Music in Toronto’s Yorkville Coffee Houses

who played when and where

Doug Harper

Yorkville Village was in the 1960s, among the most vibrant music scenes in Toronto, if not Canada.

Physically, and there is some debate around this, Yorkville “Village” was an area bounded roughly by Avenue Road in the west, Davenport in the north, Yonge Street in the east and Bloor St. in the south. Another point of view from Toronto Star Staff Writer Arthur Zeldin, discussing the fast moving changes in the Village; “ … the Village is just as much a state of mind as it is a municipal site”.

Be it as we experienced it; it was a place to be in the 1960s.

This website adds detail. It draws on what could be found in the digital archives of the dailies, the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, plus microfilmed scans of the Toronto Telegram, and a few less common references. Lists of musicians who appeared in some 22 coffee houses and night clubs in Yorkville are provided here with a click.

The site is structured to appeal to the researcher, providing references to where the information was found, through to the more casual reader who might want only to date special memories. Unlike many sites which focus on where specific artists played, this site fouses on the venues, the scene.

Dig into the lists of more popular houses like the Purple Onion and the Penny Farthing. See the music morph from jazz and folk in the late 1950s and early ‘60s though blues, to R&B and harder rock by the mid to late ‘60s, with a little psychedelia thrown in. Look for what might have been one-off appearances by internationally known artists like David Crosby. See with some precision, when Joni Anderson met Chuck Mitchell, when Buffy Ste Marie wrote The Universal Soldier. The lists highlight many artists of the time, local bands that were household names for a generation in Ontario, to well known American performers. They also pick up for posterity, lesser known musicians and bands from all over.

By 1967 the scene was shrinking, as measured by the number of operating clubs, until by late 1968 the remaining clubs were struggling. The Flick closed on January 26, 1969. It’s closing was captured in a Globe and Mail article published Jan 27th by Ritchie Yorke: “The Flick has been losing money since August” said Ron Owen, bearded manager of the club. “We didn’t pick up after the hepatitis thing and the overheads have gone sky high” Owen also had some comments about the future of Yorkville as a youth-oriented entertainment area: “I predict the Village has one more summer left: it’ll be a big blast this summer but by September, you can forget it.”

A few clubs like El Patio and the Night Owl survived the decade, but not for long. The durable Riverboat at 134 Yorkville Avenue made it through to 1978. The “weekly program” at that long running coffee house is well covered up to May 1972 at

This website will be updated as new information is found or entries corrected, and some venues outside Yorkville may be added. A few already appear at the bottom of this page.

Contact – Follow or contact me on Facebook or email:

The Listings (in rough chronological order of their openings)

The House of Hambourg – Bloor St. and 159 Cumberland St.

La Coterie Cafe – 32 Avenue Rd

The Avenue Road Club – 53 Avenue Road

The First Floor Club – 33 Asquith Ave

The Village Corner – 174 Avenue Rd

The Clef Club, The Cave and Le Chat Noir Café – 40 Scollard St.

The Purple Onion – 35 Avenue Rd

The Half Beat – 183 Cumberland Ave

The (New) Gate of Cleve – 161 Dupont and 45A Avenue Rd

The Penny Farthing – 112 Yorkville Ave

The Cellar – 169 Avenue Rd

The Inn on the Parking Lot – 158 Cumberland Ave

The Mouse Hole – 106 Yorkville Ave

The Night Owl – 102 Avenue Rd

Cafe El Patio – 119 Yorkville Ave

The Green Door – 109 Bloor St. West

Charlie Brown’s – 158 Cumberland

Chez Monique – 88 Yorkville Ave

Boris’s Coffee House and Discotheque – 45A Avenue Road

The Flick – 90 Yorkville Avenue

The columns are roughly structured as:

1) the year

2) the specific dates that performances occurred, or an article was published that I think expands our understanding of what was happening. In many cases the beginnings or ends of appearances were difficult to establish. Consequently I show only the dates for which I’m reasonably confident, with some interpolation based on when music was being offered that week by the establishment, something which could change from month to month or week to week.

3) the musicians performing, the author and title of an article or occasionally, a reference to a want-ad.

4) reference to specifically where the entry can be found so you can check for yourself, plus explanatory information or content I found interesting, curious or humorous.

At the bottom of each list I outline how the data was gathered. Where I take words directly from a listing or article I use “quotation marks” and sometimes italics to highlight words. Where I cite an article, I reference the reporter if their name appears in the title or by-line. Virtually all Toronto Telegram references will be from its Showcase or After Four section listings. References to Toronto Star and Globe and Mail (G&M) entries usually include page numbers for easier access, since their locations are more random. Over time I will correct entries where necessary, or add to these lists information gleaned elsewhere.

If this information helps anyone remember a significant piece of the 60’s music scene or earlier in Toronto; great, it did for me. If you have information to add, which you’d like to share and be credited, or if you see something that should be corrected, contact me.

Contact – Follow or contact me on Facebook or email:

About me: I’m a retired environmental scientist who has spent over 60 years around music and musicians. My partner Jan and I can be found regularly in an assortment of music venues which offer a range of live music. For me it started with folk music – well, maybe Buddy Holly came first.

Credits. To Mike Daley for your continuing encouragement. To the Toronto Public Library, in particular the Reference Library and staff; for providing convenient access to the many records this work represents, both on microfilm and online archives.

Clubs and coffee houses of interest outside Yorkville

Club 888 and The Rock Pile – 888 Yonge Street, Toronto

The Bluenote – 372 Yonge Street, Toronto

For those who have heard the name or been there, this dance club needs no introduction.

The Fifth Peg and The Establishment, 457 Church St., Toronto

Although this club was well outside Yorkville it offered much the same music as several of the ealier Yorkville-based coffee house and night clubs

George’s Kibitzeria – 338 Huron St., Toronto

This club too is well outside Yorkville but hosted similar line-ups to Yorkville’s jazz clubs

Peggy’s Pavillion, Leonard’s Beach, Lake Simcoe

As rock started taking hold in Toronto’s Yorkville Village in 1964, it took to the roads across Ontario (yes, it got there earlier in some places). Peter Young in his book “Let’s Dance” documents the 100 or so dance halls that were open, or were soon to open to host music. For me the place to go was Peggy’s Pavillion near Leonards Beach on Lake Simcoe. An exception I agree, and so not listed with the Yorkville scene coffee houses. Having seen this dancehall mentioned a few times on Facebook, maybe it will interest others.