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).
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.
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