How could you not get up and dance
Just how does one define a sound on paper when it is something that our sense of sight can only influence marginally? Sound is something that you hear, feel and what you see in a musical presentation is just icing on the cake but does help the total production. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need to physically go to see a live performance since the recorded media would be sufficient, and nothing can ever replace being there "in the room", taking in all that hypnotizes the audience.
This article will attempt to define what the “Toronto Sound” of the mid-sixties embodied. It comes from the perspective of a teenager (now a lot older, and maybe more understanding) that grew up in the midst of that era. Having worked at various clubs, running school dances and visiting many of the venues that presented the creators of the Toronto Sound coupled with a more than basic understanding of playing musical instruments, qualifies the writer to comment on the make-up of the sound, in his hands-on opinion.
An important factor in the basis of the sound was that the legal drinking age in Toronto in the ‘60s was 21 years of age and bars were not open on Sunday’s. A lot of the patrons and band members could not set foot in the Yonge Street bars that featured other styles of performance so there were lots of venues that catered to this emerging crowd seeking musical entertainment and a place to find some dance partners. No one sat during a performance of music from any of the groups that played the Toronto Sound. You danced to this music because the beat just enticed you to do so. Some of the locations opened their doors to this crowd on Sunday since no alcohol was being served “legally”. Like many locations the patrons would drift in and out of the venue for various reasons. Also the bands were available to perform on Sunday since their nightclub gigs were suspended for that day.
The patrons were most often very well-dressed. It was more common for them to wear tailored pin-stripe or chalk-stripe stovepipe dress slacks, even suits with tuxedo shirts. Buying your suit or slack material on Spadina Avenue and taking it to your local tailor was quite common. And this goes for both male and female patrons. In fact, few of the female patrons wore dresses and usually appeared in tailored slacks. That didn’t mean they lacked in femininity. Great attention was paid to proper tailoring to get the tailored slacks to fit correctly to ensure that the feminine shape was accented in the desired manner. And many of the followers wore “409’s” which were an inexpensive pair of black suede loafers that were really just a good casual dance shoe. They provided zero arch support and were likely the cause of many future foot problems for the fans of this energetic sound.
So what did this well-dressed and usually well-behaved throng seek out in clubs, arenas, roller rinks, community centres, high school dances, park concerts and other venues that presented the Toronto Sound? It was a band that played mostly Rhythm and Blues music that had its routes in Memphis but also included Motown and Atlantic label songs in its performance. There were two major band styles that performed the Toronto Sound.
The first (and less common) was a band that included a horn section (much like in the Blues Brothers movies). Shawne and Jay Jackson (sister and brother) and the Majestics could easily be considered the top band in this category. Shawne singing the Motown classic “Heat Wave” would get any group up and moving on the dance floor within about two notes of the song. Grant Smith and the Power and the Silhouettes with singers like Eric Mercury, Diane Brooks and Jack Hardin were other noteworthy bands with the inclusion of a solid horn section.
But the backbone of the Toronto Sound was a smaller yet just as powerful sounding makeup that only included a drummer, organist, guitar and bass player and a lead singer (sometimes two). Every fan of that style of music in that era in Toronto knows of The 5 Rogues (aka The Rogues who became The Mandala), R. K. and the Associates (aka Roy Kenner and the Associates), and Jon and Lee and the Checkmates. They all possessed a musical power that was far beyond their early age bracket and number of instruments present on stage. All of the instruments in both bands were analog, of course. Digital music was a far distant concept for the music industry anywhere in the world.
Here is what made the sound its own. The organ was always the huge and heavy (in excess of 400 lbs.) Hammond B3 usually without the bass pedals. It was played with an outboard Leslie speaker that had the front panel removed so the sound that the rotary speakers made was even more powerful than before. Humming tube amplifiers and other gritty sounds were just part of the overall sound.
The guitar (more often than not) was the basic Fender Telecaster with two single-coil pickups with the dust covers removed and discarded. Sometimes it was a ‘Strat (Fender Stratocaster). Either would be played through a tube amplifier providing a distinctive warm sound (there were no transistors back then or they were very rare and expensive). The guitarist would often use a metal guitar pick (usually self-fabricated) and the strings were often set up in such a fashion that 1-5 were moved up to position 2-6 and the 1st string was replaced with an E banjo string. This allowed for easier lead playing but gave a thinner sound to rhythm since the strings were under much less tension and would also result in fret buzzing. It was a badge of this player to be playing on stage with a broken E string pointing directly to the floor like it was disappointed that it couldn’t be part of the performance. Screaming leads played in such a way as to create the gritty fuzztone like effect by turning to the amplifier and creating the feedback necessary were the norm (guitar effects boxes were non-existent in those days as were lots of other tools of today’s music). The sound was literally in the hands of the player.
The writer has fond memories of the best Toronto guitar player of the bunch of that time in Domenic Troiano. He had only be playing for 5-6 years at the time but his unique style was something that every new guitar player attempted to emulate but virtually all never achieved. He could be considered as the primary architect of the Toronto Sound and that is the writer’s opinion, of course. He certainly played an important part in the sound's design along with many others. “Dom” also showed us that there were other chord phrasings that worked in these songs. Things like 6th’s and 9th’s, augmented chords, coupled with timing changes, key changes, stop time and many other musical treatments that were more common in the field of jazz than in R & B. It was music that went outside the box (pun intended). And so it didn’t have a commercial feel to it, which could help explain why it stayed more underground than some other local bands music.
The writer can count himself as one of the thousands of guitar players that asked Domenic this question—“How the hell do you do that?” That was a memorable night since the writer also was his “boss” for the night having the great pleasure of booking The 5 Rogues for the whopping sum of $175 (Two bands that night for $300, also on the show was Just Us. The Big Town Boys had to cancel, likely due to a more lucrative gig, and the booking agency provided this package as an apology—best apology that the writer ever got).
But back to the band structure and on to the bass player. This is one of the two players that formed the important backbone of the sound. Usually, he played the Fender Precision bass with or without pick depending on the song and through the customary tube amplifier which was often a Traynor model (locally built). Domenic Troiano will always be “Domenic” to the writer and mostly not referred to as Don or Donnie since the Rogues bass player was Don Elliot who happened to trust the writer enough to watch out for his girlfriend while he performed one night. Sorry, nothing juicy to report here since the writer was very shy at this stage of his life but the music helped to change that. You just had to dance to it and that meant you needed a partner who just happened to be of the opposite sex. The Soul Circle was the exception and will be discussed in the sections about the lead singer(s).
And the other part of the backbone is the drummer and sometimes drummers (The Power had two for a time), who were powerhouses. Everything was done to ensure that the drum sound would be heard from quite a distance because it was very much like the sound of African drums beckoning one to go to the place of origin for the sound. If you happened to be outside the venue when the band started playing, that only lasted for a few seconds. It was time to go inside and be part of the show because the patrons were also part of that show. The Rogues drummer was a diminutive little blonde Finnish born guy that everyone called “Whitey” because he was never called Penti Glan back then. He must have been 120 lbs. soaking wet but played like he had the power of two middle linebackers. The Kick Drum had a huge presence in the sound as did the snare strikes and the ringing of the bell hits on either the ride or crash cymbal also helping to clearly define the sound.
One of the most defining elements of the Toronto Sound is the rhythm itself which is referred to as a syncopated rhythm by the musical authorities. Simply put is that there is emphasis placed on an off-beat at times instead of the usual 1-2-3-4 (standard downbeats). It can appear anywhere in the usual two bar drum phrase so it could be represented as the + (and) in the phrase 1 + 2 3 4 where the snare is usually the driver for the off-beat. It can appear elsewhere in the musical phrase and can also be in 16th’s. The result is an added energy that was common to the Toronto sound, the Memphis Sound and sound of James Brown in this era. Songs like Knock on Wood, Shotgun, Cold Sweat and The Midnight Hour were standards that most bands played at one time or another. They were not unlike unofficial anthems for the Toronto Sound.
A good drummer has to be “multidextrous or quadridextrous” (not real words) much like being a performing octopus with four tentacles that can function independently on different time measures. A good keyboard player should be ambidextrous and be able to separate the left and right hand playing with ease. The writer is neither and is more of a single task musician particularly since most of his training is on the guitar, but still has a pretty good feel for timing and more than an above average understanding of the underlying structure of North American music. The advent of digital music sequencing and recording allows one to experiment in the areas where one lacks the real playing skill but can sense the “correct” musical outcome in the recording. And one seldom uses quantizing (a software driven assist that forces notes to the exact timing of the note in the musical phrase) which is only used to help start the process. No real musician plays that way. There are subtle time shifts that are measured in milliseconds that add the distinctive colour to one’s playing style (such as before or after the beat).
One of the writer’s future personal projects is to actually attempt a new musical creation that is written in the spirit of the Toronto Sound and is also meant as a tribute to its founders, many of those are sadly not with us any longer and need to be remembered for what they brought to the musical stage in Toronto. These events were a major social happening and not just another reason to pack in a large number of adult beverages.
But we have not visited what would be the primary attraction to the Toronto Sound and that would be the lead singer(s). The band without the singers is strong enough to perform on its own but add the power of vocals and you get what clearly defines one band from another. Roy Kenner, George Oliver and even David Clayton Thomas all performed with The Rogues but each had a different approach to vocals and made the band different because of it. Roy was certainly involved in voice training for clearly he had a very controlled and pleasing voice but it also had raw power. George had a raw power as well but his stage presence is what made him recognizable leading the Soul Circle where individual members of the audience would get to show off their dancing prowess and attempt to mimic George’s dance floor moves. The author tried the splits once but opted for the James Brown foot movement only, in future Soul Circle encounters (too easy to tear the crotch out of those tailored stovepipes). Thomas only played for a short time in Toronto after leaving the company of the Shays prior to his days with Blood, Sweat and Tears. He also had the raw vocal power that made the Toronto Sound.
Shawne Jackson clearly had the most easily identified female voice of the Toronto Sound because of her musical phrasing and strength of voicing alone. Jon and Lee had an almost eerie sound due to their raw harmony. None of the singers ever seemed to use stools to sing ballads even. The stages were often very small and sometimes they had to mix in with audience to utilize their energy.
You seldom ever saw sheet music in the presence of all of these bands. Some certainly could read music such as Charlie Miller (drummer for the Power) since he taught drums at the same music store where the writer took guitar lessons. Sheet music could only provide a starting point for the Toronto Sound anyway. It was a sound that was created by the mix of performers that made up the band at the time. It was a mutual exercise in playing music that you just thoroughly enjoyed. It didn’t return much in the way of income because Canadian music in general was still to be accepted south of the border.
So why did the Toronto Sound disappear? These are all the author’s theories here so take from them what you like and dispute anything that you don’t agree with. Firstly, the drinking age dropped to 18 (since has been reset at 19), The Beatles came on the world music scene, the whole Flower Child culture and now casual clothes appeared (no one wore blue jeans to a Toronto Sound event) and the musicians in these bands became young adults with families and the need for a steady job. Most importantly, there wasn’t a large enough talent pool available that could play this style of music. Up and coming musicians only played straight-8 music and could also utilize some of the aids that were available like fuzztone and the world of itself just changed. They only knew how to play major and minor chords and mostly just loudly.
So the sound became a wondrous memory for the many of us who had the pleasure of experiencing it. If you happened to be at the Gogue Inn, Hawks Nest, Purple Onion, George Harvey cafeteria, Modern Age, 888 Yonge Street, Maple Leaf Gardens, Club Kingsway, Earlscourt Park, Mimico roller rink, The Jubilee, North Toronto Memorial Arena, or Mazarek Hall chances are we bumped into each other. Now I need to go get my guitar and “play like Domenic”. The good news is I’m like 10% of the way there now—Ok maybe 20%. I’m playing around with “Arthritis got a hold on me” (sung to Loveitis). It had me worried for a bit. Turns out it is likely a pinched nerve due to the fact that I haven’t played much in the last 10 years and I just overdid it. It’s healing more every day now. That sound has me intrigued. I have the latest Hammond B3 sound library now, a full set of drum sounds (32,000 samples), and new Seymour-Duncan pickups on my guitar and my digital audio workstation is functioning properly. Today’s music stuff is so technical and computerized but the nice thing is it has become so user-friendly that attempting to mimic the Toronto Sound is now feasible. I need to go practice.
So I hoped you enjoyed our trip down memory lane for the Toronto Sound as much as I did writing it. Funny how something that took place about 45 years ago stands out like I was "in the room" just yesterday. I can see Kenner singing I Can’t Stand It, George doing Beg Me and Shawne showing the girls in Detroit how to do Heat Wave with its “propers” and the sound is just so wonderful even though I really can’t describe it entirely. You were lucky if you were there to hear and feel it, as I was. Sadly, there are limited recordings of any of these events and we haven't discovered how to get that sound out of one's head and onto tracks. You never know. Technology has done a lot of wonderful things over the years. Maybe it will capture the true feeling of a live performance much like it is getting closer to capturing the true colour of those vintage instruments. What an interesting way to share your thoughts don't you think?
You owe it to yourself to read all the comments that have been submitted by so many people that were heavily involved in the making of the Toronto Sound that appear below.It would be very hard to make any of this stuff up. Keep in mind that it is my perspective on the time so I didn't visit all the venues and see all the bands. Perhaps you have some comments that you might like to add as others did so. What a fun time it was.
Listened to WUFO (forgot about it), bought shoes at Clark's hair was styled, had some close from Disney's and Studio 267 but don't remember MItty's so we all the shared the same love of that sound and time, for sure. Apparently ByeGoneRider is like the rest of us, if you shake the brain hard enough there are a ton more fantastic memories sitting there just waiting to be recalled and shared with everyone who glided across the "boards" on dance wax.
Work In Progress
So yesterday my new Crumar Mojo 61 shows up from Cosmo Music and it is one of a few pieces I need to get recording "That Old Fashioned Sound". The new Fender Tele still has to come from the factory and then to Cosmo Music for proper set up and then that will get me closer to the sound and then I get the whole studio working right and start tracking it.
The project is called "Stuffy and his Incredible Invisible Backup Band". Most of it will be "live" tracks of old stuff from the Toronto sound of that era. Might even try Jon & Lee's Bring it Down Front and will definitely do Howlin' much like J. Smith and the Majestics. I'm working up to doing actual live performances but I have a way to go there. The sound is in my bones even if they are getting old but the soul is on fire again and it is sooooooooooooooo much fun. I think my organ playing after 2 days has got me to sound like Billy Preston (well at least his early years) and getting the Tele to sound like Domenic (Donnie) is going to be a little trickier but I won't be doing the banjo E-string thing so the sound will be a little richer.
I need to go practice more now. C'ya.
Frank Hamilton on December 06, 2018:
Hey, I played with and knew quite well most of these folks you have mentioned at the Club Blue Note. I was the guitarist in the house band there for two years, (‘67 - ‘68), first with Bobbie Dupont, then with Tommy Fair. It was a great time for a 17 and 18 year old. Still playing and writing. Loving it!
louis mallia on April 11, 2018:
This is Louis (organ) at the Bluenote
hope all is well with you i did and still am in the printing business.
i tried to get in touch with Guy, Danny and Art but didn't have any luck.
i have seen George a few times.
my company name is Gray Owl Office Services in Mississauga
i will check this post again in case you reply.
Al Penrose on September 24, 2017:
The Peepers were indeed a huge part of the Toronto Sound.
Louis on Vocals and Organ
Art Gunlak on Bass
Danny O'Mahany on Guitar and Vocals
George on Drums and Vocals
Guy (Giamatelo) Horn on Tenor and Vocals
They followed the 4 Rogues into the Bluenote, making them the 4th Bluenote Band.
They were the only band to play the "Note" for two years, all other bands being there for one year only.
As far as I know, none of them played much (if any) music after that, except Guy, who played Guitar and Sax in various small combos, with people like Tommy Fair and, Doug Mallory till about the end of the 70s.
He later became a keyboard player (B3 of course), but, mostly for his own enjoyment.
He is still with us, though, not playing at all for about 8 years. I see him three times a week.
Louis became a printer, owns his own business up by the airport, Guy worked for him in the 90s for a while.
I believe Danny started working for Ottis Elevator, and, is either still there, or, retired from there.
I don't know what became of Art or, George, I'll ask Guy if he has any idea what they ended up doing.
It's such a shame, they were one of the hottest Toronto R&B bands (if not the Hottest), and, also the most obscure and unknown Toronto band. Very sad in many ways.
If anyone wants any info, or, has any Bluenote, or Peeper questions, don't hesitate to ask, I'll ask Guy, and, see if he can shed some light.
I will get Louis and Georges last names, they were, BTW the "two Maltese guys" in the band mentioned in another post, and, also the founding nucleus of the Peepers.....
Lionel on July 05, 2017:
I am looking for a very good 60ès drummer Dale Hutchinson. He once played for The Ugly Ducklings. I also saw the Peepers play at the Bluenote in Toronto. They were excellent & loud with the best drummer that I had ever heard. I play drums also. Does anyone out there know where Dale is now. He grew up in Oakville.
DOWNCHILD BLUES BAND,DANNY MARKS,MIKE MACDONALD,PAT RUSH,ROUGH TRADE,BB GABOR, on April 19, 2017:
YOU FORGOT THIS GENERATION ♫
ByeGoneRider on October 11, 2016:
Whitey can be seen/heard at the Blue Goose Tavern, Mimico, on Saturdays 3:00 - 6:00.
Paul on April 17, 2016:
I saw The Dana with Jon & Lee at the Broom And Stone. My only night out. Only 14. Great bands, dance contest on the floor.
Saxanyone on May 14, 2015:
Well Gord, sorry to disappoint you but Brian Sharples never played with The Majestics. Through the the years, John Crone. Bobby Brought, Russ Strathdee, Leo Trottier, after which The Majestics broke up for a number of years until Dave Konvalinka restarted them, no sax player, then Burt Hemistan, one more guy whose name slips my mind, then the most recent crew include Pete Simpson and John Crone. The guy whose name slips my mind has since passed away. But no Brian Staples.sorry.
Gord Pearcey on May 13, 2015:
I remember when the Majestics saxman was Brian Sharples. I played with Brian in The Rembrants(Fairbank Hall, Alcona Beach etc.
turliuk on March 21, 2015:
Glad to be referred to this page, it sure brings back LOTS of memories. I saw a few bands at the Broom & Stone, it was great! Jon & Lee, David Clayton Thomas & The Bossmen. No one mentioned the Ugly Ducklings, which surprises me! They played at school dances back then. I saw Whiskey Howl, don't remember where, but would like to know what happened to them, Jackie Shane and Jack London?
Pow lee on March 03, 2015:
No one mentions the Club Matador the Renegades were the house band that played before the after hours club Anne Dunn hired all the bands in T,O, to play there like the Sillhouettes, the Paupers Little Diane and many others The Renegades drew bigger crowds than any other bands.
Russ on April 27, 2014:
Oops, sorry... not the Peepers, Skip played with the Paupers.
Russ on April 26, 2014:
Great to read your commets, Mr. Feeny.
I think Skip Prokop played with the Peepers, didn't he?
Lee John Feeny on April 25, 2014:
The Bluenote, Yonge St., Toronto:
First house band: Kay Taylor & The Regents, then the (5) Rogues, then finally
THE PEEPERS. The Peepers were a marvellous 4-pc.: organ, gtr., bass & drums. Members: Art, white Fender P-bass, Danny O'Mahoney, Fender Tele, and two gents of of Maltese descent, superb drummer George and
!awesome! vocalist Louis Malia (sp?) on Hammond M-3 organ.
There's NOTHING on this super-fine group on the 'net (damn!). Their story, in a nutshell: In The Bluenote they sounded SO fine, being totally accustomed to the Bluenote's acoustics and the vocal reverb unit.
When they finally ventured out to play big halls like Crang Plaza, they lacked
their "Bluenote Sound" and were apparently poorly received, compared to
"dance hall vets" like The Majestics, The Shays, Robbie Lane, etc. I assume that they soon disbanded in frustration and disappointment.
I'd LOVE to locate Louis and find out if he's done any "public music' in the last 47 years -- his vocals were rather Ray Charles-like and his organ? PERFECT solid '60s funk. George the drummer was also outstanding in the
We need INFO and UPDATES, please! on "what transpired" and "where are they now?" PLEASE, Toronto Sound fans & Bluenote regulars: THE PEEPERS!
Lee John Feeny on April 25, 2014:
Wao! Peter Groschel & Chris Vickery check in! I got to know Peter post-Regents in The Counts Five and Combo. I stay in touch w/ Bruce Staubitz who was bassist. Chris V. played briefly in my late '69-1970 band The Blue Wheel.
When Chris left to form The Peoples Revolutionary Concert Band, Terry Danyleyko stepped in. Our guitarist was the excellent Mike McDonald,who's
still gigging regularly in ON and Finland! ~ In '70 we played Varsity Arena
alongside Rod Stewart & The Faces, Elephant's Memory & others... it was an all day/night event. Headliner was Canned Heat -- "Goin' Up The Country"
was BIG in T.O. Audience: 11,000 people, still the biggest crowd I've ever played to.
The Soulful '60s? I led Mary Ann Brown & The Good Things, w/ a 1/2-year
diversion into The Cavemen, a top Montreal band.
A digression: Does anyone remember Lornie (Adams) & Junior and The Soul Gents or C.J. Feeny & The Spellbinders?
soulman on February 19, 2014:
It's great to read about the "Toronto Sound", it changed my life. It truly was unique, more "Memphis (Stax)" than "Detroit (Motown)"with hard driving funky triplets played on the bass drum by the drummer. I was one of these early "Toronto Sound" funk drummers, greatly influenced by the still great Pentti "Whitey" Glan. My living room is resplendently decorated in "Mandela" motif. At the centre of it is a mint condition Hammond B3 and mint condition Leslie 122. My walls are painted in thick vertical pin-stripes. There were plenty of lesser known, but just as talented part-time bands that were part of the music scene at the time. One of the greatest Toronto bands that I've ever heard in my life were the "Soul N'Blues" who later became "The Entertainers". They were fronted by an incredible singer named Keith Cousins and the organist was the late Newton Garwood. A venue that they regularly played at was the dry "Chez Monique" club in "The Village" (Yorkville). The "Toronto Sound" was truly unique,
maybe it didn't really leave, perhaps it slumbers and needs awakening.
ByeGoneRider on August 24, 2013:
The memories! Let's see...
J. Smith & the Majestics at the 'Troc' on Bloor west - Mr. Vickery, Bobby Starr, Jim Oskirko... a great band.
Saw Bobby filling in with Robbie Lane's band a couple of years ago - he said he still keeps in touch with Jim.
Ronnie Hawkins at the Concord Tavern on Bloor (now Long& McQuade) I've told some of the staff at L&M that Ronnie was playing there before there was a 'Hawk's Nest'. They had a Saturday matinee going there, no alcohol, because the crowd (and the band) were all under 21. Robbie R. played , and later, Terry Bush. Ronnie also performed at the Mimicombo on Lakeshore. Anybody remember Freddy McNulty?
Everybody had a Telecaster and a Bassman 'piggyback' back then - they ruled.
First time I saw the Rogues perform was at Eaton's Annex - I don't think they had been 'discovered' yet. We/they were all in our mid-teens.
I used to sneak in to the Sapphire to see Jackie Shane (with Frank Motley's Band). Where ever did he go?
We used to listen to R&B from WUFO (Buffalo) because none of the local stations offered any. It may have been our proximity to Buffalo that spawned the Toronto R&B scene.
Pete Traynor emerged from being an amp tech in the back of L&M (MARS=Musical Amplifier Repair Service - I used to have his business card) into a successful manufacturer of legendary gear.
Tailor made chalk stripes from Studio 267, Disney's, Mitty's...
Black leather 3/4 length jacket
ByeGoneRider on August 23, 2013:
Just discovered this site - Memories!
The Majestics at the 'Troc' (Trocadero) on Bloor - J. Smith, Mr. Vickery, Bobby Starr, Jim Oskirko. I ran into Bobby a couple of years ago, at the Hollywood, filling in with Robbie Lane - he still keeps in touch with Jim.
... sneakin' in to the Sapphire to hear Jackie Shane w. Frank Motley's band - where ever did he go?
Ronnie Hawkins at the Concord Tavern (now Long&McQuade) on Bloor, also at the 'Mimicombo' (remember Freddy McNulty?)
When I'm in L&M, I keep telling the staff - 'this is where Ronnie Hawkins started, before there was a Hawk's Nest'. Robbie R. played there and Terry Bush. They had Saturday matinees, without alcohol, because the crowd (and the band) were all under 21.
First time I enjoyed a performance by the Rogues (Mandala), they were playing in Eaton's Annex (for free(?) ya, that was a long time ago)
We all listened to WUFO in Buffalo for R&B, because there were no local stations that played it.
Men's wear - Studio 267, Mitties, Disney's
Shoes - Clark's on Yonge
Hair - 'styled'
email@example.com on April 23, 2013:
I just was referred to this blog and what memories come back. As a Black Canadian back in the day this was so exciting!My cousin Bobbo D was a special part of the Rogue's soul circle, after the 5 steps of soul he would jump in and do James Brown like splits. I went to all the clubs, the Gogue Inn, the Coq D'or, the Blue Note (remember the midnight floor shows, The Pips!) the Colonial, Friars. I knew Shawne and Jay, Eric Mercury, Dianne and Joanne Brooks. It was such a special time. A reunion show would be so special. Had my stove pipes and 409's. I'm so glad to hear about this. Toronto really needs to go back in time- such good music!
mikrowat on April 18, 2013:
really good story! it's pretty much as i remember it. 'memphis based' is a fact and cannot be confused or compared to the 'rock' of yorkville village in subsequent years. i think Bobby Dupont and SweetBlindness (phil smith, bill murray, ron garant, ed white and donnie meeker) are the only act to bridge the gap between Yonge&Yorkville in presense, style and time-frame.
Rick Murray on April 17, 2013:
I can't believe you missed Sweet Blindness. With Bill Murray on lead guitar and Bobby Dupont on vocals, they were one of the hottest bands in Toronto.
Robbie Lane on January 31, 2013:
I enjoyed the article and the comments but why were we left out? (Robbie Lane and The Disciples) We were and still are very much a part of the Toronto Sound. (sob, whimper)
Steve Winston on November 08, 2012:
Luke and the Apostles, Whisky Howl & The Passing Fancy were some other bands that you didn't mention. Other clubs were the Mousehole, the Riverboat, the Penny Farthing,
Campbellsgirl on September 15, 2012:
I was 15 years old, wearing my tailor made stove pipes and patten leather shoes, dancing to the best music I had ever heard and then sitting 3 feet from Jack Hardin, Dianne Brooks, Shawne & Jay Jackson, Pinky Smith, Little Augie, Eric Mercury, Jon and Lee and the Checkmates at the Club Bluenote. Absolutely thrilling. And then would go down to Frankie's nightclub down the street at 3 am to watch Jimmie Reid sing..an amazing time for me and changed my life. I am still friends with a lot of the singers and musicians from that time. My husband ran the Avenue Road Club "Devils Den" which was also known for excellent R & B with a lot of the same artists that were at the Bluenote.
semore hare on September 15, 2012:
i remember Kay Tayler & The Rejects.......i also remember the drummer was prone to dragging and rushing the tempo...........use to laugh at the look Kay would shoot at the drummer..........find it funny that in his post he writes in the third person........Re: Whitey thought Peter had the best shiffle of all the bands.........signed Peter !! hahaha...a very average drummer to say the least Tommy Goodings could play....
majesticsax on March 22, 2011:
In J Smith & The Majestics, I think Bobby Star was lead guitar for a while. Right, Chris?
Steve W on March 21, 2011:
Great article and I am heppy to say I was there although not like my brother who used to go to the Broom & Stone to se the Rogues, David Clayton Thomas and the Bossmen (Shays) etc. Should ad that groups like Motherlode and the Paupers were ther as well. I was bit later (Roy Kenner era Mandala) but was very fortunate in that I had a short career as a booking agent and one of my artist was non other than Domenic Troiano post Guess Who. Great memories all round.
Stuffy (author) from London on March 21, 2011:
Chris Vickery is also leaving out that he was the bass player for both versions of the Majestics. J. Smith and the Majestics was before I started to follow R&B (I was probably 12 or 13). Had their single "Howlin'" which someone borrowed permanently. (Freddie Keeler on the tele, Chris?) I met Chris at my high school dance where I booked them with Shawne & Jay leading at the time and at the old Mimico roller rink. Nice to hear from him.
christopher wm. vickery on March 21, 2011:
please remember J. smith & the majestics. spear-heading covers by bobby blue bland/ray charles/ & other obscure great r&b/jazz artists as influenced by "the ronny hawkins band". Eugene Smith is still kickin' the boards!
Jason on March 21, 2011:
I met Whitey some 15 or 20 years ago. I am a young fella and did not know who he was. Until about 6yrs after I had met him he finally let on who he was. In the mean time we became good friends and traveled to some of the bars in Toronto and I quickly found out he is a real legend in this town and the World. The man can can play.
majesticsax on March 15, 2011:
Rudy Webb !!!!!!!!!! I haven't seen Rudy for years. Dianne and Rudy were our friends at one time and then we lost track of them when we moved away from T.O.
When I played in the Blue Note house band, that's where we first met them. ( You couldn't hear a Mickey open... you're too funny Kelly... lol)
Kelly J.Gallacher on March 14, 2011:
I remember these days because they made me who I am to-day i remember most of all the floor show of the Blue Note my buddy Rudy Webb would sing Unchained Melody and you couldn't hear a Mickey open or a beer drop.I also roadied for Jack London and the Sparrow who became Steppenwolf in the mid sixties ..Yorkville was fun but to me T.O.will always be an R&B town to me ..Saut Mon Ami ?
Marilyn Brooks on March 12, 2011:
The 60's was a great time for wild and crazy Fashions,too. John Brooks and I opened the Unicorn on Gerrard street in 1963. I have always felt Fashion and Music goes hand and hand...so when Riff Markowitz asked me to design suits for his group the Madella...I was thrilled. We got cotton fabric in bold black and white strips from France and designed the suits. A strong lookin fashion at that time.
The only problem was Georges panttd...when he did the splits his crouch split every time. We had just bought a bra factory and that saved the day. Once I used the bra elastic in the crouch to strenghten the fabric... thinks looked up and Georges pants lasted longer.
Marilyn Brooks designer owner of the Unicorn from 1963 to 1970
Emma from Houston TX on March 12, 2011:
Wonderful and funny piece of work,thanks for sharing.
Stuffy (author) from London on March 10, 2011:
This is too funny. Eric is the name of the piano player so it made sense that they practice there and these two guys spent 7 years blowing sax for the Majestics. It would seem they haven't talked to each other in a while but are still great friends. The power of music!
saxany1 on March 10, 2011:
I mudt have made a mistake about your life expectancy! hahaha!!!
Maybe your not really an albino!
majesticsax on March 10, 2011:
Dear saxan1 ... "Sax Anyone?"
Is that like, "The Joy of Sax?" LOL
"Who are you?", you ask.
You know me because we played together for - what? - about 7 year? We rehearsed at Eric's house on Weston Rd. You told me I had only about 30 years to live... I could go on...
saxany1 on March 10, 2011:
Russ, that,s you, cool man! How are you? You should have signed on as Dr.Sax!
For sure we need to gt together, come out and see Big Smoke big band, they will knock your socks off!
saxany1 on March 10, 2011:
I'd love to, who are you?
majesticsax on March 10, 2011:
I was shocked to hear just now about the passing of our dear Orly. I'm so sorry to hear this. I had talked to him less than 6 months ago about getting together with him at his place in Pickering, but it never happened. Do you want to get together with me before it's too late?
saxany1 on March 10, 2011:
If you send me a private email I will update you on The Majestics.
Justvsend it to firstname.lastname@example.org
You could get a chance to hear one of Toronto,s finist guitar players Dave Konvalinka, next to Donnie, he was probably the best of that time frame.
There are remastered CD,s of The Majestics first four albums now available for sale at Dusty Grove records, surprised all of us as we had no idea that tey were available, very cool!
Stuffy (author) from London on March 10, 2011:
Peter, I never set foot in the Club Bluenote and it still bothers me to this day that I did not. I was too young and also too chicken to try and enter with fake ID. Big mistake on my part. I would still have been too young to see your band (9-14 range) so I could only follow groups in the underage clubs and my high school where I was the one who got to book the bands. Working at the Gogue Inn made it easy to select the next band for the high school dance. I left the Bluenote out of my story only because I had no personal knowledge of it but it's reputation of being the foundation of the Toronto Sound is well-founded from what I have learned.
saxany1 on March 10, 2011:
you are so right Peter. You can,t mention he 60's Toronto sound without mentioning the Blue Note and he house band. I heard you weren,t well, glad youbseem up and around. all the best from The Majestics, John
Peter Groschel on March 10, 2011:
Re the great Toronto Sound - I read your article and it
brought back so many memories. You may have been too young
in the late fifties and early sixties to hear Kay Taylor and the Regents. We were the house band at the Club Bluenote 372 1/2 Yonge St. at the beginning playing 3 nights a week for over a year. Kay Taylor & the Regents
were a horn band - 7 members - Steve Kennedy Sax, Les
Terrell Sax, Bob Andrews Trumpet, Tommy Goodings Guitar,
Brian Massey Bass, Peter Groschel drums, and of course
the great Kay Taylor. All the names you mentioned came to
see us and some sat in. Domenic Troiano and Whitey Glan
were regulars - Whitey said that Peter had the best shuffle of all the bands. The band really cooked and
there are many musicians from that era that say today
that the Club Bluenote and that house band were responsible for having a large part in creating the great
Toronto Sound. Peter
Stuffy (author) from London on March 10, 2011:
And for those of us that would like to see you perform, where would one find your next group of appearances?
saxany1 on March 10, 2011:
I dont,t remember any of that, but i don,t remember a lot of things these days, but as for the reunion, The Majestics are still playing with 4 of the original guys, trumpet, guitar, bari and Jay, still going strong. Orly the trombone player passed away earlier this year, sad.
I,m the original bari sax player, John Crone
Stuffy (author) from London on March 09, 2011:
Thanks and we did meet on several occasions. I would have booked you into George Harvey, specifically remember getting the piano tuned to A440 which I didn't what that meant at the time. And remember Chris Vickery (bass player) returning to play after his car crash. He asked me to play Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding just after Otis died right before your first set. (I played the records as well). I will never forget how he felt about it. And you and the rest of the horn section had me really worried when you took one of the cafeteria tables and set it up as a stage modification. I just prayed it wouldn't collapse and it didn't. You put on a hell of show every time I saw you play. You need to do a reunion gig if that is possible. I believe writing is painting pictures with words and music is another great way to paint pictures. I was inspired by those bands to keep playing but I never found anywhere that could teach one how to play soulfully. You have to get that from within so I found out.
majesticsax on March 09, 2011:
This is an absolutely wonderful article about the essence of the Toronto Sound... take it from me, I WAS THERE just like the author - I may even know him. I played sax in The Majestics with Shawne and Jay Jackson. Kudos to the writer!!