Pat Blythe – Blues, Rock and a Fond Farewell….

My first AirBnB guest has arrived. A Brooklyn girl from NYC. A very young (emphasis on the word “young”), freelance film producer who has one of her works showing at the Female Eye Film Festival. Jessica has never been to Toronto before although this is the second time one of her films has been selected to show. With only two full days, unfortunately she won’t have an opportunity to really experience The Big Smoke. However, she was asking me if I knew any clubs with live music…..REALLY!!!

Jessica Burgess – AirBnB Guest and Filmmaker 

(obviously she doesn’t know who’s she’s asking) I had to think about that for about a pico (or maybe a nano) second followed by a description of what I do. She wants go anyplace where she could hear a live guitar (I love her), so Wednesday we’ll head out for a night of clubbing before shipping her back to NYC wanting more. Interestingly, her film is about a young teenage girl who’s about to play her very first gig when her dad decides to take her guitar away from her. We follow the young musician as she searches for a replacement guitar with less than 24 hours to the show. I think this is one short film I’d like to see.

The Better Way. In reality, a nightmare. Now I don’t often use the TTC as I’m lugging around what feels like 100 pounds of gear (it’s not really but sure feels like it) and if I’m heading to more than one club in a single night, the TTC makes no sense whatsoever. However…..with some reluctance but a whole lotta faith, I took the plunge since I was only going to one place and Spadina and College shouldn’t be a challenge. How wrong I was, oh how very wrong I was. People pay $6.50 round trip for this totally f**ked up nonsense. I’d rather pay for parking thank you. What should have been a 30 minute trip took 1.5 hours and I missed half the opening set. Add to the subway “short turns”, the shuttle bus that wasn’t, another short turn, my wrong turn and retracing of steps (on foot) twice….and the waiting…..oh the waiting……and more waiting…… I’m fortunate. I don’t depend on the TTC to get me places. I used to in the “olden days” when there was “a better way”. But relying on somebody else’s screw-ups, bad planning, total unpreparedness and complete lack of consideration for the customer….I’ll drive thanks. I refuse to pay for idiocy and thoughtlessness. ….and I’m happy to give others a lift as well.

I apologize to Toronto. I love this city. It’s been my home for most of my life. But the public transportation in this city has deteriorated to such a level as to be totally laughable if people didn’t have to actually use it. The price of a round trip downtown….street parking and gas cost less. Then there’s the reliability, time saved and convenience. The price of a Metropass, absolutely ridiculous. Would you pay top dollar for something that didn’t work? Why do we put up with the TTC. It’s broken more often than not these days. I want a refund! To wrap up my rant…..ALL public transportation should be free to everyone once they hit the age of 65. A small consideration and show of respect for all duties paid during a working lifetime.

Now…about the music….

I neglected to note, in last week’s column, my foray to Grossman’s Tavern to see Toney Springer perform with Grossman’s house band, Gary Turnbull on bass, Jim Chefero on drums and Pat Rush on lead guitar and vox. (see TTC rant above)

Toney Springer….Wild T and The Spirit and to his many fans, Jimi Hendrix incarnate. Springer is not only a superb musician, he’s a wonderful entertainer as well. With an honest, straight up but cocky sense of humor, he loves to perform and keeps toes tapping, bodies moving and people laughing. His night at Grossman’s (without The Spirit) was no different. Springer is a bluesman at heart, and his bluesy heart was on full display on Spadina Avenue the evening of June 10. It was a pleasure to listen to him up close and personal, simply dressed in jeans, t-shirt and his guitar. Easy and relaxed. A simple evening with excellent music.

L-R – Toney Springer, Jim Chefero, Gary Turnbull, Pat Rush

It’s been years, eons, maybe even eras since I’ve stepped foot in Grossman’s….and I’m sorry to say, I’ve missed too much. Now Springer had some fine, friendly competition in guitarist Rush who tossed back everything Springer threw at him. I was also very pleasantly surprised by Rush’s vocals. Now, to follow Springer on stage is an art form in itself. Those who perform with him regularly are used to Springer’s unpredictability and those places his long guitar solos take him, but if a musician is not accustomed to following his cues (and they are subtle)….. Well Chefero and Turnbull held up the backbone beautifully and caught on to Springer pretty damn quick and I admired Rush’s quick and easy fills and guitar responses. I loved the organics of the entire performance. With no rehearsal these four professionals were just that, professional and loving every minutes of it as they easily meshed on stage. Thank you guys for a truly wonderful evening.

Toney Springer storytelling time….

The fight with the TTC was worth that evening’s performance…..every second of it. Getting home? Morceau du gàteau.

Grossman’s Tavern

Grossman’s tale….The place was opened as a cafeteria 1948 by Al Grossman, a Russian-Jewish immigrant and converted hippie. It is considered one of Toronto’s longest-running live music venues. Known as “the home of the blues”, this skanky watering hole, where it’s always beer o’clock, has hosted some of the top names in blues and continues to provide live music by some of the best blues/jazz/R&B musicians out there, both current and otherwise, on a daily basis. Many of those who got their start here, having strummed, drummed and sung for their dinner (and libations) in this rather relaxed, easygoing, friendly atmosphere have moved on. Carol Pope, Paul Shaffer, Downchild Blues Band, Alannah Myles, Jeff Healey, Blue Rodeo, Amanda Marshall and the list goes on. Having peaked in the sixties and seventies, the tavern was sold to the Louie family in 1975. There has been little change to this watering hole since it opened but as rundown and shabby as it is, a certain kind of homage, admiration and respect are still paid to the granddaddy of music venues which is just shy of its 70 birthday. Eric Alper, yes That Eric Alper, who happens to be the great-grandson of That Al Grossman, stated in a Globe and Mail interview several years ago, “There could be a nuclear war and this bar will still be around….that’s the three things that will be around…Keith Richards, cockroaches and Grossman’s Tavern.”

Moving on to June 14 I am back once again at Cherry Cola’s to meet up with a woman whom I was introduced to almost two years ago at Bob Segarini’s 70th birthday party. I don’t think we’ve managed to get together in person then but we have developed a friendship through FB. Carolyn Kelly is a videographer, script writer, traveler and, if she has her way, a Canadian immigrant in Ireland. The house is already picked out. Check out her production company Jeeperzcrow here.

The latest project is a documentary about Michelle DuBarry, Canada’s (and quite possibly North America’s) oldest working drag queen. DuBarry, who will be 86 this year, is the last surviving member of the drag group Great Imposters. I actually saw them perform a number of times at the Red Lion in London, Ontario many, many years ago and loved their show.

Michelle DuBarry

The band performing at Cherry’s that night were friends of Kelly so it was a convenient time to reconnect in person. We had a blast, screaming at each other over the music (I know, I know, we should have been listening but truth be told, we actually were). I decided to bring my gear and pop off a few pics. Glad I went….to see Kelly and also catch The Divided Line. Now these guys are solid rock, loud and proud but with something to say. It’s not just noise. There’s music. Something you can actually move to. Something you can sing along with. These guys are not kids. There’s years of experience all wrapped up in the four members of this band. Reza Shaffaf (bass), Blair Barton (guitar), Luke Scott (drums) and Greg Cave ( vocals) who’s voice is a mix Eddie Veder (Pearl Jam), Jeff Martin (Tea Party) and Chris Cornell (Soundgarden). The current lineup is a year old and their first EP Paramnesia is only being sold at their gigs so you gotta get off your asses and go see them to buy a copy. I would strongly recommend you do just that and bring ear plugs. Like I said, it’s rock.

L-R – Peeking into the frame Blair Barton, Luke Scott, Greg Cave, Reza Shaffaf

Reza Shaffaf

Breathe – The Divided Line

My Confession – The Divided Line

What is The Divided Line? The division between mind and body. The analogy of the divided line is presented by Plato by using “the familar relationship between ordinary objects and their shadows or reflections in order to illustrate the relationship between the physical world…and the world of ideas…” The seen and the unseen. Philosophy is not an area of study I profess to understand but there was extensive  thought put into the name of this group of musicians and I found the significance very interesting. I learn something new every day.

The Final Shuffle. In that hot, humid, sticky room with the rain pouring outside not helping, hundreds of blues lovers crammed in to bid a final adieu to the Silver Dollar last week. Another Spadina Ave. stalwart has said is final farewell with a night dedicated to the blues and performances by (in no particular order) Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh, Spencer MacKenzie, Raoul Bhanea, Braithwaite & Whiteley, Cheryl Lescom,, Danny Marks, Robin Banks and Jerome Godboo with Michael Fonfara, Mike Fitzpatrick, Chuck Jackson, Darran Poole and Gary Kendall.

Flip, Flop and Fly – Downchild Blues Band

I was so fortunate to witness all of those who graced that stage that one final night. Many I’m sure I’ll never have the opportunity, at least not intimately, to see again. It was a relaxed, convivial atmosphere on stage and off. The voices, the music, the sounds, the love….the entire room was filled with people who not only live the blues, but truly love music.

This was my view for most of the night. From behind the bar it was perfect for photographing the stage. Cool and out of the crowd….I even had a ledge to perch on if necessary.

There were a few on that stage who really made an impression…..

I’ve seen Godboo perform at least three times, always playing the harmonica. But never the “front” man?! He blew one sock off this writer and the rest of the crowd as well. An accomplished and highly respected (and in demand) harmonica player (it was still part of the show), this Godboo, I really, really, really like. Entertaining, high energy, owned the stage and an absolutely fabulous voice.

Flower child forefront, Jerome Godboo on tablet with Michael Fonfara in the background to the left and of course Mike Fitzpatrick on the drums filling in the background.

The Blues Travel Through Me – Jerome Godboo

The last time I saw Lescom was at the TBS 30th anniversary at Palais Royale and she was singing primarily backup. At the Silver Dollar that woman belted out two songs that blew the other sock off me (if in fact I had been wearing any). Her evocative and  compelling voice just penetrated and filled the room, and not unlike Liberty Silver, I’m sure Lescom does not really require a microphone.

Cheryl Lescom belting it out

I’d Rather Go Blind – Cheryl Lescom

Fonfara….what can I say about Fonfara. The man is the commander-in-chief of the keyboard and he was so totally enjoying the night I thought he was going explode. This man lives and breathes the keys, his touch and sense of the music of the blues is innate and almost magical and he’s fun to watch as he manipulates himself up, over and around his keyboards. He just doesn’t stop smiling. I remember photographing Fonfara at the Outrigger in the Beach with Johnny Wright and Robbie Rox last year and was excited to see him at the Silver Dollar.

Michael Fonfara

I’d never seen Robin Banks perform before. This woman has a mighty voice and wicked sense of humour.

Robin Banks

Thank you to all who worked there over the years and especially the folks who handled the thirsty crowd on the final night. Kudos to you as well.

Today is the first day of The Summer of 2017…..also known as the longest day of the year….also known as get off the couch and remind your muscles there’s work to do day.  Enjoy this glorious weather. There is so much happening it makes one’s head spin so shake out the cobwebs and get at ‘er.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something but time to end this diatribe and forward to my editor.



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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