The Count Basie Center for the Arts originally opened as the Carlton Theater on November 11, 1926. The theater was one of the highlights of nightlife in downtown Red Bank for many years. In 1970, after the Strand, Palace, Empire, and Lyric theaters had closed, the Carlton did also. In 1973, a significant anonymous donation allowed the Monmouth County Arts Council to preserve and reopen the historic theater for cultural uses. The theater was renamed the Monmouth Arts Center. In 1984, it was renamed as the Count Basie Theatre, in memorial to William “Count” Basie, the great jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and Red Bank native, who had died that year. Besides Count Basie, legends such as James Brown and Tony Bennett, as well as headline performers such as Al Green, George Carlin, Olivia Newton-John, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Los Lobos and Jon Stewart, have performed at the Basie Center’s historic theater. Jersey Shore legend Bruce Springsteen has made several surprise guest appearances and fellow New Jersey rock legend Jon Bon Jovi has attended and organized many charity concerts. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra are regularly scheduled.
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