I was very pleased to read that Michael Wekerle (new guy on Dragon’s Den) has bought the El Mocambo with the intention of keeping it running as a music venue. The very first time I went to a bar to hear live music it was at the El Mocambo.
I don’t recall exactly what year it was or how old we really were, but I remember the evening – it was Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. As some of you know I was a teen-aged blues-freak and Sonny and Brownie were legends to me. There we were, seated at the Elmo, not 20 feet from these guys, drinking the foulest draft beer you could imagine, and having the time of our lives. Sonny Terry made sounds on his harmonica that were impossible and perfect, mixed in with whoops and hollers along the way, punctuated perfectly by Brownie’s Piedmont guitar.
At some point much later – in the 80s – some friends and I would go on Tuesday evenings to see Washboard Hank and the Honkers. Hank had an elaborate washboard – I think it included a tin hat and he did tunes like Polyester Polly lit a tire fire in my heart (all about a girl in Hagersville) and the Midnight Ride of Red-dog Ray about the great Ontario beer strike.
The Elmo was part of an older Spadina, from before the dedicated street car deal that sucked the character off the street. Those were the days when Downchild played Grossman’s across the street and Gwartzman’s was THE place to buy your art supplies – and let’s not forget Chinese food at that joint just south of Grossman’s – does anyone remember the place I’m thinking about? They had a special in the window for deep-fried gobi fish and I think there was a yellow sign….
Who knows what the future for this old joint holds, but it feels good to know it has been saved and will to continue to be a place for live music.