Gordon Lightfoot Book, Music and More!

The home of music journalist Nicholas Jennings, author of Lightfoot, the definitive new Gordon Lightfoot biography from Penguin Random House.

Toronto Songs: Ian Tyson's Marlborough Street Blues

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When Ian Tyson arrived in Toronto in September 1958, the folk music scene didn’t exist. The coffeehouses hadn’t yet appeared in Yorkville. The city’s bohemian district consisted of a few ramshackle cafés and galleries along a tiny stretch of Gerrard Street, near Bay, that attracted colorful personalities and painters like Harold Town. All of that was about to change with the Folk Boom ignited by the Kingston Trio and its massive hit “Tom Dooley.” Tyson had hitchhiked his way East from the West Coast, where he’d graduated from the Vancouver School of Art. He was 25 years old. His life experience at that point largely amounted to riding bareback in rodeos and playing a little guitar in rockabi...
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Blog Post: Toronto's Music Mural

Blog Post: Toronto's Music Mural
Yesterday, a 22-storey high mural depicting the music history of Toronto’s Yonge Street was announced at a media event on the site of the mural. Two of the legends featured in the wall painting, Ronnie Hawkins and Gordon Lightfoot, were in attendance. Commissioned by the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Association, the work by artist Adrian Hayles also includes images of Oscar Peterson, Glenn Gould, Jackie Shane, Shirley Matthews, Dianne Brooks and bluesmen B.B. King and Muddy Waters. The mural covers the side of a building on Yonge just south of College. I was a consultant on the project, which will be completed in December 2016, and spoke at the event: As a music journalist and histori...
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Music Feature: Beatlemania Toronto Style

Music Feature: Beatlemania Toronto Style
The Beatles changed the world in countless ways, but they also dramatically changed Toronto over three consecutive years of performances (1964 to 1966) at Maple Leaf Gardens. Almost overnight, the city was hit with a cultural shift of seismic proportions: Boys grew Beatle-bangs, girls pinned photos of John, Paul, George and Ringo on their walls and parents worried about the sanity of their teenaged children. Canada’s folk darlings, Ian & Sylvia, had ruled up to that point, but as the male half of that duo, Ian Tyson, remembers, “the minute the Beatles arrived, it was over – well and truly over.” The folk boom slowed, as every kid on the block rushed to form rock bands. Toronto’s music sc...
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Music Feature: Oscar Peterson's Jazz School

Music Feature: Oscar Peterson's Jazz School
Oscar Peterson is remembered as a gifted pianist who could play it all, from Chopin and Liszt to blues, stride, boogie and beyond. Peterson led his own jazz trios, performed with such legendary figures as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, who dubbed him “the man with four hands,” won eight Grammy Awards and Canada’s prestigious Glenn Gould Prize. Called the "Maharaja of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, he released over 200 recordings before his death in 2007, including his 1956 Stratford Festival recording, 1958’s  On the Town , recorded at Toronto’s Town Tavern, and 1962’s  Night Train , which featured a number of Ellington piec...
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Feature Article: Toronto's Silver Dollar club

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Toronto City Council votes to preserve historic music venue The Silver Dollar is one of Toronto’s most historically significant music venues. Along with its important role as a blues bar for 16 years (1994-2010), it provided a regular showcase room for rock, jazz and bluegrass music.  The earliest known band to play there was Tommy Danton & the Echoes, a gold-lame-suited group fronted by a Sinatra-style crooner that performed a popular mix of jazz and rhythm 'n' blues. Danton and the Echoes (pictured below at right) had a long residency at the club, after it opened in 1958. In the ’70s, when the Dollar was a strip club, the house band included notable jazz players John T. Davis (B3 ...
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