The Zanzibar – Gary

Russ! You actually played in the Zanzibar Tavern and lived to tell about it? Fantastic!  I remember going in there; it was a combination of music and a strip club, correct?  I think the Friar’s had “David Clayton Thomas and the Shays”, Le Coq D’or I think had the best entertainment, I remember, “The Beau Marks, Robbie Lane, Ronnie Hawkins (I first saw Ronnie at the Concord on Bloor St).

– Gary
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Hi Gary

All those names and scenes you mentioned were a part of my life back then as I was starting out.  I worked as a Computer Operator-Programmer at Zurich Insurance on an IBM 305 RAMAC and played 6 nights a week at the Zanzibar plus a Saturday afternoon matinee.  When I look back on it now, I am amazed that I did all that without any concern for stamina.  I was also married and starting out a young family.

“Ray Hutchinson and the Coins” was another group that used to play there… also Tommy Danton.  Ray Price was at Le Coq D’or as was Ronnie Hawkins.  I can remember walking into the bar to see Ronnie’s group when we were on a break at the Zanzibar and Robbie Robertson waved at me from the stage with a big smile.  I think he put the legend that if you want to push the pitch on your guitar strings, you have to soak them in turpentine… that could have been a joke on his part.

A lot of those Yonge St venues are a bit foggy to me now but I remember playing upstairs above Le Coq D’or in “The Hawk’s Nest” with “Shawne Jackson and The Majestics”.  King Curtis was playing downstairs and he came up to check us out during one of his breaks.  He happened to have his mouth piece in his pocket so I invited him to sit in with us, using my tenor sax… I’m still trying to find some of those notes he was able to produce… totally mind-blowing and amazing to hear MY HORN sound so good.

So I played the Zanzibar in early 60’s and then the Hawk’s Nest in the late 60’s.  David Clayton Thomas was around, Ronnie Hawkins was around; so many others were around like Stan Getz playing jazz at The Colonial, “Frank Motley and the Hitchhikers” with Jackie Shane were playing at a bar on Queen at Spadina (can’t remember it’s name at the moment).  I went in there and ended up playing for a short time with a group called “Andy Wilson and The Cosmos” – a one-hit wonder with a song called “My Love“, he sounded like Little Richard.  So many bands, it’s hard to recount it all.

– Russ

Ray Hutchinson with Dave Nicholls and the Coins played at the Embassy on Bloor Street.  But Ray Hutchinson was the Guitar Player with the Beau Marks of Clap your Hands fame.  I remember going to those clubs every weekend, the music on the Yonge Street Strip was contagious and just fantastic.  Ronnie Hawkins, in his book, stated that the best musician’s he ever found where on Yonge Street in the early sixties; they just did not know it.
– Gary Copeland

Hi Gary
You are right.  I had a couple of facts mish-mashed.  Ray had a club foot, if I remember correctly.  I seem to remember him at the Zanzibar for some reason.
– Russ

Ray Hutchinson and Mike Robitialle both had Polio and met at a handicap school in Montreal.  Gilles and Joe Frenchette did not have disabilities.  Gilles died at the age of 35 of a cerebral hemorrhage.  The main note with them is they where the “first” to write, arrange and record in Canada; it had not been done until that time.  I bought “Moonlight Party” under the name Del-Tones, they changed it after that recording just before “Clap Your Hands“, which was recorded in 59, but not released in the US until 60.  The Floodgates opened after that, they appeared on American Bandstand, Peppermint Lounge & Carnegie Hall.  It is a group that deserves more recognition then it receives.  I remember lining up to get into the Le Coq D’or just to see them.  I was there when they made the live album in 62.  Here is an old standard from that “live” performance at Le Coq Dor for you.

Beau Marks – When The Saints Go Marching In




14 responses to “The Zanzibar – Gary

  1. Would the bar at Queen & Spadina been the Horseshoe Tavern?

  2. Russ, the Holiday Tavern was on the South-East corner of Bathurst and Queen Sts. Frank Motley and the Motley Crew with Curley Bridges on piano played there for several years before adding Jackie Shane. Now that was a scary place in it’s day but the music was great.

    • Frank, I believe you are correct. – You being a downtown Toronto guy ought to know better.
      Pete, in his comment, might have been correct too about the Horseshoe Tavern.

  3. Hey Russ; After The Holiday Tavern gig, Frank Motley with Jackie Shane went to The Sapphire at Victoria and Adelaide.

  4. at one time or another I have been in a band that has been a house band at most all of those dives on Yonge St and area


  6. no but I would like to know if anyone remembers a band named Booby Ray and the Du-Kanes – Frank Pollard was in the band from Oshawa and Billy was the crazy lead guitar player – ruined the top of pianos by jumping on the tops with his shoes on!!! But Bobby had a great voice – I don’t think he went anywhere though and I think Frank Pollard became a booking agent – I would love to hear a you tube with bobby rae but i do9n’t think it exists

  7. I remember seeing Bo Diddley at the Coq d’Or. I was just learning to play the guitar and at a break I asked Bo if he had written any books on how to play the guitar. It took me a few years to understand why he almost died laughing when I asked the question. John Bailes

  8. Russ, I remember all those places plus many more, downtown To. was my beat. You did not mention the Town tavern where one could always hear the best in jazz. I would go from one club after seeing Roscoe and the Green men ( green suits and hair) to the Town Tavern to see the incredible Lambert Hendricks & Ross. They were heady days and nights.. all gone now.

  9. Dorothy Larkin (stage name Lee Gibson)

    OMG talk about going down memory lane… My sister stage name “Kitty Mason” And her husband Hal Turner played the whole Young Street circuit and all around TO… They worked the Zanzibar, Le Coq Dore, Horseshoe and so many more I can’t remember them all.. Being a minor at the time my sister would sneak me in to watch a set.. I was owe struck.. I would take all my friends to see her picture on the glass incased marque outside and show off “that’s my sister”… I met all the greats Nick Bassel Tommy Danton, Ronnie Hawkins known for his wild after hour parties lol.. And all the great musicians of the era… Thank you for the memories I sure wish I could get a hold of Kitty Mason’s stage pictures if you know of a way it would be greatly appreciated.. Thanks

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