The Toronto Sound Of The 60’s

By Russ:

Well, with a lot of encouragement from my blog partner, Gary, I have agreed to try to write about some of my experiences performing as a musician and contributing to the Toronto Sound of the 60’s.  I am pleased to say that for a decade I was really active in this scene,  performing and recording music as a young sax player.

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Russ Strathdee (1961)

On Yonge Street, I played the Zanzibar, the Club Bluenote, Club 888 and the Hawk’s Nest. During those days, the saxophone was a very popular instrument and I also enjoyed the opportunity of recording with some of these bands – no earth shattering top hits, but one song made Toronto’s CHUM charts and I have recording credits on several LP albums. I also got to appear on television.

This post will touch on various venues where music was happening during this era as I take you through three time periods of my own musical journey.

  • The Early 1960’s on The Yonge Street Strip
  • 1963-1966: Club Bluenote and “The Regents” Years
  • 1966-1970: “The Majestics” Years

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The Early 1960’s on the yonge street strip

In 1960 I played on what was known as Toronto’s “Yonge Street Strip”.

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This was a stretch of Yonge Street heading South from Gerrard Street down to Richmond Street, with a high concentration of popular and very active music venues all along the way. I think it is fair to say that a few of these places specialized in providing music of a certain type or genre, so there was something for everybody.

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Live bands were hired to deliver entertainment that often went well beyond just singing or playing musical instruments.  It was all about keeping the patrons amused so they would stay all evening, drink lots of alcoholic beverages and perhaps eat some food.

Toronto bars stopped serving Liquor at 11.00 p.m., but were allowed to continue serving alcohol if customers entered a part of the club where food was served. Sometimes the food was merely a little plate with some celery sticks and carrots.

Of course, the drinking laws were radically different then. I have heard it said that you could get tanked up during a night on the town and then drive home with very little chance of getting into trouble, mainly because there were far fewer cars and people on the roads back then.

notesLine359 Yonge Street – The Zanzibar Tavern

The Zanzibar was (and still is) located downtown on the east side of Yonge right next to Ryerson University.The city landscape is totally different to what it was back in the 60’s

Back then, I went to Ryerson Institute of Technology (RIT), a block away from the Zanzibar, with the O’Keefe Brewery in between, spewing out the odour of hops every Monday morning as I sat in classes. 

But as it grew from being RIT, it gradually expanded its boundaries, gobbling up these familiar landmarks of taverns and other hot spots, and morphed into the highly regarded University it is today.

In 1960 I was enrolled in the Electronic Technology program at RIT and FM radio station CJRT was right on our campus. (RT = Ryerson Technology).

With Ryerson’s expansion, gone are places once occupied by “Sam The Record Man” and other spots along the city block down to Gould Street.

The “Zanz” is one of Toronto’s oldest nightclubs, having survived Ryerson expansions, and celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010.

Zanzibar

The Zanzibar originally operated by the Cooper brothers as a live music venue, featuring jazz, pop music, and blues. By contract, today there are not too many places where you can have a drink or a meal while enjoying some good live music.

At the Zanzibar,  I signed contracts with Dave Cooper and was the front man for a group called “The Ramblers”. I think a lot of pop groups back then named themselves after cars.

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1960 – The Ramblers: Chris, John, Russ, Ron, Peter

We played there 6 nights a week with a Saturday afternoon matinee for 6 months from about March to September of 1960, doing tunes such as “Honky Tonk”, “Raunchy” and “Harlem Nocturn”. I can remember singing a song called “Linda Lu”.

We rotated every half hour with another band, “The Swing Kings” so the venue could offer continuous entertainment. Other groups in rotation were “Terry Roberts & The Deans” and “Sonny Bright & The Sequins”.

Sonny Bright

Sonny Bright & The Sequins

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Tommy Danton & The Echos” also appeared there at that time. This was before the place became a strip joint.

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Tommy Danton & The Echos – L-R: guitar player, Nick Bassel * , Bill Mulhall, Tom Gilboe, Tommy Danton

Tommy Danton & The Echos / Oh Yeah

“Echos” bass player, Nick Bassel, is a great guy. I used to play with him back in the late 50’s. It was in a suburb north of Toronto called Thornhill, and this band was the first one that I got paid to play, “Al Hepburn & The Houndogs”.

Nick had perfect pitch and could tell you the name of any note he heard, and whether it was in tune or not. Nick started out playing a violin and went on to (acoustic) bass fiddle as well as electric bass. He would later also play in other show bands a thing called a Theremin, an electronic tone generator that he made himself. Nick was an electronics wiz.

Another piece of Toronto trivia… Nick Bassel’s uncle owned and operated a fantastic restaurant called Bassel’s, nicely located at the north part of the strip,  at the S.E. corner of Yonge and Gerrard St.

Bassels

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Remember these?

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A match book cover from Bassel’s Restaurant

Heading south down Yonge Street, here are some other places where a lot of great live music prevailed.

notesLine349 Yonge – Steele’s Restaurant and Tavern

A few doors South of the Zanzibar, sandwiched between two legendary record stores, “Sam The Record Man” and “A&A Records & Tapes”, was Steele’s Tavern…

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… where you could walk in and see folk/rock/country music artists such as Ian & Sylvia, and one of Canada’s greatest songwriters,  the brilliant young Gordon Lightfoot.

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Gordon Lightfoot – Photo from the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3405.

Gordon Lightfoot / “Remember Me” / 1962

notesLine335 Yonge – The Edison Hotel

A little further down the East side, I remember at the S.E. corner of Yonge and Gould St. the Edison Hotel. They seemed to feature a kind of showy “Vegas” style music, but with a Toronto flair.

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The Edison Hotel – 335 Yonge Street, S.E.corner of Gould St and Yonge

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Versatile jazz drummer Alex Lazaroff played rock style in the Edison House Band along with a few other great Toronto professionals, including Darwin Aiken (piano), Don (DT) Thompson on tenor sax, and my guitarist/singer friend, Kenny Hepburn.

Kenny also happens to be the brother of Al Hepburn, who I played with (my first paying gig)  in “Al Hepburn & The Houndogs”.  Nick Bassel (re. Tommy Danton group) played bass in that group. You can see how we all knew each other as this “Toronto Sound” unfolded.

During the time Kenny was working at the Edison, he recorded an album called “Twangy Guitar”, which was in keeping with the popular sound of the day, as made big by Duane Eddy.

TwangyGuitarI had the honour of playing sax on that recording.    Here’s one of the cuts: “Honky Tonk – Part 2

notesLine333 Yonge – Le Coq d’Or Tavern

Right next door to the Edison was Le Coq d’Or. Now, this was considered to be one of the hottest places, and I think they featured Rockabilly music with a lot of great entertainers such as Ray Hutchinson and Ronnie Hawkins.

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The Edison Hotel (335 Yonge St.) and Le Coq d’Or Tavern (333 Yonge St.)

Ray Hutchinson was very popular back then.

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Ray Hutchinson (upper left) , Mike and Gilles, Joey Frenchette (front, centre)

A bit of history about Ray’s group – they were the first in Canada to write, arrange, totally finance and record their own music, all in Canada. This had not been done until that time.

They started out as the “Del-Tones” and recorded “Moonlight   Party“. Then they changed their name to “The Beau Marks” and recorded “Clap Your Hands“. This would have been in 1959, but it was not released in the US until 1960.  The Floodgates opened after that; they appeared on American Bandstand, Peppermint Lounge & Carnegie Hall. 

1959 / Moonlight Party & Rockin’ Blues (under the name the Del-Tones)
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1960 / Clap your hands / Ray Hutchinson, lead vocal / # 1 Canada & Australia / #45 BB
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1961 / Billy Billy went a Walkin’ / #39 Canada (Gary’s Favourite)
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Ray Hutchinson’s group deserves more recognition then it received.  People were lining up to get into the Le Coq d’Or just to see them.  My blog partner, Gary, was there when the Beau Marks recorded a live album in 1962.  Here is an old standard from that “live” performance at Le Coq d’Or.

Beau Marks When The Saints Go Marching In

Joey Frenchette was the leader of the Beau Marks and Ray Hutchinson was really the spokesman for the group.  Ray started to become more recognized later and then went with “Dave Nichols and The Coins”.

Another popular Rockabilly artist to appear on Yonge Street was Ray Smith

Ray Smith

Ray Smith

Ray’s big hit was “Rockin’ Little Angel

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But probably the most successful entertainer to make Le Coq d’Or his “home” was Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins.

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Jerry, Johnny, Ronnie, Rick, Robbie

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Ronnie also played the Concord Tavern on Bloor Steet and that was like his Toronto base when he first came from Arkansas.

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Ronnie Hawkins with Levon Helm on drums

Ronnie Hawkins / Thirty Days / recorded in Toronto at a studio on Kingston Road

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I remember one afternoon when I was walking past Le Coq d’Or during a break in our Saturday afternoon matinee at the Zanzibar, Ronnie was standing on the sidewalk having a cigarette. He said to me in his Southern drawl as I was about to walk passed him, “Hey boy, I like the way you play, would you like to play in my band?” At that time, I said No, thank you, because I was already committed to a few other things… I don’t regret this decision, but sometimes wonder about it.

On another occasion, one evening when the Ramblers were on a break at the Zanzibar,  I walked down the street to see Ronnie’s group and as I walked in, Robbie Robertson waved at me from the stage with a big smile. Funny, some of the little things about people you remember.

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Robbie Robertson

There was a popular legend going on back then that might have been put out by Robbie himself – about how he was able to bend his notes on the guitar, by soaking his guitar strings in turpentine.  Now this could have been just a joke, I’m not sure.

Ronnie Hawkins, in his book, stated that the best musicians he ever found were on Yonge Street in the early sixties.

notesLine311 Yonge – The Brown Derby Tavern

The Brown Derby was right on the N.E. corner of Dundas St. and Yonge. They used to have a food promotion, “All the spaghetti you can eat for 99 cents” and I tried to take them up on it once… very filling.

BrownDerby

One of the very entertaining groups at the Derby was “Joe King and the Zaniacs”. They were really zany for sure, carrying on in the same way as Sam Butera.

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Joe King (front centre) and the Zaniacs

notesLine279 Yonge – The Friar’s Tavern

The Friar’s was another stop for bands gigging along the “Strip”.  This location is now the site of the Hard Rock Cafe and there is a plaque inside commemorating the morning of September 15, 1965 when Bob Dylan caught a performance by Levon and The Hawks. For the next two nights, Dylan and the group that would ultimately become known as “The Band” rehearsed at the Friar’s before going out on Dylan’s first electrified tour.

Friar's Tavern, c 1960s-70s (public domain).

Friar’s Tavern, c 1960s-70s (public domain).

One of the great groups of the day at the Friar’s was “David Clayton Thomas and the Shays

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Lower left and centre: David Clayton Thomas, Gordie Fleming (organ), John Wetherell (drums) ; back row: Scott Richards (bass), Freddie Keeler (guitar)

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Freddie Keeler (guitar) played in the Majestics for a while, I think before he went with DCT. Gord Fleming (organ) used to play at the Zanzibar. That’s where I first met him – we did a few miscellaneous gigs together… what a nice guy he was.

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David Clayton Thomas & the Shays
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David Clayton Thomas & the Bossmen

Other regular attractions at the Friar’s…

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Many other great acts held forth at this spot such as Robbie Lane & The Disciples,

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Robbie Lane & The Disciples

Robbie Lane & The Disciples / 1964 / “Fanny Mae

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notesLine225 Yonge – The Silver Rail Tavern and Restaurant

The Silver Rail was located on the N.E. corner of Yonge and Shuter Streets.

SilverRail

The Silver Rail was one of Toronto’s first licensed cocktail lounges. It has remained at the same location on Yonge Street since April 2 1947. The interior has remained almost unchanged for 50 years while the face of Yonge Street has changed dramatically.

Silver Rail basement

A postcard from Chuckman’s collection showing the restaurant that was located in the basement.

Not a lot of great entertainment there, in my opinion. Please enlighten us by Comment, if you have information to the contrary.

notesLine201-203 Yonge – The Colonial Tavern

Situated just North of Queen Street between two historic bank buildings across from the present-day Eaton Centre, the Colonial Tavern once attracted a steady stream of blues, jazz and rock acts during its existence. It was one of the most famous jazz venues in Canada from the 1950s till its closure in the late 1970s.

The Colonial had an awesome looking entrance with huge Romanesque pillars of the neighboring buildings on either side. Today a little park graces the site.

ColonialTavern2

Jazz artists played on the ground floor, on a raised stage along one wall. The stage could also be watched from a balcony and dining area that wrapped around the second floor.  I can remember seeing Stan Getz play there.

Stan Getz / Desafinado / Girl From Ipanema

Concerts at the Colonial were often recorded by CJRT’s jazz disk jockey, Ted O’Reilly, for broadcast on Saturday mornings with hundreds of full interviews of jazz artists discussing their performances and memories. Some of these interviews are in the Ryerson University archives (my old Alma Mater).

Toronto Sound Venues Beyond the Yonge Street Strip

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The Holiday Tavern Queen & Bathurst

Of course, live music scenes were not restricted to Yonge Street. They were happening all over downtown Toronto. “Frank Motley and the Hitchhikers” with Jackie Shane often appeared at a bar at the S.E. corner of  Queen Street and Bathurst Street, called the Holiday Tavern. 

holiday-tavern

I went to the “Holiday” one time to see a group called “Andy Wilson and The Cosmos”. They asked me to sit in with them, I guess because their regular sax player was having some issues.

cosmos

As it turned out, I won an “audition” and they invited me to play  a few gigs with them for a short time. Andy Wilson was  a one-hit wonder; with a song called “My Love, My Love”  he sounded a bit like Little Richard.

Andy Wilson & The Cosmos / My Love, My Love

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Ascot Hall – Corner of Keele and Annette

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Talk about the Toronto Sound, this was an absolutely amazing, rocking soul venue for all kinds of R&B acts, from the States and local, yet I am surprised that very few people of our generation remember Ascot Hall at all.

I was there on several occasions and heard Red Prysock and his band, Shirley & Lee, Jimmy Reed, Jackie Shane with Frank Motley and the Motley Crew.

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Red Prysock – Photo: Russ Strathdee

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Shirley & Lee – Photo: Russ Strathdee

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Jimmy Reed – Photo: Russ Strathdee

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Jackie Shane – Photo: Russ Strathdee

Jackie Shane / Any Other Way

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Frank “Two-Horn” Motley – Photo: Russ Strathdee

“Frank Motley and the Hitchhikers” with Little Jackie Shane also appeared regularly at the Sapphire Tavern at 14 Richmond Street E. just off Yonge,  South of Queen St.

FrankMotley

“Frank Motley and the Hitchhikers” recorded a live album there called “Honkin’ At Midnight“. Here’s the title track:

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Another great track recorded earlier with his previous group, “Frank Motley and the Motley Crew” was called “New Hound Dog” and featured pianist Curley Bridges on vocal.

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So many other places I have not mentioned. Let me know what you think should be added.

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1963 – 1966 : club bluenote and the Regents Years

Club Bluenote

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I think it was in 1961 Steve Kennedy asked to join the House Band at Club Bluenote. It was called “The Silhouettes”.

There were some really fine musicians in the Silhouettes; for example, organist Doug Riley. I remember when I first met Doug in the band, he was around 17 years old.

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Doug Riley (back right) developed a life-long relationship with David Clayton Thomas

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During my Bluenote days, we backed up many really fine artists.

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Club Bluenote (circa 1962?) Kay Taylor featured vocalist – Silhouettes house band shows Steve Kennedy (centre) sax

  Diane Brooks, Jack Hardin, Jason King and Shirley Matthews were regulars on during our shows.

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ShirleyMathews

Shirley Matthews struck gold with a hit she recorded in New York, with funding by the very generous Al Steiner, who was the founding owner of the Bluenote. The story of how Shirley got to record “Big Town Boy” is described in another of our posts. Check out: https://strathdee.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/big-town-boys/

1963 / Shirley Matthews / Big Town Boy

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Veteran Toronto Singer George Olliver looks fondly up at the former site of the Bluenote, a 70-seater where he and The Five Rogues played from 1962-64. “Of all the innovative clubs for R&B/soul, the Bluenote was the place to go. So many of the hit artists who used to work at the Maple Leaf Gardens came here after hours — people like Stevie Wonder, The Righteous Brothers.” In those days, he says, “It was all mohair suits and flash and silk. And the girls used to dress up with gowns onstage. It was a different way of performing back then.”

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George Olliver (front centre) – The Five Rogues

1975 / George Olliver / Mandala/ Opportunity

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Doug Riley would later go on to get a degree in music from University of Toronto, and in 1969 he formed a 16 piece group called “Doctor Music”.

This moniker became the title of a very successful vinyl album in 1971.

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Dr Music track 1 / Long Time Comin’ Home 

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Dr Music track 2 / On The Road 

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The lineup for “Dr. Music” was like a Who’s Who – the cream of  Toronto talent. Doug Riley (keyboards) Laurel Ward (vocals), Rhonda Silver (vocals), Brenda Gordon (vocals), Terry Black (vocals, harmonica), Diane Brooks (vocals), Trudy Desmond (vocals), Michael Kennedy (congas), Steve Kennedy (vocals, tenor sax, flute), Brian Russell (vocals), Terry Clarke (drums), Kenny Marco (guitar), Doug Mallory (vocals, guitar), Don Thompson (bass, vibes, percussion), Bruce Cassidy (trumpet, flugelhorn), Gary Morgan (clarinet, baritone sax, alto flute), Keith Jollimore (vocals, baritone, alto & tenor sax, flute), and Barrie Tallman (trombone).

Another great musician from the Bluenote days was saxophonist Steve Kennedy. Steve played some blistering solos on the “Doctor Music” album.

Steve was also a key member of the group “Motherlode”. Other members in 1969 were William “Smitty” Smith (organ, piano, vocals), Ken Marco (guitar, vocals), and Wayne “Stoney” Stone (drums).

Steve and Smitty co-wrote the song “When I Die“, which eventually reached #5 on Canadian charts.

1969 / Motherlode / When I Die 

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Here’s a promo video of “When I Die” that shows the four members of Motherlode:

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Steve Kennedy also joined Paul Hoffert and Skip Prokop (from the Paupers) in a magnificent group called Lighthouse. I would say this group is a shining example of the “Toronto Sound”.

Lighthouse

That’s Steve Kennedy upper right playing tenor sax in the horn section. Paul Hoffert on keyboard (lower left) and Skip Prokop centre (drums).

Lighthouse / Sunny Days / 1072

Lighthouse are still performing to this day.

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THE REGENTS

After playing at the Bluenote, it was around 1963 I was invited by Bob Andrews (formerly of the Regents at the Bluenote) to join the next generation of that group.

DuncRegentsJudy

One of the places I remember we played a lot was Club 888, which was in the old Masonic Temple at the N.W. corner of Yonge Street and Davenport Road. This was a few blocks north of the vibrant Yonge Street Strip.

The Masonic Temple in Toronto in a Sun file photo.

888 Yonge Street -The Masonic Temple (Toronto in a Sun file photo).- North West corner of Yonge Street and Davenport Road.

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A hit single on Quality Records by this group got recognition on Toronto’s CHUM Chart…

The Regents   / Me And You

We also produced a vinyl album called “Going Places With The Regents”, which included that hit single.

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An instrumental tune we wrote for the Going Places album was called Pansy .

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A few years after our time of playing “Club 888”, the name was changed in 1968 to “The Rock Pile” and it catered to a younger generation of Rock Music fans.

What Some Other Toronto Bands Were Doing

While I was with the Regents, a lot of other Toronto groups were also quite busy. It was hard to keep track of it all.

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Little Caesar & The Consuls released “If” on the Red Leaf label.

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If…(I Found A New Girl) / Columbia

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Bobby Kris & The Imperials

For a brief moment in 1966 Bobby Kris & The Imperials were arguably the most popular group in Toronto and one of the best paid on the southern Ontario circuit.

BK

Their tasteful rendition of the Dionne Warwick classic, “Walk on By” was  a single produced in Canada in 1965 and it became a significant hit on Toronto’s CHUM chart in January of that year.

Bobby Kris & The Imperials / Walk On By / Columbia

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The Canadian Squires

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After leaving Hawkins in 1964, this group toured on their own, usually billed as “Levon and the Hawks”. Personnel changed periodically, but by the time of this recording, all the members of the group that would go on to become the Band was in place, four of the five from southern Ontario.

The Canadian Squires / Leave Me Alone /

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Pat Hervey

This young lady was seen more on Television more than at live venues. At an early age, during a performance at an amateur variety show she was spotted by disc jockey Al Boliska who lined her up with CBC-TV in Toronto. They liked her so much she became a regular on the weekly network shows ‘While You Were Young’, ‘Holiday Ranch’, ‘Club Six’ and ‘Country Hoedown’.

Pat Hervey

Pat Hervey / Pain

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Pat Hervey / Tears of Misery / #11 on the Chum chart, March 1963 

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notesLine Ritchie Knight and The Mid-Knights – “Charlena”

I had the pleasure of playing with these guys at the Don Mills Bowl in 1963 and we did this song. They hired me to take the place of their regular sax player, Mike Brough, who was unable to make the gig.

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Jack London & The Sparrows

They were a British Invasion-style group playing as part of the rock scene in Yorkville in the 1960s — first as “Jack London & The Sparrows” and then later just “The Sparrows”. They were best known for playing a residency at Chez Monique (a club on Yorkville Avenue near Bellair) and for regular gigs at El Patio (down the street, closer to Avenue Road).

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Jack London & The Sparrows at Toronto’s Chez Monique, 1966

You probably know “Jack London & the Sparrows” as the band they would later become “Steppenwolf”. But they were “The Sparrows” before moving to California and becoming famous for songs like “Born To Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride”.

Jack London & The Sparrows / “Take It Slow”  / a track off their self-titled record released in 1965

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Patrician-Anne McKinnon

Patrician-Anne was the stage name of Patrician Anne McKinnon, sister of singer and actress Catherine McKinnon, and wife of Brian Ahern, a long-time producer and musician. Brian was a producer at Arc Records.

Patricia 2

I did a sax track for one of her recordings at Arc Sound.That would have been when she was just starting out.

Patrician often appeared on Frank Cameron’s TV show, Frank’s Bandstand. An Arc LP Do You “Wanna” Dance (The Best of Frank’s Bandstand) has covers of “I Only Want to Be With You” and “As Tears Go By”, credited to Patrician McKinnon.

Patrician Anne McKinnon / Blue Lipstick / P.F. Sloan /Arc 1113

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1966-1970: The Majestics Years

Around 1967 I joined another group, The Majestics. I was invited to join by Chris Vickery, their bass player. The drummer was Wes Morris and the musical director was a very young guy, just 17 years old, who was already the organist and choir director at Humberview United Church. I’m talking about Eric Robertson.

Now, this group had a 4-piece horn section and in those days that was very special. Eric arranged the horn parts in beautiful harmony and voicing that had a real punch.

Eric’s age was really not an issue because of his obvious maturity.  We never thought anything of it, except that he would amaze me once in a while with abilities. For example, he wrote out all the horn parts for a new song we were doing, while traveling on a bus.

Personnel of the group were:

  • piano/organ – Eric Robertson;
  • electric bass – Chris Vickery;
  • drums – Wes Morris;
  • trumpet – Brian Lucrow;
  • trombone – Orlando Guerrari;
  • tenor / alto sax – Russ Strathdee;
  • baritone sax – John Crone
  • singer – Shawne Jackson

Later on, we added another singer, Shawne’s brother Jay Jackson,  and then a guitar player, Dave Konvalinka (who had played with Bobby Chris & The Imperials). During a later time of the band, Freddie Keeler became our guitar player.

The Majestics  played many places throughout Southern Ontario circuit. Here are just a few that I can recall:

  • The Avenue Road Club, Toronto, Ontario
  • The  Gogue Inn, Toronto
  • The  Jubilee Pavilion, Oshawa, Ontario
  • The Broom and Stone, Scarborough, Ontario
  • The Beacon, Wasaga Beach, Ontario
  • Hidden Valley, Huntsville, Ontario
  • The Pavilon, Orillia, Ontario
  • West Hill Collegiate, Toronto
  • The Dardinella, Wasaga Beach
  • Neil McNeil’s High School, Toronto
  • The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
  • The Met Club, Toronto

Shaune & Jay Jackson and The Majestics at the Gogue Inn

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Shawne and Jay Jackson and The Majestics – photo Doug Ellis

This dance spot was located on Danforth Avenue East, at the end of the street car line, the Luttrell loop. It had 3 floors, each having a different live group. The main act was always on the main floor.

Shawne & Jay Jackson and The Majestics at The Hawk’s Nest

The Hawks Nest (above Le Coq d’Or) – 333 Yonge Street

King Curtis happened to be playing downstairs at Le Coq d’Or and he came up to check us out during one of his breaks.  I asked him if he’d like to try out my new 1965 Selmer Mark VI tenor sax.

Wow!  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 great.

Recording Sessions With The Majestics at Arc Sound

The Majestics got heavily involved in a number of recording sessions at a place called Arc Sound in Scarborough, Ontario, where they produced 5 albums and a couple of 45 rpm singles.

  • 1969 Album: The Soul King / Otis Redding / A Tribute / ARC770CDmaj770
  • 1969 Album: Here Come Da Judge / ARC780CDmaj780
  • 1970 Album: Heads Of Our Time / ARC790 / Goodgroove 7001HEADSofourtime

Toronto’s CBC Television Show “Where It’s At” with the Majestics

Around 1970 the Majestics with Jay Jackson appeared on about 6 TV shows. It was all so surreal for me. This was around the time television in Canada was just starting to have colour and some of the shows were quite colourful for sure.

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“Where It’s At” dancing studio audience with guest Little Diane backed by the Majestics (all in lovely green suits)

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Pre-show conversations: foreground – the late great Arnie Chycoski talking to drummer Wes Morris with Russ Strathdee and bassist Chris Vickery in background

Remember this “colour presentation” logo?

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Just for fun, I’m presenting a little bit of audio from one of those TV shows.

Majestics / Where It’s At / Opening Theme and Jay… /

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Other Toronto Artists (While I Was With The Majestics)

Grant Smith and the Power
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It was all so exciting to be a part of this “Toronto Sound”, as it came to be called, yet I missed a lot of the action that was going on with other artists and other bands. For example, a kid that lived just a few blocks away from me in Willowdale, Bruce Palmer, went on to great heights with Buffalo Springfield. David Clayton Thomas (a.k.a. Sonny Thomas) was just a rough neck kid hanging around Willowdale getting into trouble. 

It was like being caught up in a storm and not knowing all that is being affected in the bigger picture.   I guess it was around 1961 I opted to remain a part time musician because I wanted to build my career as a computer programmer. 

But it was great to see how some of my friends  went full-time into music, making hit records, getting radio play and developing big names for themselves. 

When I look back on it now, I feel blessed to have been involved. I had a great ride; it’s 2016 and I am still enjoying playing. 

–o–

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217 responses to “The Toronto Sound Of The 60’s

  1. Nicholas Bassel

    Omg Russ I really enjoyed this anthology!
    So many memories. Thanks for doing this. I’d like to take the liberty of suggesting another venue to the narrative: The House of Hambourg. The H of H was situated in the cellar of an ancient building in Yorkville Village. Y.V. was a bohemian community of artists & musicians, long before Y.V. morphed into a commercial venue for plastic yuppies.
    H of H was run by a kindly old guy named Clem Hambourg, a serious music affectionado.
    We used to go there after our gigs, & for a $5 admission charge you could sit there in the gloom listening to awesome jazz featuring the likes of Don Thompson, Moe Koffman, Ron Rully, Ed Bickert etc.

    • Hi Nick – The House of Hambourg was definitely a very cool place. I would say it was THE quintessential jazz spot of Toronto for many years.

    • Hi Nick. Russ has done a wonderful job of bringing back some very old memories. I did not realize you had such a prominent musical past. Quite different from slogging HP medical equipment around Ontario hospitals.

      – Ross Marsden

    • Ron Rully was a friend of mine till his passing last year. His brother Bob Cook’s Drums Rully and I are still friends and talk almost every night.

  2. This dance spot was located on Queen Street East, at the end of the street car line. It had 3 floors, each having a different live group. The main act was always on the main floor.

    Russ it was on the Danforth at the end of the street car line.

  3. So much of this is just before my time (I was 10 ’59), and I moved from the Big Smoke in ’63, but The Strip still figures in my mind because of the movie theatres I haunted when I was supposed to be at the Y. Because my sister is 5 years my senior, I know many of the bands written about here, and it’s wonderful that you’ve not only included the history of the time but also some of the tunes. Thanks!

  4. Wow Russ, What a wonderful odyssey. You brought back many memories of my “rounder” days on the strip and catchment area. I am going to read this many times and not miss a detail. So many names that I know.
    You know how much I value past happenings and dislike to see history lost. Would you consider writing a book about these heady days of Toronto’s history, it would be a valuable contribution to the past viewed from a front row seat.
    many thanks Russ
    D.D.

  5. P.S. Russ, I forgot to mention the “Town Tavern”. Perhaps not in the same vein as a rock venue but still worthy of mention as some of the jazz greats played here during its heyday. Steve Palmer and I when pursuing our eclectic music interests would frequent the “Town”. One of our highlights was getting to meet Lambert Hendricks and Ross for an hour long discussion about the merits of their music at their hotel.

    Cheers DD

  6. I will be delving a little deeper into this later as there is a lot to take in and i thank you for that! I was wondering about the Brown Derby, did i miss it as i went through this fairly quickly and was wondering if there was any music history there as well? http://lost-toronto.blogspot.ca/2010/07/yonge-and-dundasthe-brown-derby.html Cheers!

  7. Hey Russ…………thanks for the mention and your great pictorial and music memories of Yonge Street and especially the Bluenote.

    George Olliver
    former lead vocalist of The Mandala
    Oshawa, Ontario
    http://www.georgeolliver.com

  8. Great memories great job really enjoyed

  9. Too early for the Jarvis House upstairs and downstairs as well as the Butcher’s Arms? I played both those venues in the early 70’s in a duo with John Moran ex lead singer of the Poor Souls, We went under the names “John and Peter” and later to “The One and Only Two Man Band” “The bottom of the “strip” also had a pretty wild scene going on. When John and I were playing both those venues, we got friendly with the comedians from Second City and they would often invade our room after they had finished performing and proceed to do skits and improv on our stage. Gilda Radner, Dan Ackroyd, Valerie Bromfield to name a few. I later worked with most of them when writing and producing the music for two animation TV specials “The Gift of Winter” and “Witch’s Night Out”, as they did the voices for the characters. After my time with John Moran I became the keyboardist for Fludd and then a founding member of Saga.

  10. What great walk down memory lane , Many of the groups would play at the Summer Gardens in Port Dover and the Belgian Hall in Delhi where the country kids could get a glimpse of the Big city groups, a wonderful time in the development of the Canadian music scene, Thank you for putting this together

  11. Hey Russ This is a great blog about the good old days. I LIVED at the Bluenote during George Oliver’s time there. You and I have touched base online a couple of years ago. I learned from this blog that a guitar tune I have been playing for 50 years is called ” Honky Tonk “.

  12. Bohemian Embassy or the Cellar Club

    • Both great spots for sure. There was a lot more I could have covered but it was getting to be a long read.
      Maybe in another post, eh? Thanks for your suggestions!

  13. Hi, Russ.
    I don’t know you personally but I sure do remember you and Steve Kennedy and Shawne Jackson from those early days. As a 16 yr old, I used to sneak into most of the places mentioned with my friend Bobby Dupont from a band called The Statlers, the last house band at the Bluenote before it closed. (Bob and Phil Smith would form the 70’s band Sweet Blindness).
    For the record, in the picture of DCT and the Shays, you forgot to name bass player Scott Richards (top left), who went on to become a legendary ‘promotions man’ at the RCA Victor record label, in Toronto, during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
    Thank you so much for composing this story and filling in so many blank memories from those days.

  14. Truly amazing…love this stuff, and the stories that go with the pictures.

  15. Great. Great. Great.

  16. Thank you for “forcing” me to spend an evening reading and listening to pure nostalgia. Time well-wasted!!!!

    I actually worked for a while at the Avenue Road Club and got to know Grant Smith, Charlie Miller, and the guys, but, of course, what was the only audio clip not working? E.G.Smith and the Power. ;-(

    A minor correction, Stan Getz’s song is Desafinado. And a question, is that your sax on Soul Serenade? WOW!

    • Hi Gerry
      Thanks for the corrections. I will get them done right away. Yep, that was me on Soul Serenade with the mighty Majestics.
      – Russ

      • Something I forgot to mention on my previous post, by way of wanting to say thanks for all the work you’ve put in and for all the enjoyment you’ve given, I’d like to offer to contribute a little something to your site.

        I do a lot of messing around in Photoshop, amateur and semi-pro, and wondered if you’d like me to “restore” your Friars poster for you as my little contribution.

    • IS THIS THE GERRY WHO PLAYED SAX WITH THE POWER? REMEMBER PETER WHO OCCASIONALLY MC’D FOR THEM AT THE HAWK’S NEST? I HAVE RE-CONNECTED WITH RALPH MILLER (HIS BROTHER CHARLIE WAS MY BEST BUD IN HIGH SCHOOL), WAYNE STONE, MIKE HARRISON, VAL STEVENS AND KENNY MARCO OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS. WE’LL PROBABLY GET TOGETHER FOR LUNCH THIS COMING JUNE/JULY IN TORONTO. DO YOU REMEMBER THE JAM SESSIONS AT THE DEVIL’S DEN UNDERNEATH THE AVENUE ROAD CLUB? peter.waters@yahoo.com

    • Heh Gerry, I spent a lot of time at the Avenue Rd Club and most of the other places Russ mentioned.. I also live in Aurora now. What ever happened to Murray Cambell ?

  17. Great read! Great info!

  18. This is great. Go round again.

  19. This is fantastic work. and a very important contribution to our cultural history! Congratulations!

  20. Russ, you are one of the first guys to get the Toronto Sound right! I love some of the pictures, makes me feel young again, man we were something back then, ha. It has been my honour and pleasure to play with you over the years and to call you friend for well over 50 years. I had lunch with Shawne just before I left to come down south, we were thinking about some of those good times and the we had been friends for so long, most of my life long friends have come through my music and I can recall some of those gigs like they were yesterday! Thanks for bring it back to life, keep playing man!

    • Hey man! Thank you for so many things… for keeping me on my toes in the Majestics horn section (haha), for helping pull the band trailer (what a story that was), for asking me to sit in for you one time (what an honour), etc. etc. I could go on.
      If you know how I could reach Chris, I’d like to know. You could send me an email.

      I’m glad you think I got the story right… there was so much more to say.
      – Russ

      • Russ, how about Chris’ trip through the windshield after one of those out of town gigs, it’s a wonder any of us are still alive! Sent you a private email with info.
        John

      • I love your comment about Bobby Kris and The Imperials being one of the best paid bands at the time. However, I don’t remember getting paid that much when I played with them! I guess at the time it was about the music, I did however get enough money to pay for my 66 red mustang convertible. God those were the the days Russ, work all day play at night and weekends. At the time I worked at Union Station during the day and “Bobby” didn’t know his last name worked there as well, he sang with The Counts Five another great group from that era, we would have coffee and talk about where we played on the weekend and where we would play next week. Russ, where was your favourite gig to play? Remember Londons Wonderland Gardens where the owners always made us a Hugh dinner after the show? That was cool, but I liked Deerhurst because of all the international acts we got to share the stage with, another blog I guess.

  21. Great trip down memory lane. Let’s not forget Georges spaghetti house at Sherbourne and Dundas where I watched Lenny Breau and Billy Merril play in an altered state many times. Also Moe Kaufman and Brian Brown were in the regular rotation. Also how about the Cellar Club at Ave and Dav. Also pretty sure that the House of Hambourg was on Grenville street in what was then the first Village , before Yorkvile.
    There is an entire other parallel scene of folk clubs flourishing at around the same time . Places like the Coffe house on Gerrard between Yonge and Bay as well as the Jack and Jill, The Bohemian embassy on St Nicholas ,and many more in Yorville. Anyone remember Websters restaurant on Avenue Rd. Mike sanderson

    • You are wealth of information, Mike and you are absolutely right! I should have mentioned George’s. In fact, George’s Spaghetti House should be a whole subject unto itself. I used to really love the Brian Brown trio, especially the drummer.

      Another thing I could have mentioned was Fran’s Restaurant.
      – Russ

    • Is this Mike from JCI?

  22. Excellent walk down memory lane. Thank you.

  23. Wow, what a fantastic sight Randy, blew me away. Everyone of those Toronto clubs and artists I grew up with, best days and time of my life ever.
    Listed a couple that seem to have been overlooked
    George’s Spaghetti House was a jazz club located at 290 Dundas Street East
    In 1956 entrepreneur Doug Cole (1925-2012) bought the restaurant, keeping the existing name. Cole began to feature jazz at the restaurant on weekend evenings, and starting on 5 September 1960 booked music six night per week. Saxophonist Moe Koffman served as the booking agent for the club. Many of Canada’s most famous jazz musicians played at the club, including Don Thompson, Ed Bickert, Guido Basso, Doug Riley, Terry Clarke, and Rob McConnell.

    Cole later opened a restaurant called Castle George on the second floor of the building. He also operated two other clubs in Toronto: Bourbon Street and Basin Street, which occupied the upstairs and downstairs portions of 180 Queen Street West. Cole sold George’s in 1983.

    The Town Tavern was a jazz club located at 16 Queen Street East in Toronto, Ontario. Operating between 1949 and 1971, it was one of Toronto’s preeminent jazz clubs and a regular performance venue for pianist Oscar Peterson
    Owned by Sam Berger, the Town Tavern was one of Toronto’s busiest jazz clubs throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In July 1958, Oscar Peterson recorded a live album on the Verve label from the Tavern, featuring his then trio composed of Herb Ellis and Ray Brown.

  24. Really enjoyed the memories, Russ. I was married to Gord Fleming (The Shays, and later Ronnie Hawkin’s band). We would frequent all those places when Gord wasn’t playing. After he left Ronnie Hawkins’ band, he got a gig at the Zanzibar, playing B3 with bass pedals. As I recall, The Zanzibar had live musicians from 1 pm to 1 am – with strippers and Go Go Dancers as part of the entertainment. The Silver Dollar at Spadina and College was the same kind of venue.
    I still see Eric Robertson (Majestics), who writes movie scores, and leads a choir in which I sing (The Hedgerow Singers). I am still in contact with Shawne Jackson, George Olliver, John Till (who used to be the guitarist in Ronnie Hawkin’s band, and later joined Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band). I was surprised to read that Freddie Keeler went with Janis Joplin.
    Those of us who used to make the music of the 60s still have a lively community, and see each other from time to time.
    Thanks for this wonderful trip back in time, and all the hard work and devotion you put into it!

    • Hi Debbie
      I used to love jamming with Gord, and such a nice guy. Was just talking to Jay last night. It is such a blessing to be able to keep in touch with each other after all these I years, eh.

      Your comment about Freddie made me realize I might have been mistaken, and I will retract that “misinformation”. I now realize it was a totally different nice guy I was thinking of – Rick Bell went with Janis, right?
      – russ

      • my god Debbie i have been wanting to talk to you for so long i caught you on a late nite show a long time ago its art larmand i live in alberta my email address is alarmand@mcsnet.ca phone #780 826 2035 give me a call i come to toronto a couple times a year i would love to see you

      • i don’t know if i am doing this the rite way but and i wanted to thank russ for the jolt and with pleasure add some little known crumbs should get iti went into the zanzibar tavern in 1961 and left in 1970 had a lot of great musicians woking for me i should not have stayed as long as i did grant smith told me many times to let my hair grow and go on the road the power used to rehears obove the zanzibar were bud matton was the booking agent when i went into the zanzibar ray harrison was the organ player great guy to work with my two favorit musictions that i had over those years were my brother joe and gord flemming he was a master i am 75 now played on young street for nine years he is still the best man i ever had work for me do you remember therole of things like the village after hours bands that were just little guys trying to survive long and maquade and there help the first music store in the country to rent stuff so the little guy could play there were a lot of unknown band on the scene boby dean played the afternoon gig at the zanzibar and guys like lenny brou would come and jamb with the band john till ,chuck berry ,leo trtier,there was a lot of great musicians came and played it was a bright time in those years for every one i think myself ,joe king ,and ronny were there the longest i never recorded anything but i should have i played 430 to 630 every day and 9to one met grant smith ,george willis ,gerry pen found,john till ,garth hudson ,debbie fleming ,duke elington,went with gord flaming to the tow taven met oscar pederson had a great time i would do it again if i had the chance and would love to see all the people yo talked about you can tell any one of them if they remember me please contact me i would love to hear from them i saw russ in a band i just can’t remember were it was i am still playing and still sing in tune

        thanks for all you have done art

      • Hi Art – you are a living legend, man. I have heard a lot about you through playing with The Martels. Still playing and still singing in tune is a GOOD THING for sure. I am glad that you enjoyed reading about some of my experiences on Yonge St, etc. You mentioned having worked with some great names there. Doug Fleming was a beautiful guy, wasn’t he. I really enjoyed playing with him. Gerry Penfound gave me one of his Larson mouthpieces. I had it in my sax case for a long time and then it mysteriously disappeared… twas a beauty. I used to play with Leo in The Majestics. It’s a wonder we did not meat each other at the Zanzibar. If you want to get in touch with me, Google me. – Russ

      • hi russ i did not realize that you worked with gary french i saw you guys at some outside show in barrie a few years ago and wanted to meet the guys but it was busy and could not make the conection at that time gary is up there with gord fleming as far as playing with good people he is an ace i love the man i dont spend enough time with hime i remember going to see you a bqand that had you and steve kenedy were the horn section it was a great r and b band i come to ontario to viset my familly i would like to get together if possible the next time i come down i stopped playing a few years ago when my youngest boy was born he is now forty and i lost my wife of 46 years and i am now retired so i have decided to get back into the horn got a big hill to climb but that ok i am stwrting to get the horn tosound good and get the fingers to work again i might get to sound pretty good again its a great pastime i would like to chat about the people that had such an influance on the music in those days pete tranor ,gerry ,grant smith ,john till i would like to see these people and get pictures i would love to do that again and know what i know now i foget what the name of the band you were in i just remember i liked it it might have been the blue note not sure i will try to get in touch when i come down home nice to hear from you

        regards Art

        ps give french a hug from me i love the man and allways will

        good luck

        >

  25. I enjoyed reading and listening to all of your work. Thank you!
    Born and raised in Toronto, but I was a little later on the Toronto scene, mid to late 70’s. The place I would frequent was, The Brown Derby.
    Roberta

  26. …and the Purple Onion? Never got there myself, but heard about it…

  27. Reblogged this on sevres-babylone's Twang & Distortion and commented:
    A really informative piece about Toronto music in the sixties, with lots of audio clips to go along with it. Thank you Russ Strathdee for putting this together.

  28. Thanks for Jarring some Great Memories..of Days gone by..! Most of the Bands you mentioned made London Ontario Bars their 2nd Home..”Campbells, Brass Rail, Red Lion, The 400, The Iroquois ..Motherlode was the House Band at My Club “Thee IMAGE Discotheque, after they Left Grant Smith and the Power..and wrote “When I Die’ at the Club!!

  29. What about Simon Caine and the Catch? Had great musicians including Dennis Pendrith, John Savage, Mouse, etc.

    • Dennis was with the Apostles, right?

      So many groups, so little writing space. Maybe in another post, I can cover some more bands, other than the ones I felt close to.
      Thanks for your comment, Larry.
      – Russ

  30. Richard Bell also left Ronnie Hawkins, with John Till, to join Janis Joplin and her full tilt boogie band.
    Every band Ronnie ever put together was magnificent (because of all the rehearsing after the gigs that they had to do). “Tighter than a frog’s ass stretched over a box-car” was a quote I seem to remember as Ronnie would describe his bands.
    One of the next bands Ronnie put together had David Foster on piano. Yes. THAT David Foster. And B.J.Cook (who married David Foster) was one of the singers in the band, as was Beverly DiAngelo.
    Ronnie knew how to surround himself with greatness and talent, and was very supportive of his peeps (providing they behaved themselves). 🙂

  31. A place that I also used to frequent was Grossman’s Tavern … there was a waiter there who had tattoos like the guy in Moby Dick … saw bands like Whiskey Howl … thanks for doing this … a great trip through my memories of the ” Toronto Sound ” … so proud, and lucky, to have been there !!!

  32. i didn’t see The Paupers (1967-1968) and not sure how you can write such an article w/o mentioning them……………. did i miss something? are they here?

  33. The Paupers? 1967-68? Great article but no mention of The Paupers?

    • The Paupers were a great band. I saw them for part of a rehearsal one day in the basement of a house on Spadina Rd. with Skip on drums. I was living just next door.
      Why did I not include them? This post was mainly about bands that I knew quite well and, sorry to say, The Paupers were not one of them. There were so many other great groups back then too, like Luke and The Apostles, etc. I have a whole catalogue of groups back then, but had to limit my writing to just what jumped to mind first. Your idea about including them can be left for another article. Thanks for your comment, moon childiva (cool name).

  34. Janis’ back-up band, Full Tilt Boogie Band, was an all-Canadian affair with Hawkin’s former guitar player, John Till, putting the group together at Janis’ request. This was undoubtedly the best band she had and what more great music we would have heard if not for her untimely death while recording “Pearl”. Just listen to John’s blistering solo on “Move Over”. John still plays with Plum Loco in Stratford, Ontario

  35. Russ, your memories and photos are crucial to understanding the full history of the Toronto Sound. Thanks for sharing these great details. One day, there will be a Toronto Music Museum and your contributions will prove invaluable.

  36. Speaking of Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, let’s not forget Brad Campbell (from Yorkville’s ‘Last Words’?) on bass. Upon further thought, perhaps he played in the original ‘Big Brother & the Holding Company’?

  37. Wow. Thank you for creating this! Any chance you remember a Toronto band called “Chimo!”, active in the late ’60s and early ’70s? Their name is stenciled on my bass amp. I’d love to see a photo of it onstage with its original owner, if such a photo exists. Thank you again! -Mike

  38. Nice job Russ (and Gary). Full Tilt had four Canadians – Richard Bell, John Till, Brad Campbell and Ken Pearson – and one American (not counting Janis herself), Clark Pierson. Also, was that Gord Fleming in the early Shays photo or his predecessor, Brian White (I believe)?

    • Hi Bill – I had the pleasure of jamming with Rick Bell at his parent’s place, and recall his dad was Dr. Leslie Bell and the Leslie Bell Singers. Also, Jammed with Gordie Fleming and gigged with him on a few occasions when he and I played with the John Leslie band. It is Gord Fleming in the Shays photo where DCT is in lower left. Brian White played with the Regents and then I lost track of him.
      – Russ

  39. Man this is so cool! Thank you!

    Been to some of these places and at 57 years now I’m probably just a puppy to a number of y’all! LMA

  40. Denny MacDougall

    Oh man, this post brought back a flood of great memories. Freddie Keiller’s solo on Boom Boom inspired me to play guitar. DC and the Shays played frequently at one of our haunts the Mimicombo om the Lakeshore. So much great music in Toronto. Glad to see mention of the Last Words in one of the posts. Perhaps you might also recall a popular west band called the Ardels.
    Thanks for all of this.

  41. The Early 60’s was the best time in Toronto. As a Member of “Richie Knight and the Mid-Knights” and Later “The Regents” I played for two great groups. As one of the original members of the Mid-Knights, It was a thrill to be part of the growing up era of Rhythm and Blues in Toronto. Having the song “Charlena” go Number One and being in a band that was honored for being the first band to have a number one hit in a major centre. Playing with the Regents was also a great opportunity as they were just leaving the Blue Note and were looking for an Organist. Playing with Bob Andrews and Jack Arsenault and singers Judi Jansen and Duncan White was playing at a different level because of the horn section and Bob doing the directing.
    Thanks for the good times – Barry Lloyd on Piano and Organ

    • Hey Barry! So great to hear from you. We have some catching up to do.
      You were always such a gentleman in the band. – Russ

    • Bruce staubitz

      You were a great salesman for The Regents.You took me with you for a run around numerous dancehalls in S. Ont. You got contracts signed everywhere we went.You were a real plus for the band. I,m seeing J. Jansen on Fri. Bruce Staubitz

  42. wow brings back a lot of memories growing up in Toronto. Some of these acts I was fortunate enough to see at the Jarvis House where I worked the door with my pal Rocky Crawford. Mt dad had restaurants & bars in Toronto & GTA and funny enough my name is Nick Bassels.

    • Hi Nick
      That is funny, indeed, almost the same name as my bass playing friend. I suppose Nicholas is not an uncommon name among the Greek community.
      I sure wouldn’t want a name like John Smith!

      I am so glad this article brought back memories for you. That is what Gary and I are all about… definitely not for profit! haha
      – Russ

  43. Russ and Gary! All I can say is WOW!!!! What an INCREDIBLE site! What an AMAZING job!!! What patience, perseverance and pure love you have put into this and shared with so many!

    Russ, I have to say that the years my brother Jay and I spent with you and the Majestics were some of the best in my career! You were always an exceptional man.

    My Madman buddy John Crone wrote that you wanted contact info but my dear friend Colina Phillips beat you to the punch and sent me this site!

    What an accomplishment! We ALL have to thank you for the memories!
    God Bless You Both,
    Love, Shawne Jackson

    • Hi Shawne, Your words of kindness blew me away. Yes, they were wonderful times with the Majestics and I think it is such fun to bring everybody’s thoughts together on sharing in the joy of that era. Thanks for being YOU.
      – Russ

  44. As I said before, you have done a Stirling job on this blog, not only the visit back to the sounds and sight of 60s Toronto rocks with your skill and talent displayed of your work of those early days, but also how well you write and hold today those locales, that music. Very well done. I especially enjoyed the Soul Serenade with your clear tones and smooth transitions. And the fact you have teased out so many musicians and fans who shared those days or are just getting an introduction to your glorious youth. As one suggested it should be a book, I heartily agree. Perhaps a large book that can include the music. I would buy that. I bet many who responded in these last few days might want that book too. Rock on.
    Connie

    • Hi Connie – Thank you for being so supportive in what we do. I like your choice of words… “teased out”. haha
      Writing a book is the easy part. Getting it published is like winning a lottery. IMHO
      – Russ

  45. Hey Man What a terrific blog Your presentation not only recreates those wonderful days but your enthusiasm and obviously enjoyment really makes for an entertaining and fun read The memories you ignited made it seem like yesterday. I really appreciated reading about your years with the Majestics as you and I had lost contact.at the time. I consider myself so lucky to have been able to accompany you to the many gigs, and practices during your early years. Perhaps because I was not a performer the thing that was most astounding of those times was how available the entertainers were to the fans. I recall standing right behind Jerry Lee Lewis at the I believe Le Coq d’Or and being amazed at the size of his hands.Great times! Great Memories!
    Thank you so much old friend.
    Doug.
    Would you agree that our song “Voices Of The Past” critiques the blog?

    • Hi Doug
      I am so glad you are enjoying the Russ & Gary blog. Yes, it is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, especially when someone like YOU responds so positively.
      – Russ

  46. Fabulous🎺🎺🎺

    • Wow! Excellent memories. I was very young then. 13 years old playing The Hawk’s Nest, Yorkville clubs, Devil’s Den. I saw all the bands you mentioned. I was the organ player for The Lords Of London. Thank you Russ.

  47. Unfortunately, I was a different Gerry. I worked (non musician) downstairs with Murray Campbell and Steve Bach for quite a while which is how I got to know E.G. and the Power and hung around with Charlie Miller, the drummer.

  48. This takes me waaaaay back! Thanks for putting this together—and including some of the music!

  49. WOW!, This takes me back. I grew up in Willowdale but was downtown a lot as a high school friend worked at the Eaton Auditorium, just up the street from Bassel’s Restaurant, which was right across the street from the Bluenote.
    My first IT job was at Simpson-Sears on Mutual Street and I can recall being in all of the clubs identified on the map. In addition to the The Hawk, I listened to Bo Diddley at Le Coq d’Or., Levon and The Hawks at Friars and others.
    THANK YOU for the great memories that flooded back.
    I also recall The Battle of The Bands that were held during the summer at various rinks at the park on Eglinton west of Duplex, the Don Mills Arena, etc. Frequently, Robbie Lane et al (or similar) were on the bill with two or three other bands each night.
    I have loved music all my life and took up music studies a couple of years ago and I am learning to play the oboe and I play in a community band. It is never to late to learn.
    Thanks again!
    Paul

  50. Jackie Mccullough

    Loved the walk down memory lane. We frequented downtown mist Saturday nights. Wonder what happened to many of the groups. Ronnie Hawkins we know what about Joe King & his Zaniacs. Enjoyed the sax player by Harry, Joe,s brother& all the others

  51. Great job Russ. I remember playing in TheArdels and Bedtimestory in those days and you have it down perfect. It is fascinating that after all those years we got together both with Dave Konvalinka of the Majestics and also as members of Little Caesar and. The Consuls. You mention playing the various gigs but. Since you won’t blow your own horn , I will. You were among a very select group of superb musicians that could hold their ow with anyone in the world. You guys were terrific and set the bar really high for the rest of us. Keep
    Doug Dixon

    • Wow – Thank you, Doug, for those words of encouragement! Yes, I was blessed to have had experience playing some of those superb musicians. And the fun continues…
      It was a class act having you on the stage with us.
      – Russ

  52. Hello Russ, Thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane. Club Bluenote holds a special place in my heart as I was so fortunate to listen to such wonderful, talented singers and musicians. We did grown up in the best era. There is no other music like R&B and Motown. Russ I am fortunate to live in Barrie and have the honour to listen to you play all over town with other wonderful artist. You truly get better with age as you sound as good or if not better than your Club Bluenote days. I have never stopped dancing the two step that I learned from all those amazing dancers at the club. Thank you and see you at City Hall. Debbie &Eddie

    • Hi Debbie – Sorry I missed seeing you at the Bluenote. You should have come up to me and said “hello” – haha
      Remember they had pop machines? Absolutely no booze allowed.
      – Russ

      • Russ – re: ” No booze allowed “. I seem to recall the ladies hitting the washroom a lot to imbibe whatever beverage they had snuck in. The alternative was to go to the local watering holes on Yonge Street. Since I was only 17 or 18 my buddy and I did our drinking before getting on the streetcar to travel from the west end. On one occasion I was not feeling too good by the time I got to the Bloor Yonge subway with all the swaying of the streetcar etc..

  53. Hi Russ, the drummer for DCT and the Shays was John Wetherell.

  54. Thanks so much for your contribution Russ ! I was a regular at most of the places you mentioned. I was at The Bluenote when a very young Little Stevie Wonder showed up after his first his first hit Fingertips. Those were the days !

  55. Is this not the best–thank you very much–living in London now I remember most of these club and performers-I used to visit the Zanzibar all the time and watch Art and The Blue Canes—thanks so much.

  56. Hi Russ………..thanks for the mention and.
    great memories of all the clubs and gang from the 60’s. I remember seeing you sitting in with Doug Riley and the Sillowetts at the Bluenote at Yonge and Gerrard.
    Thanks again
    George Olliver

  57. .

  58. Such a lot of work for you to put all this together. How old are you now and do you still play on your own or with a group. I remember a lot of those places. Thanks Pat

  59. Great stuff Russ and Gary ! The early to mid 60’s scene was the forerunner to live bands bursting out in youth halls and school gyms all over the province. Many played at our Newmarket Teen Town. The Mandela with both George Olliver and Roy Kenner, Jackie Shane, Big Town Boys, The Shays, Jon and Lee and The Checkmates and of course Shawn and Jay and The Majestics. I have had the pleasure of talking with Russ about these days. A wealth of memories for sure. It is great to see a record of some of them.

  60. Great stuff Russ and Gary ! The early to mid 60’s were the forerunner to live bands bursting out in youth halls and high school gyms all over the province. Our Newmarket Teen Town had many; The Mandela with both George Olliver and Roy Kenner, The Big Town Boys, Jackie Shane, The Shays, Jon and Lee and The Checkmates, and of course Shawn and Jay and The Majestics. I have had the pleasure of talking with Russ about those great years. It is great to see some of your memories recorded where everyone can enjoy them.

    • RussGary
      Wouldn’t it be great to have a reunion ! Why don’t we put it out there and see is anyone wants to take it on !

  61. I was there.the lead guitarists such as :Terry Bush, Robbie Roberson, Bobby Starr, Fred Keeler , and Don Troyano stared a styler and technique later copied by Bloomfield, Hendrix, Stevie Ray, etc. However, the Toronto sound is not as well known for this. Just listen to Robbies solo on “Hey Bo Didley“. Here`s my contribution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWjC80BbLJY

  62. What about the Brunswick House on Bloor. I think Ronnie Hawkins used to frequent that place as well.

  63. Do you remember the after hours club “Frankie’s” where Jackie Shayne hung out ?

  64. This is great reading…. thank you for putting this together for us.
    Do you recall the Paramount Tavern just down the street from Grossman’s and know anything about it? I never see it mentioned but I know I had drafts there!

  65. What a wonderful trip down memory lane for a snowy morning in Toronto.
    I also remember the Owl’s Nest on Avenue Road. Does anyone remember Peter McGraw a singer who co-wrote Hats off to the Stranger? My friends and I loved the Blue Note. I remember seeing Gladys Knights and the Pips there one night. There was also the Bohemian Embassy on Bloor.

    Thank you for compiling all this research. It’s priceless.

    • Hi Jean – Do you have any idea what year that would have been that you saw Gladys Knight at the Bluenote?
      – Russ

    • Is that the same Pete McGraw that sometimes used the nickname “Littlejohn” and hung out at Fran’s at Yonge and St. Clair?

    • Peter was one of the guest singers on the group Bent Roots’ third CD, which was released just a couple summers ago. He also sang the song at the CD release show. Great voice, great CD, and Bent Roots are a great band – with two veterans of the classic T.O. R&B scene – Michael Fonfara of the Checkmates and Ed Roth of the Tripp, aka Livingston’s Journey. Group leader Nick Balkou dates goes back at least as far as Scarborough’s Milestone, who released some 45s in ’70 or ’71, then merged with another group that included Ed Roth, bassist Denny Gerrard from the Paupers and future funk superstar Rick James.

  66. My brother took me to see Oscar Peterson at the Colonial in Late 60’s, early 70’s well after he had made the big time. The story is he would play the Colonial ( pretty small venue for him by that time)at least once a year as pay back for the club giving him gigs early in his career.

  67. Hello
    John, Lee & The Checkmates were also a fabulous Toronto band. They played R&B.
    kc

  68. The memories are flowing back. I was at a private party at the Purple Onion with Bill Wyman. I think it was 1962 or 63. Those were the days !

  69. when I lived in scarborough – haha and went to Woburn – I would travel every sat to the masonic hall for 3 hours of dancing – ballroom ballet and tap
    when I moved to Toronto in 1969 – I danced as a go go girl at the friars club – pretty sure I saw ALL OF YOU THERE lololololo memories

  70. PS. I remember seeing Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee at the Riverboat a few times. What a treat !
    I think the Bohemian Embassy was the one on Bloor St

  71. Hi guys. Great job!! With regards to the Town Tavern, my father Bernie Black was the resident cocktail pianist at the Town for over 10 years. During that time, many big name artists were featured for the evening performance. Dad would challenge any of the cocktail audience to name a song that was “reasonably popular” and if he didn’t know it the house would buy them a drink….the house never bought anyone a drink. Later on the LCBO made Sammy Berger stop as it promoted drinking. During Dads long term gig, many times the piano player who was to perform with the headline band would be late, get stopped at the border or whatever. They looked to Bernie to sub on piano. Needless to say dad ended up working with a variety of first class musicians….Miles Davis, Jackie & Roy, Carmen Mcrae, Joe Williams…and the list goes on. Whenever Oscar played the Town with Ed Thigpen and Ray Brown, they would end up back at our house for one of my moms home cooked meals. I was a budding drummer back then ( age 6 or 7) and had a small kit in the basement next to the piano. What a treat it was for me to be awakened at 3-4 am by the jam session that was happening in the rec room! I didn’t realize back then what an incredible event was taking place. These guys were simply friends of Dad and were at the house for some late supper. Dads reputation for his incredible memory of tunes, was picked up by the visiting bands and it didn’t take long for his gift to be talked about everywhere. I can’t tell you the number of times the phone would ring at 4 or 5 in the morning. “Hello is this Bernie Black….(yes) hey Bernie this is ________ I need to know the name of this song….(humming). Dad would answer the question, and you would hear thru the phone…I told you this guy would know”. ” Thanks Bernie”….click. Dad would take me to the Town once and a while. What a treat it was to have a sandwich and coke in a fancy restaurant as a little boy. Dad went on to be musical director at the Chelsey Hotel, and played the Chelsey Bun lounge for many years. Later on in life I had the privilege of working with my dad. ( Sapphire Tavern, Constellation Hotel, Ascot Inn).
    It was Arc records that recorded Dad at the Ascot (live) and released his album. Thanks again for the super nostalgia.
    Warmest regards,
    Bob Black

    • Hello Bob,
      My good news. I haven’t seen or heard Ed Thigpen’s name in decades. I’ve never met him but, my best high school musician (drummer) friend was Charlie Miller – I think our high school music teacher Art Hilliard was the connection to Mr Thigpen so he became Charlie’s private instructor. Charlie very quickly established himself as a Toronto talent. He soon became drummer along with Wayne Stone (also a drummer), his brother Ralph (a trumpet player like me) and Mike Harrison (bass player) in the group Grant Smith & The Power. All of them jammed at The Devil’s Den after gigs with other great Toronto musicians including Jon Lee & The Checkmates, and George Olliver of Mandala. BTW, The Power had 2 drummers when it started in 1967. Very unusual at the time.

      My bad news. Charlie left his wife and 4 children behind as he succumbed to cancer in 1978 as I was moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I visited him at Mount Sinai Hospital on Bay Street before packing up and heading south.

      Charlie was a gifted musician who was extremely well liked by everyone he met. I still miss him.

      Best regards to everyone connected to your posts. The articles and posts I have read so far bring back tons of memories.
      Peter Waters

  72. Great job Russ Gary. You have filled in a few blanks in my memory bank. Thanks for sharing.

  73. Great blog Russ, Gary. You have filled the blanks in my memory bank. Thanks for sharing.
    Brian

  74. Pingback: Music on Yonge Street | Toronto Past

  75. This was unbelievable. Brought back so many great memories. Just the other night I was trying to explain about his mother and I being at the Brown Derby, the Friars and so many more. Thank you for the memories

  76. Hey Russ and GerryC,
    Another great memory from the mid-60’s. I went with Ralph Miller of The Power to a soul concert at The Embassy Hotel in the Village to see Wayne Cochran & The CC Riders. I still remember that night. As he was closing his performance, he stood on top of his organ player’s Hammond B-3 and reached up to the tile ceiling and puled down a large piece of tile and thew it into the audience! Holy Moly! What a showman.
    Ralph also asked me to go with him to Georgetown High School around 1966/1967 to see David Clayton-Thomas and took me back stage to say hello in person. Totally awestruck with DCT (I think he was with The Shays at the time).
    Also I reconnected with an old friend Bill Anderson from my 2nd high school York Memorial Collegiate Institute (YMCI) who told me he used to go to The Bluenote all the time and met Shawne Jackson. If you’re reading this Shawne, you and Bill traveled to some show (I think it was in Cobourg) in the back seat and talked all the way. He still remembers that trip.
    Russ. Best regards to all the people who posted comments here. It will be a strong part of Toronto’s 60’s history.
    Peter Waters

  77. PS
    My high school York Memorial High School was also home to Ralph Miller and Mike Harrison of The Power, and George Semkiew and one other musician from Ritchie Knight and The Mid-Nights.

    • That “one other musician” would be bassist Doug Chappelle.

    • I should add that Scott Richards of DCT and The Shays, Ron Russell of Ronnie and The Corvairs, and Neil Lillie (aka Neil Merryweather) were also from York Memorial. There were others as well…

  78. Hi Russ, a great and historic site you posted..lots of memories. Our time we played together was all too short, but the last and waining time with the Majestics still sticks in my craw. I played and designed ‘The Heads of our time ‘ album by the way. I worked with Eric Robertson steadily for 15 years after that..I do owe him and Doug Riley a debt of gratitude for my career in Toronto…I’m now retiring nicely in Penticton B C, all the best..Brian Russell.

    • Hi Brian – I sent you an email – lots to catch up with. – Russ

    • Hello Brian, I don’t know if you heard but Doug Riley passed away in 2007 from a heart attack. I only met Doug once while he was directing a recording by Motherload (“When I Die” made it to the Billboard Top 100 in 1969). Thereafter he got Dr Music going. The 3 people I knew (Wayne Stone, Kenny Marco and Steve Kennedy) from Motherload went on to Dr. Music.

  79. Fantastic Thank you for so many great memories.

    Bob Mitchell

  80. Paul (Wayne) Ryder

    Fantastic memories. I grew up on the strip more in the mid 60’s. I played in a band called “Fat Chance’.” We were managed by Ronnie Hawkin’s ” manager. (I played organ.) I remember playing in most of the bars you mention in your blog. You bring back a ton of fond memories of places and people I met back then. Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to share this history with us. I am going to forward this email to the rest of my old band and friends who lived in this era…..Cheers

    • Hi Paul
      Do you remember a bass player named Sam in Fat Chance?

    • Hi Paul,

      One of your group’s mothers worked with my father at Simpsons’ downtown store, so I was a bit more interested in them that I otherwise might have been. It took me close to 30 years and a trip to Nanaimo, but I found the Fat Chance 45. Published by Love-Lies-Bleeding Music, which was otherwise related to the Daffodil label. Was that who you were signed with?

      • Hi Bill, I ran into Denny Gerarrd in the late 70’s, I was playing at the Bloor Tavern and he had mentioned he was with a group called Fat Chance and made a comment in jest about “fat chance making it.” Question… are we talking about the same Fat Chance? Did / was Denny the bass player?

      • Could have been ‘the same’ Fat Chance, in that the group name could have been owned by management, so the original musicians could all have left and been replaced seventeen times but the name kept on going. ‘Motherlode’ would be good local example of the phenomenon – the original four who did “When I Die”, a new four built around Smitty who did one 45, another studio group who made a final 45 (“All That’s Necessary”), the mostly different group that was put together to appear on the back of that 45, and the guys from Truck who replaced them. The original four did get together to record around ’76 or ’77,, but they couldn’t use the name Motherlode so released it under Ken Marco’s name.

        By the way, another group name that went on throughout the seventies mostly without original members was Tranquillity Base (originally led by Ian Thomas). The only time I ever met Denny Gerrard, he told me that he’d been in that band too; when I expressed surprise, he said that if you took any two working musicians in the area, one of them would have passed through Tranquillity Base. An exaggeration of course, but it makes the point.

      • Hi Bill
        I think I may have played in “perpetual” groups like that at one time or another – haha – Russ

  81. Don’t overlook Wally and THE SHANDELLS, Avenue Rd. Club.
    From Oshawa to the four corners of the provence. /62 to /70

  82. Laima Dambrauskas

    OMG!,! What fantastic memories which I LOVE reliving….often! Echo my gratitude for this mammoth task u completed! Couple of the venues I was going to remind of were eventually mentioned. I remember almost wearing a groove into Yonge st. crossing over to the bar at Bassel’s from the Note to get drinks, even tho I was waaay under age! The Palm Grove Lounge at the Embassy is where Wayne Cochran put on an amazing show n I remember seeing Gladys n the Pips there, about 1967.
    So lovely to see Smitty’s face again after all these years! Eric Mercury (Jay’s best friend) of course was also at the Bluenote. (Which had a cpl reunions).
    BTW The Silver Rail restaurant, while the music wasn’t all that, they had THE best Caesar’s salad – bar none!!!
    I was at all these venues from 1966 til they closed many moons later n developed some of my most longstanding n richest friendships at n thru them!!! The Fabulous Peps became great friends (Joe n Ronnie still around, Tommy passed away cpl yrs ago). Detroit became a second home for me.
    Saw Erroll Garner (writer of “Misty”) at the Colonial, King Curtis passed away w/in 6 wks of the gig at Le Coq d’Or where Bill Cosby came to check him out. Jackie Shane n I used to split a cab from the Saphire to get to the Bluenote in time for the floor show, n God forbid anyone got in the way of getting those seats out for it! ROFLMAO
    Saw Jimmy McGriff at the Towne or was it Jimmy Smith??
    The ParliaFunkadelicMent Thang absconded w/Prakash John after the Hawk’s Nest I think. (M intouch w/Fuzzy Haskins).
    Just hearing Shawne in my mind’s eye n ear singing “come n get these memories…” had the good fortune to c Shawne n Jay n his wife, Jan at the Princess of Wales catching “Motown: the Musical”!! What a wonderful blessing to c them!
    Sorry for the scattered thinking/writing but just soooo many memories triggered by ur excellent blog!!!!!! In my mind’s eye again c Sandy Rhodes doing the two step, excellently, w/his usual partner, Georgina (I think her name was)?
    We had THE best music scene no question! Tremendous that some gained much warranted success from these times, but also several more were certainly worthy of it as well!
    The late, GREAT Edwin Starr mentioned often, his very favourite venue was the Club Bluenote!
    Ok – m taking a breath n think I m done -for the moment! Lol …..
    Ooops, Terry Logan, Bob Francis, Charlie ?? (comedian) Louie, George, the Peepers, Mary-Ann (beautiful, waist length red hair) did coat check at the Note moved to Holland mid-70’s n got married there. Returns to Canada to visit family cpl times/yr. Her son, early 30’s , is a disc jockey there n guess what his favourite music is!?! Lol – o, n btw, he’s wheelchair bound w/cerebral palsy, but sooooo good at his job!
    Ok, now I’m REALLY done! Lol! Cheers! Have an awesome week-end!! Laimad407@gmail.com

    • Hi Laima
      You said “… get to the Bluenote in time for the floor show, n God forbid anyone got in the way of getting those seats out for it! ROFLMAO “.

      That is too funny fur sure. I can remember standing on the stage beside Steve Kennedy when we announced the floor show was ready to begin. I had forgOtten this until your hilarious comment, which is right on. Yes, indeed, look out of the way when everyone scurries around to get those fold up chairs assembled and tries to get the best seating arrangement. ROFLMAO – Russ

  83. This is just wonderful!!! Thank you. The incomparable Keith McKie forwarded it to me. A history lesson, some memories. It is laid out in a way that is invaluable for others to know a bit about the 60s in Toronto. I was just coming up and caught the tail end of most of it but it is still precious. By the end of the 60s, I worked at Mariposa Folk Festival as a gofer for Gordon Lightfoot and others but I sure knew and listened to the music. I didn’t really go to the clubs except that Richard Flohill took me to listen to Ronnie Hawkins where I met Keith. In time, I would study music with saxophonist Bobby Brough but by then I was getting into jazz and politics in music. Never the less, this is brilliant. thank you for your music, vision and sharing. thank you so much Honey Novick

  84. Hello Russ … First , what a terrific site 🙂 Second … Do you remember a comedian named Doug Romaine who worked The Blue Note a number of times . I am one of his sons ?

  85. What an awesome trip through memory lane. My grandparents owned a hat shop at 352 Young St. The strip is burned into my memory as my grandfather would often take me on walks and pass by all the clubs. Sonny Bernardi and I were school mates and his mom and dad were involved in the Concord Tavern. We would spend our Saturday afternoons watching shows there. Thanks for the memories.
    Hirsh Gardner
    Boston Ma.

    • Hi Hirsh
      Sonny Bernardi is like a household name around here. I have known of Sonny for a long time. He played with The Power. Another drummer friend of mine, Sonny Minle, has great respect for Bernardi. That sounds like a great past you had in your younger days with your mom and dad and your grandparents.
      I love hearing about this stuff.
      Thanks for the comment.
      – Russ

  86. I know your column is Yonge Street but just off, Yonge on the north side of Queen there was a tavern whose name escapes me (starts with a “B” ?) where Oscar Peterson regularly played, probably late ’50’s early 60’s. Too, in the basement lounge, a singer-pianist named Tish Goode was the regular entertainer. I think she later appeared at the Beverley Hills Hotel on Wilson Ave. on a regular basis.
    A small, irrelevant aside. I was traveling on Hwy 401 a few years later and got caught in a slowdown (read dead stop) of traffic when, much to my surprise a driver left his car and approached the car stopped in front of me. The window was rolled down and the chap who came to the car proceeded to punch out the driver. Traffic started to move but I made a note of the license number of the car in front. I wanted to get in touch with the driver to let him know I had witnessed what had happened in case he needed it for the police.The car was registered to Tish Goode, and although she was not the driver, she appreciated my call. It’s a small world.
    Most importantly though, I enjoyed your column. Many memories, particularly of Joe King, but I remember him from the Edison Hotel.

    • Hi David – A bar that was just off of Yonge at 16 Queen Street East on the north side was the Town Tavern. Owned by Sam Berger, the Town Tavern was one of Toronto’s busiest jazz clubs throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In July 1958, Oscar Peterson recorded a live album on the Verve label from the Tavern, featuring his then trio composed of Herb Ellis and Ray Brown. The building in which the Tavern operated has since been demolished.
      – Russ

  87. Awesome stuff, thank you for your time and effort to share your memories with others.

  88. Thanks very very much for this trip down memory lane. We lived out in the west end but managed to get downtown quite often. I remember the Place Pigal (sp??) The Pig just north of Yorkville on Avenue Road. Not sure but I seem to think we saw chuck Berry there? Memory not that clear LOL Thanks again.
    Jeff Dickinson

    • Denny MacDougall

      Your mention of the Pig in Yorkville brought back memories of another Yorkville haunt featuring great music, the Embassy. Saw Liuke and the Apostles there among other great Toronto bands. Thanks for jogging the memory.

  89. Thanks guys for a great ride along memory lane, Back in the early 60’s I was DJ at “The Met” a small club way out west (in those days) in New Toronto. Over the years it was a stop off point at one time or other for I would guess at least half the groups mentioned in your blog to play one of our weekend shows. I am sure many of the players would have fond memories of a great little spot upstairs above a large clothing store where we would pack in maybee a hundred and fifty people on a Saturday or Sunday night. I was in my early twenties an avid Hot Rodder who built and customized cars in a small garage in that area, a big Soul and R & B fan who followed George Lorenz on WKBW or WBLK and drove to Buffalo every couple of weeks to buy the latest music much that would never make it to Toronto or at least until quite some time later. Looking back it really was the time of my life with great music, many hot rods and cars I wish I had held on to. Ended up marrying the coat check girl at the club now my beloved of 53 years, looking at the faces of the members of some of the groups shown in your great pictures it seems like only yesterday I could see them rocking out on our small stage..Norm the Sax player in Little Ceasar and the Consoles comes to my minds eye, he always seemed to be having such a good time and putting so much effort into his playing…great memories.. Russ did you ever play there.
    Ron Pickford

    • Hi Ron
      I was with Shawne & Jay Jackson and the Majestics when we played the Met. It was an amazing club, with so many people showing up. It was always packed, as I recall, and I can remember listening to some of the greatest R&B records when we were on a break.

      Audrey and Dells was the place to go in Buffalo to get some of the latest sounds. You had to listen to The Hound so you knew what was on the leading edge of that music trend. Later on, I got a lot of enjoyment listening to WBLK and WUFO.

      You mentioned Norm, the sax player in Little Caesar. What a coincidence. I just got home from playing sax in Little Caesar & The Consuls. Normie recently retired and I am now the only sax in the band. It is the band’s 60th Anniversary this year.

      Here’s a link to the latest Consuls news… https://littlecaesarmusic.wordpress.com/

      – Russ

  90. Hi Russ-Gary
    Bluenote….
    Kay Taylor and the Regents were the house band at the Club Bluenote from October 1960 to August 1962….Bobby Dean and the Gems were the first house band in 1960 and we took over from them….
    Emailing you some pics and recordings of the band at the Bluenote if you are interested…..Kay Taylor vocals, Brian Massey bass, Tommy Graham guitar, Peter Groschel then Fred Therialt drums, Steve Kennedy and Les Terrell on twin tenor sax’s)…Hey Russ, before Les or after he joined the band, you played a bit with us at the Bluenote again featuring the twin tenor sax’s…..we all loved that sound…you and Steve sounded so good man….Bob Andrews on trumpet came later to join the band….I’ll email you a short audio recording sample during our time at the Bluenote recorded by Howie Moore on a mono Ampex portable recorder…on a Sunday night August 1962
    Most of the R&B entertainers who came to town dropped into the Bluenote in those days….Jimmy Reed, Maxine Brown, The Supremes, The Olympics, Shirley Mathews, Diane Brooks, and so many more who were R&B popular at the time, or had hit recordings they were supporting during their time in Toronto…. I can’t recall them all at this time…..Since most of them got up and did a couple of songs during the famous “floor show”…( the audience sat down for the show)…
    There was of course no rehearsal with the band and we were always flying on our own….However, we became real musicians…sink or swim time…gulp

    At the end of our time at the Bluenote, the Silhouettes, a great group, became the house band….Doug Riley organ, Whitey Glann drums, Steve Kennedy sax, Domanic Troiano I believe on guitar….can’t recall the other musicians…
    We the Regents, became the Big Town Boys initially backing up Shirley Mathews with her big hit Big Town Boy….produced by Bob Crewe, with Charlie Calelo his arranger….
    Was a great time in Toronto….
    Tommy

    • Hi Tommy
      It is fabulous hearing from you after all these years. I really appreciate your recollection of who played at the “Note”, especially naming the years. The only thing I am not clear on is when Les was the sax player. All I know is, I was invited to join the Silhouettes by either Steve or Fred Theriault. Fred was the drummer for a while and then Pete Grochelle was the drummer… or was it the other way around?

      When I was playing with Steve, other guys in the band were Howie Glen on bass and Mike Holman on guitar, with a 17 year old Dougie Riley on organ. I can definitely remember Dianne Brooks was a regular singer, as she and Steve were keeping house together. And her daughter, little Joanne would sing with us once in a while… it was very cute. She would probably have been around 11 at the time. I can remember also backing up Shirley Matthews before and after she made her big recording in NYC.

      When the floor show was announced at the Note, there would be a mad scramble to put chairs on the floor facing the band stand. I remember the coat checking area was at the very front of the building and after you got past Al Steiner and his beautiful blonde wife, Gerry?, you walked past some soft drink vending machines to get to the dance floor area and the stage on your right. The floor was black and white checker board pattern and there was a kind of mural picture of a city scape on the wall between the stage and the back door, which lead down a narrow flight of stairs to the back parking lot.

      I would love to see any photos you may have and hear any audio you may have. Brian has already shared some photos with me, as you probably know, like the one of Kay Taylor singing with Steve and Les on saxes. Maybe I came into the band after Les.

      I know after Bob Andrews left Kay Taylor and the Regents, he went on to form another version of the Regents (with Dunc and Judi) and he then invited me to join that group. That would probably be the reason I left the Silhouettes. If you think my memory of all this is distorted, please let me know.

      I fully realize all of this stuff is ancient history and probably doesn’t mean a thing to anyone else.

      I can remember before playing at the Note, I was playing with a guitar player, Jim Bishop, and Fred was the drummer in that band too. I assume you have read my account of the Toronto Sound of The 60s. Hope I got most of what I said correct. You seem to have a good memory so maybe you can advise.
      – Russ

    • It would be great to see interior photos of the Bluenote. Anyone who went to the club back in the 60s, as I did, would really be blown away.

  91. Thanks for your efforts to run down Yonge Street’s famous watering holes of yesteryear. I saw and heard Errol Garner at the Colonial and the Town on a few occasions, and there was a jazz organist, Lloyd Bury(sp?) who played at a hotel on the west side of Jarvis Street. George’s Spaghetti House, Dundas and Sherbourne, was also popular during my time with jazz greats such as Moe Kaufman, Peter Appleyard, Phil Nimmons and Rob McConnell of Boss Brass featured. Those were the days.

    • Great to hear from you, Ron. Yes, those were the days… I was firmly planted on the playing ground with one foot in jazz and the other in pop music. Jazz was where I got my inspiration… Pop was were I made a bit of money … haha. – Russ

  92. A bit of info on the Colonial. My parents used to go there after dining at Bassel’s. Over the years they saw Theolonius Monk, Wild Bill
    Davidson,Miles Davis among others. Monk sat down at the piano one night, played two notes and walked out the front door. Fifteen minutes later he came back in, sat down, and played. Needed inspiration or something I guess.
    This is a fabulous production-brings back so many memories.
    Thank you.

  93. Where have all the suits and dresses gone on today’s musicians? Ruth

  94. What a fantastic, important contribution to our cultural heritage! Congratulations and adulation to the people involved!

  95. WOW what a great walk down memory lane. So many great players came out of the Toronto music scene, Yorkville included. Some have passed away, some gave it up and some were inspired to dedicate their life to studying and teach music. Check out David Wood’s website, the younger brother of Harold Wood (Long & McQuade) the main music instrument store in Toronto every musicians go to destination.
    Seeing some of the names who has posted comments is also a treat, Brian Massey if you read this contact me, back from your years as a sheet metal worker.

    • You have my attention Bill, WAZUP ?

      • Brian: Now that was a real surprise. When I saw your name here I couldn’t believe it. Do you still live in Toronto? I live in the country just north of Belleville for the past 9 years. Other e-mail address btexec@yahoo.ca
        Did you check out davidwoodjazzbo.com? This is one of the projects I’m involved with since retiring from 21 years the film business in 2000.

  96. Barbara Lee-Little

    Wonderful memories !!

  97. Maybe I missed it but John Finley was popular act at that time. John and Lee and the Checkmates and then Rhinocerus.

  98. I was the Drummer for Fat Chance. We played at the Le Coq’Dor, the Colonial, the Famous Door, the Coal Bin and other places, including the Strawberry Fields pop festival at Mosport Race track in 1970. We shared offices, rehearsal space and management with Ronnie Hawkins on the third floor above the Le Coq’D’Or and The Hawk’s next. I am still a close friend of Ronnie and his family. Great times !

  99. Lloyd Welke ( Honky Tonk Outlaw)

    Great journey down Memory Lane… Lots of great artists and some of the venues are gone but the memories are still there.

  100. What a lot of great stories and information. I hung out at just about every place on the strip in 68-71 and saw a lot of great musicians. I am sure glad I was around for most of the action. I tried my hand at guitar and organ for a few years but only in a few obscure cover bands. Finally got a “real” job with shift work and that was the end of my music career. Still I don;t regret a minute of it.

  101. Great pic and history Russ!!! I’ll get back with some of more Yonge St gig stuff soon!!

  102. loved the colonial, the rest- not so much

  103. Another great Band from Toronto “The Last Words”Keep up the great work Guys

  104. Thanks for the memories Russ. Gratifying to see The Last Words mentioned in the comments. We played some of the venues in your blog, but we were more “pop” than R&B. We were, however, R&B wannabees and looked up to all the musicians mentioned.
    Thanks again,
    Bill Dureen (Keyboards and vocals..The Last Words)

  105. Denny MacDougall

    Agreed Russ with your reply to Bill’s comment regarding the Last Words. We requested their hits I Symbolise You and Give Me Time at a gig they played at York University until they became annoyed with us and would not perform them one more time. They were part of a weekend music festival which also featured the McCoys and Neil Diamond. Very much apart of the Toronto 60’s sound.

  106. Terrific article Russ!

    I’ve emailed you a letter which you’ve read already, but I wanted to make the article public so that others here could read it. I’ve posted it on my website:
    http://anthonycarrpsychic.com/index.php?url=music/torontosound

    • Hi Anthony / Tony
      Your letter blew me away… so much great information. That was a real L.O.L. moment for me to read that you were at the Hawks Nest the night King Curtis blew my new Selmer. Man, we have been leading sort of parallel lives to some extent, with maybe just one degree of separation at times.

      I am glad to see that you have published your letter on your web site. Thank you for all your kind words and supporting what we do the way you have. Your information really goes quite well with our Toronto Sound article, filling in a lot of the blanks for the reader.

      I still play with Sonny Milne… too funny. We’ll have to get together next time I get down to Toronto. I can get Sonny to join us.

      Take care, man.
      – Russ

    • Sir: This is one of the most interesting, and fluid, accounts of this subject that I have ever read! And you allude to Yorkville as well. The ‘letter’ will be a valuable addition to Mr. Standlee’s collection. Thankyou.

  107. Really enjoyed Anthony Carr’s blog on those early days of the thriving Toronto music scene. I remember a lot of the characters he describes so beautifully. GREAT story, Anthony!

  108. Today has been a powerful experience in re-visiting the musical past and this site has been a welcome part of it. I would like to know if someone knows of a way to contact “Little Diane”. Our paths crossed in a band just prior to her time with the Majestics.
    Had the good fortune to do a bit of playing with Mike Harrison, Val Stevens and Kenny Marco.

    Thanks for this wonderful site.

    • Hi Mike – I do not have any special communication channels with people like Little Diane… sorry I can’t help you. Maybe someone else reading this blog could assist?
      – Russ

      PS – did OUR paths ever cross?

      • Mike Brewes

        Probably not, Russ. I was at the periphery of the scene and entered it in its later period. Mike Harrison was my first personal contact. I still remembe that moment very well.

    • Mike Harrison

      Hey, McTavish!

  109. Angela Penfound

    Thank you Russ. .what a great read☺

  110. Just came across this thanks to a friend. Joe King was my father in law. Although I was disappointed that you didn’t have any live music archived, it was nice of your to mention him. When he passed about 6 years ago, I inscribe the “King of Yonge Street” on his tombstone. If you know where I can locate any live music from his band, please let me know. All the best! Jeff Albert

  111. I was in the band Fat Chance. We shared rehearsal and office space with Ronnie Hawkins above the Le Coq D’Or tavern. We played there and most of the clubs mentioned and recorded for Capital Records in 1969 It was a great time and The Hawk is still my close friend.

    • Hi Paul! Those were great days with lots of work for everybody. I heard from my bass player friend Sam, and my keyboard friend Walter, that Fat Chance was a very busy group touring for Harold Kudlets all over the place and down into the States. (Maybe we should do a blog about them.) Keep up the blowing. We need to keep it going. – Russ

  112. Thanks Russ. I am still playing now that I am 64. In two bands in Vancouver. an 8 piece blues and R&B bad with sax, trumpet and violin and a 7 piece rock group. Making ten’s of dollars!

  113. Ray Harrison here..i spent many years playing Yonge st…Brass Rail Zanzibar friars tavern , Colonial..town tavern etc It was an amazing era for sure..played with many of the guys you have listed here too …..those were the days !!!!

  114. Left out the Holiday Tavern at Bathurst and Queen, Great article ! !

  115. Hi Russ…..always a fun time with you in the band…..two saxes was always one of my favourite sounds and times at the Bluenote ’61-61….
    All the best to you….
    Tommy Graham…Kay Taylor and the Regents

    • Hey Tommy
      Great to hear from you, man. Thanks for the kind words, coming from a PRO. Those were definitely very special times.
      And thanks for the “carbon dating” with your time machine. 1961 sounds about right.
      Where’s our next gig together?
      – Russ

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