Monday, January 24, 2022

Tuesday Treasures

 Tom the backroads traveller hosts this weekly meme.

Toronto ON

From 1963 to 1976, Friar's Tavern served as one of the Yonge Street strip's most popular nightclubs. When it opened, the tavern boasted that it featured "the finest in food." But its musical offerings were truly superb, ranging from jazz great Oscar Peterson and rock legends Bill Haley & the Comets to local heroes Levon and the Hawks, whose presence at the club brought Bob Dylan to town. 
In 1965, Bob Dylan's world was a-changing. He'd already recorded his electric masterpiece "Like a Rolling Stone" and performed his plugged-in set at the Newport Folk Festival. But he needed his own backup band. Enter Mary Martin, a Toronto woman who was working for Dylan's manager in New York. At Martin's urging, Dylan flew to Toronto on September 15 to check out her favourites, Levon and the Hawks, at the Friar's. 
He first heard them play on the morning of September 16 and for the next two nights, Dylan and the group rehearsed after hours and forged a thrilling, hard-edged sound. After touring the world with Dylan, and making a return appearance at Toronto's Massey Hall in November, Levon and the Hawks relocated to Woodstock, New York, and became famous as The Band. With Dylan, they went on to generate bestselling albums and a sold-out North American tour in 1974 that included two nights at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. But their fruitful partnership had begun at Friar's Tavern, an event that Time magazine declared "the most decisive moment in rock history."

The building now is, sadly, a Shoppers' Drug Mart, but they did create a small museum upstairs.

Photo courtesy of Canadian Encyclopedia

A year later, the music club shifted gears to rock ’n roll where acts included Bill Haley and the Comets, Robbie Lane and the Disciples as well as the Silhouettes.
In the summer of 1965, the historic Friar’s Tavern was the first to feature go-go dancers to accompany the bands on stage. On raised platforms or in gilded cages, dancers in short skirts with rows of fringes dazzled spectators. The stage show and fad caught like wildfire at the local clubs and bands didn’t look complete performing without them. David Clayton-Thomas and the Shays were one of the first groups in Toronto to share the stage with go-go dancers.

Yonge and Dundas facing South in 1964. You can see part of the Friar's sign in this photo.

The 3-storey building was constructed in 1918 for the American restaurant chain, Child’s Restaurants. Designed by the restaurant’s New York City architect, JC Westervelt, the Beaux-Arts Classicism style building was home to the restaurant on the main floor with Karry’s Billiards and Bowling on the upper floors.

From 1978 until 2017, the building was home to the Hard Rock Cafe – a new Yonge Street landmark. 
Photo from BlogTO when it opened.

Those famous walls were once again filled with music but this time with an extensive collection of rock’n roll memorabilia including musical instruments, autographed photos of famous musicians and even some of the clothing they wore.
This is how I knew it looking. And no I don't think I was ever in it.

Then Shoppers' moved in.


  1. I'm sure we had some refreshment at that Hard Rock Cafe. It is good that some respect is paid to the location with the museum.

  2. Alas, such a place should have remained one of music.

  3. What a history of the Friar's Club, that turned into the Hard Rock Cafe. I am not sure what Shoppers is, but it doesn't sound very music oriented.

  4. ...a musical treasure ends up being a drug store, how thing change. Tanks Jakie for joining the party. Take care!


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