The Yonge Street “Strip”

Thinking about “Yonge Street Rock and Roll Stories”I’m recalling the term “strip” that once seemed a metaphor for the string of night clubs and theaters
running north and south on the east side of Yonge between Bloor and Queen
Streets. When I first began visiting the “strip” it seemed to be a nice place to
walk when I used to take the King or Queen street car east from Parkdale. I think
that back then Yonge Street to me was nameless, simply “downtown”, with maybe more
activity and variety than Parkdale with its Chili Grill, Queens Tea Room, Dairy
Dell, and Green Dolphin restaurants; and the church down the street’s Minstrel shows which I never had a chance to see. I recall that my interest in “downtown” may have been sparked by my desire to view first run movies in the palatial confines of The Imperial, Lowes Uptown at Bloor and Yonge and Lowes Downtown at Queen and Yonge, steps south of The Imperial. I recall that I often found myself walking between Queen and Dundas; maybe after I’d viewed a movie at Lowes, The Imperial or even the first run B movie theater, The Downtown. There were then a number of vacated stores on the east side of Yonge near the movie theaters where people would gather to watch the live shows of men like barkers at the CNE demonstrating the latest chopping, slicing or blending kitchen devices. In a way these fascinating live shows, free of charge with no beginning or end, that I had to pull myself away from to catch the Queen streetcar back home in time for supper, now seem more compelling than the movies that I had paid to see.

These downtown impressions of Yonge Street began several years before I thought
of myself as a musician, and eventually The Suedes’ drummer in the Brown Derby
within walking distance of destinations of my early adolescent aimless meanderings
downtown which some years after my arriving at the Derby came to be known to me as
the Yonge Steet “strip”, bars where musicians performed in Toronto. There were of
course other bars where musicians performed in Toronto most of which I became aware
of only after I’d performed as a drummer on the “strip”. These places such as the
Saphire Tavern, The Holliday,The Silver Dollar, The Warwick and RonDun hotels; and
others I did not play until my interest in full-time playing had begun to wane
as I believe the importance of The Yonge Street “strip” had been declining, while
areas like Yorkville were arising with British inspired music replacing the North
American styles of the “strip”.

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