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.

61RussSax
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. 

I also enjoyed the opportunity of being a recording session player to a small extent at places like ARC Sound – no earth shattering top hits, but one song (“Me and You” by the Regents) made Toronto’s CHUM charts and I have recording credits on several LP albums. I also got to appear on television (CBC’s “Where It’s At”).

As I take you through three significant time periods of my musical journey, this post will touch on various venues where music was happening during that era…

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

musicline08

The Early 1960’s on the yonge street strip

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

AA-Steeles-Sam

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.

YongeStripSpots

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. 

Now, over the decades since my happy salad days, RIT has grown considerably. It has expanded its boundaries, gobbling up a lot of familiar landmarks, taverns and other hot spots, and morphed into the highly regarded Ryerson University of 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).

Gone, with Ryerson’s expansion, are places once occupied by “Sam The Record Man”, “A and A Records”  and other spots along that large 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 Dave and Irv Cooper brothers as a live music venue, featuring jazz, pop music, and blues. (By contrast, today there are not too many places where you can enjoy live musical entertainment while having a drink or a meal.)

At the Zanzibar, entertainment manager Dave Cooper had me signed Toronto Musicians Union contracts (Local 149 of the A.F. of M.) as I was the front man for a group called “The Ramblers”.  Back in those days, I think a lot of pop groups named themselves after cars.

ramblers(2)
1960 – The Ramblers: Chris, John, Russ, Ron, Peter

At the Zanzibar we played 6 nights a week and a Saturday afternoon matinee. This went on 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

.

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

echos
Tommy Danton & The Echos – L-R: Al Manning, Nick Bassel * , Bill Mulhall, Tom Gilboe, Tommy Danton

Tommy Danton & The Echos / Oh Yeah

To slightly digress, the Echos bass player, Nick Bassel, is a great guy. I used to play with him back in the late 1950’s. It was in a suburb north of Toronto called Thornhill, and this band, “Al Hepburn & The Houndogs”, was the first gig where I got paid ($3.00) to play.

Nick Bassel had perfect pitch. He could tell you the name of any note he heard, and whether it was in tune or not. If you broke wind, he would say that’s a certain note. Nick started out playing the violin and went on to (acoustic) Kay bass and then Fender 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
Bassel’s Restaurant – across the street from Club Blue Note.

.

Remember match books?

BasselsMatchbook
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.

notesLine

349 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…

StreelesPoster

… 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.

Lightfoot-Steeles
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.

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

Lazaroff

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.

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

Ray Hutchinson was very popular back then.

BeauMarks
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)
.
1960 / Clap your hands / Ray Hutchinson, lead vocal / # 1 Canada & Australia / #45 BB
.
1961 / Billy Billy went a Walkin’ / #39 Canada (Gary’s Favourite)
.
1961 / Classmate / #4 Chum Chart
.

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

.

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

Hawkins-20110320-YongeSt_JerryJohnnyRonnieRickRobbie
Jerry, Johnny, Ronnie, Rick, Robbie
?
?

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

91e0c1eb9cd53a5c2ab4fa0b148474a5
Ronnie Hawkins with Levon Helm on drums

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

.

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.

RobbieRobertson
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.

JoeKingZaniacs
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

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

.

fredgordjohnw
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.

.

DC-and-The-Shays
David Clayton Thomas & the Shays
.
1964 / Boom Boom / Walk that Walk  #3
.
David Clayton Thomas & the Bossmen
1966 / Brainwashed / #11

Other regular attractions at the Friar’s…

FriarsShow

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

RobbieLane
Robbie Lane & The Disciples

Robbie Lane & The Disciples / 1964 / “Fanny Mae

.

 

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

notesLine

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, Bill Mulhall, was having some health 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

.

notesLine

Ascot Hall – Corner of Keele and Annette

AscotHall

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.

rp1a
Red Prysock – Photo: Russ Strathdee
sh2a
Shirley & Lee – Photo: Russ Strathdee
jr2a
Jimmy Reed – Photo: Russ Strathdee
Jackie2a
Jackie Shane – Photo: Russ Strathdee

Jackie Shane / Any Other Way

Franka
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:

.

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.

.

notesLine

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

musicline08

1963 – 1966 : club bluenote and the Regents Years

Club Bluenote

bluenoteCard

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.

David.Doug1
Doug Riley (back right) developed a life-long relationship with David Clayton Thomas

.

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

BluenoteKayTaylor
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.

DianneBrooks

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

.

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.”

rogues
George Olliver (front centre) – The Five Rogues

1975 / George Olliver / Mandala/ Opportunity

.

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.

DrMusic

Dr Music track 1 / Long Time Comin’ Home 

.

Dr Music track 2 / On The Road 

.

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 

.

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

.

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.

notesLine

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.

Regents66Club888

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.

Regents-GoingPlaces-b

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

Masonic3

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.

notesLine

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

consuls
If…(I Found A New Girl) / Columbia

notesLine

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

notesLine

The Canadian Squires

Squires

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 /

notesLine

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

.

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

.

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.

.

notesLine

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).

JackLondonSparrows
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

notesLine

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

.

musicline08

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

fullband
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.

CCF03272011_00001
“Where It’s At” dancing studio audience with guest Little Diane backed by the Majestics (all in lovely green suits)
CCF03262011_00003
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?

cbcColour

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… /

.

notesLine

Other Toronto Artists (While I Was With The Majestics)

Grant Smith and the Power
GrantSmith
1968/ Keep on Running /
.
musicline08
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–

337 thoughts on “The Toronto Sound Of The 60’s”

  1. 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)

    Like

  2. 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.

    Like

    1. 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

      Like

    2. 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.

      Like

  3. 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!

    Like

  4. 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.

    Like

    1. 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?

      Like

      1. 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.

        Like

  5. 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

    Like

  6. 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.

    Like

    1. 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

      Like

  7. 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!

    Like

  8. 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 !!!!

    Like

    1. Ray Harrison…were you the organ player with Sonny & the Sequins at the Brass Rail around 1965-6? Sandra Miller was the go-go dancer at that time. If it is you, I have photos of you in an album. Always wondered if you stayed on in music.

      Like

  9. 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

    Like

    1. 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

      Like

  10. Hi Russ, You probably don’t remember me but when we were teenagers I played drums and we played together on a few gigs at frat houses, schools, church halls and a legion in Willowdale a few times. We played with the likes of Jim Dixon, Paul Weldon, Nick Bassil, Bob Andrews and Al Sumpter.

    My name is Rob Bush and I thank you for this trip down memory lane.

    Like

  11. Thanks for this trip down Memory Lane Russ!
    What was the name of the downstairs bar played by Fats Domino in the 60s … off Yonge Street on perhaps Bay with a rather nice hotel upstairs? Thanks!

    Like

  12. Wow, our band would play at the Chez Monique as a house band, Lornnie Adams & The Soul Gents in the summers after Jack London and The Sparrows left to become Steppenwolf. I recall all of the clubs and my favorites were the Purple Onion where Luke and the Apostle’s played. Then I’d wander over to the Avenue Road Club to watch Grant Smith and the Power. Brings back memories of all the great times in my teens.

    Like

    1. Hi Wayne
      After playing with the Majestics, I worked with a house band at the Avenue Road Club called “White Wail” – this would have been in the early 70’s. Grant Smith would have moved on to other things by then. I think he played in a part of the Avenue Road Club called “The Devil’s Den”. Murray Campbell was the cool manager at that time. Does that ring any bells? – Russ

      Like

      1. Hi Russ, I know you wrote this a long time ago and may not see it but Murray was my grandfather, though he passed before I ever met him.
        I’ve been trying to learn more about him and his life.. do you have
        any memories of him? Info you could share?

        Like

    2. Hello Gerry,
      Charlie Miller was my best friend at the start of high school. Through Charlie, I met his brother Ralph (who I played trumpet with) who was also a founding member with Charlie of The Power. Met all of the group members at The Devil’s Den many times, and attended Grant’s wedding ceremony there (still have a few color pictures at the wedding).
      Best.
      Peter Waters

      Like

      1. Thanks for the reply, Peter. Can I be cheeky enough to ask you if you would be kind enough to get scans of any photos (or negatives) with Charlie and Ralph if and when you get a chance?
        I don’t have a single image of either of them. Falling out of touch with Charlie is one of my life’s regrets. I would of course reimburse you for any expenses you might incur. Many thanks IF YOU CAN!
        gorbals406 AT gmail DOT com

        Like

  13. I worked for Murray Campbell in the Devil’s Den with Steve Bach. The late Charlie Miller, one of the two-drummer setup of the Power, was a good friend. Originally, the band was called E.G. Smith and The Power. Good memories!

    Like

    1. Originally. the band was called Eddie Spencer and The Power. Grant replaced Eddie on January 1, 1967, and Stoney joined as the second drummer a couple of weeks later.

      Like

      1. Hi Guys! My high school mates in Oakville included Scott Cushnie – his father taught me Chemistry at Blakelock – and Charlie (Chuck) Daniels.
        Both hit the road to join a band … I wonder if your archives can tell the rest of the story? Thanks!

        Like

  14. Great site, thanks! You mention that the Silver Rail didn’t have a lot of music. Oddly enough, though, it was one of the last places for live music on Yonge St. In the 1990s they had quite a few jazz trios playing there (I had the pleasure of seeing Don Franks singing with Steve Hunter playing piano). It also has another GREAT claim to musical fame, being the bar that Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and Bud Powell drank at the evening of their “Great Concert at Massey Hall”!

    Like

    1. Hi Paul
      I stand corrected and informed. Wow – I loved Don Franks, not to mention those jazz giants of the Massey Hall concert. In the 1990s, I was living another musical life in Barrie and seldom got to enjoy live music of the “big smoke” (Toronto).
      Thanks so much for sharing. – Russ

      Like

  15. Russ and Gary, I can’t thank you enough for all the work you have done on this, a history of Toronto music of the 60’s. I was only a kid still at school, playing with various mostly unknown bands, and frequenting all of the clubs on Yonge st. We did a couple places at the village like Che Monique and Place Pigualle. Most memorable, was catching Lenny Breau at a club just south of Bloor on Yonge st. N.E. corner, side street, with Terry Clarke and Don Thompson. I got to talk to George Benson at the Colonial between sets, great down to earth guy. I caught Levon and the Hawks at the time just before they joined with Dylan at the Friars, The Rogues at Club Bluenote after hours, when Kenny Rogers and the First Eddition walked in after their cfto gig. I listened at the door of the Brown Derby to Joe King and the Zaniacs, also Le Coq d’or and other clubs. Later in the early 70’s, I joined forces with some guys that were gigging at the Speak Easy on Bloor st.with Toby Lark. We formed a Funk and Soul band, called “Fellowship”. We played the Yonge St. Strip, like Colonial, Le Coq D’or and all the other clubs, like Piccadelli Tube, Forge, and especially the Generator, where we followed Rush one time, and all the big clubs in town, not to mention Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and gigs in Michigan and Ohio. Most memorable in the 70’s was Tower of Power at the Colonial, what a band, the whole audience was a who’s who of Toronto musicians. we took the week off, there every night. That’s when they had Lenny Pickett on tenor, Chester Thompson B3, and Lenny Williams on vocals. We played the Embassy on Bloor st, there was a wall behind the stage where everyone that played there had their autographs on the wall. Proud to say, I signed under Louis Armstrong. I remember all the bands you mentioned and played for, loved all the songs, caught a lot at school dances. I listened to chum all the time as I was a hit picker for my school, this was a period in my life that I loved and treasured. Unfortunately, my memory is not as it used to be, and you, Russ and Gary, have renewed it to a large extent. Once again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Like

    1. Hey Evan
      Those were definitely SWEET times in our young lives.
      Thank you for all your kind words, plus sharing your own (similar) journey through the music time machine.
      – Russ

      Like

  16. Russ thanks for doing this, I’m 70 now and remember so many of these great, great groups. My favourite was the Bluenote on Yonge St for sure. Maybe someone mentioned this but another favourite of mine was The Palm Grove Lounge, downstairs from the Embassy at Bloor & Bellair. Great groups there, many from the US.
    Thanks again
    Bob Elliott

    Like

    1. I also went to the Palm Grove Lounge. I saw Wayne Cochran & The CC Riders there with Ralph Miller of Grant Smith & The Power. What a show, including Cochran stepping up on to the Hammond B3 ghen grabbing the ceiling tile ripping one large piece off and throwing it into the crowd. Holy Moly!

      Like

      1. Thanks for that reminder about the name and location of the Palm Grove Lounge … I’ll never forget seeing many of our legends in that downstairs showcase, Fats Domino included!

        Like

  17. WOW…what a great piece of Toronto music history. Thank You Russ. In my area, when we didn’t travel downtown, we would drop in at the Cambridge Hotel (The Bridge) and see some great Motown sounding cover groups…like Robert E Lee and others, I totally forget. How you remember all these details…loved it. (The Chicken Deli…Robbie Laine was there for years…maybe still is? He has a great radio show now and adds so much of his own personal memories/information when introducing songs, etc)….

    Like

    1. Thanks, Steve, for your appreciation of our post. Yes, I have SOME vivid memories of trivial stuff that means nothing to most people today. Yet remembering to read blog comments and deal with today’s issues is much more challenging lol – Russ

      Like

  18. Hi Russ. Great anthology! It must have taken years! Question, got any Blue Note pix of the the Charmaines with Shirley Matthews, her sister Joyce, Dianne Brooks & Mimi, also one of me? You sent me one but I can’t find it.
    Thanks again. The memories abound.
    Mike Holman

    Like

  19. Tommy Graham…
    HI Russ,…back here again……how did you remember all this….(must have been before marijuana…lol….
    Bluenote anthology…..
    started with Bobby Dean and the Gems as the first group for a short time…then myself, Brian Massey, Steve Kennedy – KayTaylor and the Regents, for a couple of years…(where we all learned how to be real musicians….floor show- artist from the USA performing in Toronto all showed up at the Bluenote…Al Steiner of course talked them into doing a song or 2 on the Floorshow….the Regents had to just Jam it…scary but wonderful magic…..Russ you did a couple of gigs with us….love those twin tenor saxes……Sometime Brian and I would do some not rehearst skits on the floor show….one time Brian did a magic bit where he asked for Boyd Carter’s (famous football player from the
    Toronto team), new silk very expensive tie…..got the sissors out and cut the tie in half…..then proceeded to roll it up in his hand to magically reassemble…opened his hands and Boyd’s tie fell to ground still in 2 parts….Boyd was really pissed….lol…the crowd loved it of course…..
    Then after K.T.and the Regents were the Sillhouettes…..etc etc…..what great band….and great years……
    hgmusic100@yahoo.ca

    Like

    1. Hey Tommy
      You have a very detailed recall of the “Bluenote anthology” and I love the magical Massey story where he cut Boyd Carter’s tie. Too funny!
      Just one thing I might add to that “anthology” era… It seems to me that Jay Smith & The Majestics were a fixture at the Note during those early days.
      – Russ

      Like

      1. Hi Russ….not to my knowledge at least before the silhouettes were the house band…..
        All the best,
        Tommy

        Like

    2. I was there around 1965-67 and the floor show started at 12:00 a.m. and went to 2:00 a.m..Am I correct on that?

      Like

      1. Hi Don – I believe you are correct about the time slot for Steiner’s Bluenote Floor Show… and NO alcoholic beverages were permitted for this after-hours teen club. I can remember pop machines as you headed for the dance floor.
        – Russ

        Like

      2. 1061-63…..sounds right but floor show probably only went on for an hour or a little bit more….
        Tommy

        Like

      3. My memory may be off a bit. I remember Diane Brooks and Eric Mercury. Any idea when they played there?

        Like

      4. She must have come back later because I was only 14 in 1962 and I did not attend the Bluenote until after highschool year 1965.

        Like

      5. I’m pretty sure that both Dianne and a young Joanne performed with Bobby Dupont’s ‘the Statlers’ (the Bluenote’s final houseband) during ’67 to ”69.

        Like

      6. Dianne’s early career in Canada is hard to pin down – as it is with many once school is over and there’s no ability to peg dates to stuff like the home-room teacher. And as Dianne had been recording (for Savoy out of NJ) since, ’57 home room was a distant memory for her. Her own best guess was that she moved to Toronto in ’60 or ’61 (thanks to agent Billy O’Connor). From what she and others told me over the years, she sang regularly at the Bluenote with the Silhouettes and Whitey and the Roulettes. And then she and Steve Kennedy joined Eric Mercury in the Soul Searchers – in ’65 or ’66 (at which point Domenic Troiano took over from Steve as musical director of the Roulettes, who changed their name to the Rogues (or Five Rogues).

        Like

  20. Hi Russ, something people don’t remember about the Blue Note. In the very early days there was a small kitchen area where you could get a sandwich and coffee from a Chinese man by the name of Pinky. I remember him well because he always made me a plate of chicken fried rice when I asked for it. I was special then and I still am.
    Brian Massey

    Like

  21. Loved your trip down memory lane. I was Jamie Taylor of jamie Taylor and the climax band. Worked the Hawks nest broom and stone jubilee pavilion and many others from 1967-70. Opened for mandala and worked alongside the power Jackie Shane and so many great artists of the time. You certainly made my day reading your detailed info on one of the greatest music scenes ever. Thanks so much.

    Like

  22. Russ, will respond soon as just now my portable a/c overflowed and flooded half my apt. Apres ca la deluge! lol Up late reading all the contributions..remember I am sort of an interloper here, not a musician and left Toronto in ’57.But lots of bits and pieces throughout more than a half century to add to your grand portrait which is massive. Look forward.

    Like

      1. I always love your blog post Russ, and it was good to see that picture of Booby Kris and The Imperials, it’s amazes me how thin I was back then! 😂
        Although I’m playing around town a lot with big bands and smaller jazz groups, my years spent playing R & B with both The Imperials and The Majestics were some of my best memories. And how many of us can say they have friends like you that they have known for well over 50 years. We need to play together again! BigDaddy

        Like

      2. Hey man – we need to play together again for sure. I wonder if Eric is up to it?
        Chris lives a bit far away now. We could get Russ Little on ‘bone.
        Even a rehearsal band would be fun.
        – Russ

        Like

  23. Great info about a terrific era in Toronto music. So many amazing musicians. Can you tell me the name of the bar that was on the east side of Belair just north of Bloor and it had a huge area downstairs??? Driving me crazy to locate the name.

    Like

      1. My recollection is … Embassy Billiards on second floor, Embassy ‘Tavern’ on main floor and Palm Grove Lounge downstairs.

        Like

      2. You nailed it guys! It was the The Fat Man in the Palm Grove Lounge so long ago. He predicted correctly when he rocked with “I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday!” Thanks for that walk down Memory Lane.

        Like

      3. Wasn’t there an entrance into the Belair side of the Embassy to a bar called “The Wild Knight Room” with a Gents and Escorts door ??

        Like

      4. Something tells me that is that era it would have been “Ladies and Escorts”, not Gents… 🙂

        Like

    1. Wouldn’t this be downstairs at the Embassy Tavern?   I think of it fondly because in ’75 or ’76 Richard Flohill arranged  a 10th ‎anniversary event for band Sweet Blindness (née the Statlers) and invited old-timers from the ’60s scene. (I wasn’t one, but got to go because I’d lent Richard my old Toronto 45s for the jukebox in the room – they got a lot of play.)I got to meet a bunch of key guys from the old days, including Duff Roman, Robbie Lane, Stan Klees‎ and Rick James. Robbie is still a friend, as is Duff – and as is Richard.   Stan later spent hours going over his history with me at the RPM offices, and Rick James had me over to his apartment on Tichester for a cup of tea.   He had the Mynah Birds 45 hanging on his wall. Bill Munson    From: Russ & Gary’s The Best Years of MusicSent: Tuesday, January 22, 2019 12:01To: billmunson@bell.netReply To: Russ & Gary’s “The Best Years of Music”Subject: [New comment] The Toronto Sound Of The 60’s

      a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; }

      a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; }

      /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com John B commented: “Great info about a terrific era in Toronto music. So many amazing musicians. Can you tell me the name of the bar that was on the east side of Belair just north of Bloor and it had a huge area downstairs??? Driving me crazy to locate the name.”

      Like

      1. Yes, Bobby Dupont and Phil Smith celebrated 10 years (67-77) since the Statlers (later Sweet Blindness) entered residency at the original Club Bluenote. Richard made it into a big deal, as usual (with thanks).

        Like

  24. I do not know when the Nickelodeon was established or if it used a different name in an earlier incarnation. It was a venue that provided an debut entry to the Yonge St. strip for many acts. The Proprietor was a lovely, gracious woman named Martha. She would dress elegantly and greet her guests at the door. The club was on an upper level accessed by a tiny stairway – providing a brutal load-in for a Hammond and Leslie.
    The neighbourhood I was born in (Keele & Lawrence) had a number of players. John Witmer (Whiskey Howl) was five houses down. Up around the corner was Walter Zwolinski. Wally started out on accordion which seemed a tad hokey. I remember being blown away when he got a Hammond and set it up in his garage to rehearse with his band ‘The Cymbol’ (or something like that – it was a peculiar spelling). Ed Shaw played drums with that band.
    Rob Theodore and brothers Robert and Michael (Robbie Roxx later, earlier ‘The Soul Reason’) were a couple of streets over. As I was born in 1953 I was not old enough to get into the many listed clubs at the times referenced. I played keyboards for Bobby Dupont in the mid ’80’s. Routinely, old friends would come out to see him and often come on-stage for a tune or two.
    The first big concert I attended was at Maple Leaf Stadium. Opening act was the 5 Rogues, an introduction to Blue-Eyed Soul. The Animals were another undercard to Hermin’s Hermits.

    Like

  25. I see that Jackie Shane has died at age 74 in Memphis. An unusual human being for sure. The only ” live recording ” of her that I have heard was done at the Saphire Tavern and the sound was pretty bad.

    On another tangent.. Do you remember a guy called Freddy McNulty, who was a sort of band mascot for Hawkins ? He was a great dancer, but he wasn’t very good with the social graces. Rumour was that his Father was a Superior court Judge.

    A final question. I was one of the “young guys ” who worked at the Trocadero on Bloor west near Jane. I remember a singer named Eugene ” Jay ” Smith from MImico, appearing there with the Majestics. I think he is still working as Jay Smith and The Work Out Band. Is my memory correct about Jay Smith ?

    Thanks Jim B.

    Like

    1. Eugene Smith is still going strong, based in BC with visits to the Toronto area a couple times a year.  The Warm-Up Band hung up its skates ages ago, but got together for a couple of reunion shows over the last two or three years (with Grant Slater replacing the late Teddy Grimes).  I saw him playing in Victoria last month with just a bassist and he sounds great.  A musical gem – always has been. By coincidence, I found a couple of his '70s 45s at the Kop's Collectables store on the Danforth last week.  I had the impression that they had multiple copies.  Some of his material has found its way onto CD – on compilation released by the Pacemaker label and various sold-from-the-stage efforts.  Unfortunately, the material of Eugene that I like the very best is only available on vinyl: the Lucifer album produced in Detroit by HDH in 1970 and a couple of the Goldfish label 45s, the very best of which was at Kop's, "Freight Train" / "Piece Of Wood".  

      Like

  26. Eugene “Jay” Smith is still going strong and must have the genes. He looks great and sounds great. Funny stories…he was offered the opportunity to do “Me and Bobbie McGee” , before Janis. A song by a guy who was sweeping the recording studio in exchange for recording time… Kris Kristofferson. He turned it down as he didn’t care for it. Needless to say, the rest is history but the cut recorded by Janis had Jay’s former band mates in the Hawks backing her as the Full Tilt Boogie Band.

    Like

  27. As a teenage growing up in Hamilton it was a thrill grabbing a Gray Coach bus and zooming over to Toronto to wander around Yorkville and catch the vibe – seeing a few shows at the Riverboat (Gordon Lightfoot and Seals and Crofts). I was too young to get into a bar, but managed to catch a church dance show eioth Shawne and Jay Jackson & The Majestics, a high school dance with Grant Smith & The Power and Motherlode in the basement of the Hamilton ‘YMCA.” Their set list was so short they did “When I Die” to open and close the set.
    So many years later in the late 90’s and early 2000’s it was exciting to be working in Toronto radio – playing these oldies on 1050 CHUM. While at CHUM it was so cool to become friends with Robbie Lane, meet George Olliver, Jon Findlay and Keith Hampshire.
    Thanks for the excellent blog – a lot of great stories and history.
    Charlie O’Brien
    former DJ 1050 CHUM / CKLW Windsor-Detroit

    Like

  28. Fred Keeler passed away July 14th 2019. A truly sweet gentle and very talented musician. His son, Jessie, has carried on his legacy and Fred would be proud of him. RIP Freddie!

    Like

      1. There is a celebration of Freddie’s life taking place Saturday August 10th at The Bridge Church for All Nations in Pickering and Rebecca would welcome anyone interested in coming out.

        Like

    1. Sad news. I saw Fred play many times with David Clayton Thomas and the Shays. Never tired of hearing his solo on their version of Boom Boom. I am certain he inspired many including myself to pickup a guitar and learn to play. A pretty good legacy I would say.

      Like

  29. Sunfish camp in the 40s. I became a professor of insects. You had a dachshund and we kept in touch after returning to the east end. I’m impressed by your account of a music scene of the 50s. Best
    Glenn Morris

    Like

  30. Greetings In this terrific blog which is a treasure trove of music trivia …for those of us that can remember….you mention Gord Fleming. Is this the same guy who arranged the charts on several of those terrific Keith Hampshire records. I called them the ‘ Canadian Wall of Sound’! They sort of jumped out of the radio back in the day. Let me know when you have time. Cheers

    Like

    1. Gord Fleming – the B3 guru from Toronto (not the accordian guy from Montreal) – was indeed the same guy who arranged the charts for Keith Hampshire. I was married to him at the time, and loved watching the process of those songs coming to life. Keith Hampshire is still alive, well, and singing up a storm.

      Like

  31. anyone remember a band out of Oshawa – Bobby Ray and the Du-Kanes – Frank Pollard, a booking agent was in that band – Billy on lead ruined the top of the piano (jumped all over it – had to be refinished) doing a gig in Belleville, Ontario, Moira Secondary, a local high school – but they did a song with horns better than Bobby Bland and his blues band – ‘Turn on Your Lovelight”. I outlined this info. in a previous blog – signing off – david

    Like

      1. The Du-Kanes drummer and leader was Frank Pollard. Billy was most likely Bill Goguen aka “wild billy dancer”. Bobby Ray [Brown] has passed some years ago.

        Like

    1. Billy must’ve been Billy Dalziel (Diel), subsequently with Jerry Warren and the Tremblers, Larry Lee and the Leesures and the Quorum (and much more). In recent years he was doing a tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis show. The only Du-Kanes record I know of is a 45 from ’65 or ’66 where they back Ross Campbell.

      Like

  32. I remember those days well especially the club blue note. My partner and I Cheryl were Debbie and Sherry the Manhattan a go go dancers and we featured on the floor show at midnight on the weekends. We also did other gigs around the city especially with the group called The Manhattans hence our name Debbie and Sherry the Manhattan a go-go dancers. Went to Doug Rileys wedding when he was (briefly) married to Claudette.

    Like

      1. Russ: I was told many, many years ago that it’s Claudette on the cover of the first Majestics LP. Who is on the cover of the LP that Jackie Gabriel sings on?

        Like

      2. Claudette was on the LP “Here Come The Judge” ARC 780.
        She may have been on the first LP “Instrumental R&B” ARC 732 but I am not sure.

        Like

      3. To tie two recent threads together, pianist Billy Diel and his bandmates in Quorum backed Jackie Gabriel on a 45 she did in the ’70s.

        Like

    1. YES- REMEMBER WELL- ALSO KNOWN WHERE ALOT OF MUSICIANS PLAYING THE YONGE ST. CIRCUT-WOULD GO AND JAM- A LOT OF GREAT TALENT – MANY SURPRISE NAMES SHOWED UP THERE-

      Sent from Mail for Windows 10

      Like

  33. Straight-up fantastic, I do applaud your time on this very worthwhile project. I often wondered why Q107 on Psychedelic Sunday never did (that I know of) a day on the Toronto Sound. I have lived and played in Toronto all my life and we really did have a great deal of wonderful bands. I have some posters of concerts that I attended, Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, The Rock & Roll Revival, The Trans Canada Pop Festival, The Bump & Grind Revue with Mainline and The Last Show at the Elmo, again with Mainline. I am missing more than I have and was wondering if you had any idea where any/some could be acquired, thanks and again, great work.

    Like

  34. Hey Russ,

    You may not remember me but I think we met at the Earl Haig S.S. 75th Reunion in 2003. We had a good chat about our respective days at the Haig and the music teachers of the day mine being Mr. Cringan where I learned to play alto sax. I was also responsible for putting together the playlist of music that played out of the Haig’s Radio Station Room on the 2nd floor of the school and was pumped into the halls and theme rooms of that memorable event. I’m a big fan of the music from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s etc. and I still have my original collection of 45’s, LP’s and reel to reel tapes of music form these era’s. I still have my 45 version of Classmate by the Beaumarks which is still one of my older brother and my faves. I also have a copy of a later Jack London and The Sparrows 45 on Capitol Records called If you Don’t Want My Love that I played over and over in my teen years. Shirley Matthews doing Big Town Boy was also a fabulous tune. Many years later (1990’s/early 2000’s), I recall Don Daynard from CHFI saying that Shirley was living in Unionville where I was residing at that time.
    Your anthology on the Toronto Music Scene is an incredible one. You have great collection of stories, pictures, music clips and videos that I was blown away with this historical walk down the memory lane of Yonge Street with all it’s clubs, bars and the phenomenal music scene that existed during those days.
    I want to congratulate you on this phenomenal accomplishment that will exist forever and in perpetuity.. I plan to share it with many. God willing, maybe we will cross paths once again in 2028 when the Haig will be celebrating it’s 100th Anniversary.

    Best wishes Russ. Take care and be well.

    Cheers, Marty Silver (Earl Haig Graduate 1971)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s