Pat Blythe – London Music Week, Canadian Musician Celebrates 40 Years …and Music!

I’m in London, Ontario attending Forest City London Music Week and the awards gala. Hanging my hat at home with my mom. Music was a huge part of my life growing up whether it was inside or outside the home. In the 1970s London was filled with clubs and bars covering everything from punk, rock, jazz, blues, folk to disco. Venues included The Cedar Lounge, The Diamond Club, Fryfogles Tavern (I celebrated my 18th birthday there), Old City Hall, Kelly’s, Mingles, The Noodle Factory, The West End, Smales Pace, Ridout Tavern…..just to name a few. There was something for literally everyone. Major concert venues included Wonderland Gardens (my favourite spot), Centennial Hall and Treasure Island Gardens…..the latter located way out of town near Highway 401.

Nick Panaseiko is pictured in front of the iconic Fryfogles Tavern

Cedar Lounge…THE place to be for all things punk in London

I moved to Toronto in 1979, leaving London and her nightlife for a much different one. In the 40 years I’ve been in The Big Smoke I’ve seen most of the major live music venues close down or change hands and others sprout up to take their place. The two stalwarts are the Horseshoe Tavern and The Pilot, now (I believe) the oldest, continuous live music venues in the city. But it’s not just the clubs, the entire landscape has changed. Forty years ago the clubs booked their acts through agencies and the agencies negotiated the fee, ensured contracts were signed and the bands were paid. Yes, the agency got their cut and there was the union to deal with but the bands were guaranteed a set fee and were, more often than not, paid. At some venues there was a minimal cover charge (depending on the act) but most were free. Oddly enough the amount of that cover charge hasn’t increased much (if at all) over the years yet everyone whinges about it.

Fast forward and we no longer have the local agencies (except for maybe one) and contracts, guarantees and the union seem to have disappeared. What we have is tip jars, “pay to play” or if you’re lucky “the door”, young bands play for “exposure”, even local festivals don’t pay most of their talent or, conversely (or perversely), the talent pays a fee to perform at the festival. We also have thousands of bands flooding the live music scene striving to get a 30-minute spot at any of Toronto’s live music venues,  sometimes four to five bands crammed in on a single bill, later starts and even later finishes. To top it all off is the unwillingness to fork out $10 to see (and support) live music. For the price of a Queen ticket you could see 60 bands and still have enough left over for a few drinks. Was it this messy and confusing 40 years ago? Oh how times have changed…..or have they?

The Nick – Now part of the home of Friar’s Music Museum

Rush performing at the Piccadilly Tube. Photo by John Rutsy

It’s all in disarray out there and no one seems able to “tidy it up”. It’s like the warlords in ancient Britain. They couldn’t seem to unite and work together to keep out the Vikings so each “king” was picked off one-by-one…..until Alfred The Great. Bands/musicians seem to be following a similar path….they don’t seem to support each other except in small cliques. New bands/artists become isolated and eventually give up. Mentoring seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird. The bands that do stick it out…..only a very few make any money let alone make a living from it. Toronto’s “Music City” is an ongoing joke and a once-in-a-while a mayoral photo-op. (We have been a city of music for over 60 years) The radio stations are kow-towing to the top 10 international performers (past and present) and the grand opening of one of our major, historic music venues continues to get delayed.

The Horseshoe, 1970s. Photo by Patrick Cummins

Somebody’s making money out there but it’s not the people creating the music and drawing the crowds to the clubs. Just think…..what if every band/artist/performer worked together as a united front? Somebody’s got to thwart the Vikings…….where’s our Alfred The Great?

This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to cover the music of my hometown and many thanks to Mario Circelli for providing my media pass.

Monday night I attended two documentaries hosted by James Stewart ReaneyGuy: A Royal Canadian and Stinkin’ Up The Joint. The former is about our “hometown boy made good” Guy Lombardo and his orchestra The Royal Canadians. The latter is a historical perspective on London’s punk scene from 1976 to 1986 produced by Circelli. Among the attendees were writers David and Rena O’Hallaron who published the punk magazine What Wave, Scott Bentley aka Steven R. Stunning from the bands NFG and 63 Monroe and former CFPL-TV news anchor and news director George Clark. I spoke to Rena briefly after the show to ask her if there was any relationship or connection between Toronto’s and London’s punk scenes. It was an emphatic no as Toronto pooh-poohed the punk scene in London, taking on the mantle of big brother. Why am I not surprised?

London’s punk scene was wild, vibrant, dangerous and unbridled. Arising from super conservative, white-collar, stuffy, close-minded attitudes, pent up energies exploded with wild abandon, moving from one extreme to the other and the Cedar Lounge was their “headquarters”. I wasn’t a participant in the punk scene….I was busy raising my son and the evenings I did get out I was sitting my ass down at Fryfogles or the Ridout Tavern. At least one night a week my dancing feet would head to either Kelly’s on King St. or The Noodle Factory on Piccadilly. By 1979 I was in Toronto.

Stinkin’ Up The Joint – London Ontario Punk Rock Documentary

The week ahead is full of music and places to be and many of the events are free. Tuesday was the Celebrity Guest Jam with members of Helix. A budding musicians chance….bring your axe or sticks and lay down some licks (ooooo….that rhymes) and join Jamie Constant (drums), Chris Julke (guitar), Cindy Weichmann (vocals) and Alan E. Charlebois (bass). Ya never know, you might learn something but it sure sounds like fun.

Wednesday night is the celebration of Hip-Hop with a showcase of the London’s finest at Fitzrays including Sum-01 (who performed at last year’s awards show) and Reezy. Swagger, London’s premier cover band is also performing at the North Social Bowl. I’m trying to envision standing on the stage that’s been erected over the bowling lanes and all those bowling balls coming right at me. Photos for sure!

Thursday night is London Live Jazz with seven venues throughout the city hosting various jazz ensembles. Two of the venues worth noting are Wortley Road Public School and London Music Hall of Fame. Also on Thursday is Women of London Music at the London Brewing Co-op.

Friday night is Battle of The High School Bands at London Music Hall. Last year M.A.D. won and they blew the socks off everybody, receiving a standing ovation at the awards gala the following night. The Great Lake Blues Society will also be hosting a blues event at London Music Club. The rest of the week gets even busier with three events on Saturday including the World Music & Jazz Showcase hosted by TD Sunfest at Aeolian Hall. The week is capped off Sunday evening with the Forest City London Music Awards also held at London Music Hall. I’m then heading home on Monday and diving right into CMW.

Canadian Musician….40 Years Young…..

A packed night at Grace O’Malley’s on Duncan St. as an invitation-only crowd gathered to celebrate the magazine’s 40th birthday and to salute the man who started it, founder Jim Norris. I’ve known Norris since his drumming days with Sea Dog, a Toronto-based band from the early 70s. Doug Varty, who still performs with his very popular Rod Stewart act, was the lead singer and keyboardist. The other members included Paul Weston on guitar, John Redmond also on keys and Brian Kirkwood on bass. Sea Dog was a very popular live act and performed in London frequently. They were much in demand as an opening act for Canadian bands including April Wine, Crowbar, Brutus, A Foot In Cold Water…..and American bands coming north…Bob Seger, Spirit, Ike and Tina Turner and Sly and The Family Stone.

Norris left the band in 1973/74 and we lost touch. He was just starting up Canadian Musician the year I moved to Toronto and I was back working in the music business. We reconnected as the magazine had picked up and published a few of my press releases. Much has happened in those 40 years and I’m happy to see Canadian Musician has endured and thrived. Big thanks to Maureen Jack who invited me to the party. O’Malley’s was jammed and the soiree seemed to connect people who hadn’t seen each other in years. Photographers were busy, food was served to the hungry masses and three different bands performed. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces with everyone in a rather celebratory mood. I just can’t believe Canadian Musician is a day over 29!

Congratulations Jim!

One final note……

In May I’m hosting three acoustic events at. Tuesday Nights At Cherry’s will feature:

Little Magic Sam, May 14 – blues, Chicago-style

Eddie Bullen and Sons, May 21 – smooth jazz with a little funk and soul

Jeff Jones Trio, May 28 – pop/rock originals and covers

All shows run from 7pm-10pm.

Doors open at 6:30pm

Tickets are $10 at the door

I hope to see you there.



Mardi Gras – Eddie Bullen

In Through The Out Door – Jeff Jones

We Got A Dream – Ocean

A song even more applicable today

Back Again – Julian Taylor

Avalanche – Julian Taylor

Peace of Mind – Blue Cheer

Give’m Up – 63 Monroe/NFG

It’s A Hot Night – Sea Dog

Ain’t No Use – Sea Dog

Photograph of Jeff Jones ©2017 Lisa MacIntosh Photograpy

Photograph of Sam Taylor ©2017 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

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! 

3 Responses to “Pat Blythe – London Music Week, Canadian Musician Celebrates 40 Years …and Music!”

  1. Pete Lawson Says:

    Pat you never cease to amaze with your energy level and time management… Lombardo was the parent’s favourite and played their honeymoon, my Dad I’m told was instrumental in naming London’s Lombardo bridge! You made me reminisce about one spot missing on the list from our old days, the Victoria tavern with the basement blues room and ten cent drafts. So many happy Friday nights.. we had it good. Perth county Conspiracy, Ronnie Hawkins, a long long list of musical memories. Thank you, Pat…
    Pete L.

    • Hi Pete, great to hear from you. Lovely to know you’re still reading my words. Yes, we had it good…..times were easier (at least they appeared to be) and worries were few. Great music, great friends and great times. Considering the world and its ills today, we seem to be going backwards which makes us long for the “good old days” even more. I hold on to those fond memories and the friendships that endure. P xx

  2. Excellent article about the music scene in London and Toronto back in the 1970’s! As a rock band out of Toronto called Bitter Blue we played Fryfogles tavern many times and the atmosphere was electric and the crowds were fantastic. We always found the London audience to be more musically sophisticated and much more appreciative of live music. At Fryfogles we rubbed shoulders with great musicians like Muddy Waters and even met Tiny Tim!
    Keep up the great work and all the best from the members of Bitter Blue!

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