was a guest of the President of the United States of America. I was both honored and humbled to be a part of history as I shook the hand of President Barack Obama. It was truly a night to remember.



Doctor Thornton meets the First Lady


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