The Toronto Sound of the 60’s & 70’s

Russ: I am proud to say that, as a sax player, I was involved in performing and recording music in Toronto (my home town), mainly back in the 1960’s.

There is a documentary about the main drag, Yonge Street, where we found many places to hear and make music.


Toronto has always had a vibrant music scene. The is also a 2011 documentary directed by Bruce McDonald, Yonge Street: Toronto Rock’n’roll Stories describing Toronto’s early rock’n’roll scene of the 1950’s and 1960’s as being centred on the Yonge Street downtown strip.


Yonge St. looking South East: The Zanzibar, AA Records, Sam’s Records

Some of the main venues during the 1960’s were the Brown Derby, Club Blue Note, Club 888, the Colonial, the Edison Hotel, Le Coq d’Or, the Hawk’s Nest, Friar’s Tavern, and the Zanzibar. On Yonge Street, I played at the Zanzibar, Club 888 and the Hawk’s Nest, which was above Le Coq d’Or.



It was so exciting to be a part of it all, and yet, I think I missed at least half of what was going on back then (and I don’t think it had anything to do with some of the smoke that was in the Toronto air). 

Being on a “Hi, how’s it going?” basis with people such as Doug Riley, Grant Smith, George Olliver, Ronnie Robertson, Domenic Troiano, Robbie Lane, Shawn and Jay Jackson, Eric Robertson, Bill Gilliland, Tony DiMaria, Duff Roman, Dave Johnson and Bob MacAdory (CHUM), etc was all part of the everyday scene. 


Robbie Robertson

I realize that’s a bit of name-dropping, but I actually saw these people on a regular basis.


“Rompin'” Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks

What I did not see, however, was a lot of the action that was going on with other artists and other bands, like my neighbor Bruce Palmer with Buffalo Springfield, etc. 

It’s like being caught up in a storm and not knowing all that is being affected in the bigger picture.   I opted out of full-time involvement to build a career as a computer programmer but it was great to see how others went on to get radio play and develop a big name for themselves.

Anyway, it was quite the ride and I am still enjoying playing.  I guess that’s a benefit of not having wasted my good health on over-indulgence, unlike so many of my musician friends who, sadly, are no longer with us.

– Russ



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