GROSSMAN’S TAVERN 7, 70 and 75!

Grossman’s Tavern celebrated 3 outstanding milestone’s with their 7, 70 and 75 on as patrons flowed in like fine wine thru those iconic doors, looking for a prime spot to view the stellar lineup & to be apart of the triple celebrations.    Longtime proprietors of Grossman’s Tavern, the Louie family, also celebrated 43 years of ownership of Grossman’s (since 1975) in high spirits on Sept. 25th, 2018 alongside the support from dedicated patrons, music executives, passionate music lovers, Juno award-winning stars that cut their teeth once upon a time on that historical stage & the many media sources present.

Grossman’s Tavern 1st opened as a lounge on Spadina Avenue in early 1948, converted from a deli that opened in 1943, to which in 1975,  the Louie family purchased. There is something to be said about rustic or retro if you will, the food is good, the staff is friendly, the comforting décor still reflects the 70’s & with the top-notch swing, jazz, blues performers, it goes 7 decades deep.  This was my second time inside the internationally acclaimed Toronto jazz, blues, folk rock hotspot & most definitely not my last.

Grossman’s Tavern is known as Toronto’s longest running renowned blues institution in Chinatown since 1948 & holds the Toronto record for the longest running Sunday night jam as well.   Still producing an eclectic range of entertainment 7 nights a week, this old relic survives especially with historical & sentimental interest.   I personally adore the feel of an older more laid back establishment with great acoustic & congrats Grossman’s on your brand new upright piano.  I was greeted at the door with a huge smile that belonged to the amiable Elizabeth Wong, once again treating me like VIP even remembering my name upon departure, a lot of establishments could learn a thing or two from Grossman’s staff & their genuine hospitality; consequently, it was simply refreshing.   There is simply no other musical establishment in Toronto that gives back to its artists they way Grossman’s does. 

 Toronto real estate agent by day & well adored Grossman’s bartender by night, Amy Ye-Oi Louie was remembered this night, as it marked the 7th anniversary of her passing.  She was a loving wife, dedicated mom, daughter, sister & aunt who was always involved with many memorials for local musicians who graced the Grossman’s stage.  She was passionate about creating a Toronto fund that would assist hard-working local musicians & their crafts.  On February 1st, 2011, Amy succumbed to her lifelong struggle with congenital heart disease at the age of 45.  After her passing, her family made sure her dream became reality & they established an annual $2,000 musical scholarship in her honor, that would be presented in benefit of a struggling musician with their projects & creative careers, especially those that had a Grossman’s connection.   The  7th Annual event was also a huge milestone for Grossman’s Tavern, not many bars last the test of time, especially making it to 70!  The bar was jammed with regular patrons, music lovers & fans of the talent upon that mighty stage.  This 120 seat venue allows the audience to become one with the music almost like it is right in your own living room.  This year’s impressive lineup delivered the goods in stellar proportions.  Kicking it in high gear with smokin’ hot traditional Dixieland Jazz with hits like Any Time was none other than Grossman’s staples,

The Happy Pals 
a 6-7 piece act who have graced this very stage for 40 years.  Joining in on harp was our Kawartha connection, our very own dynamic Juno Awarded founder of Downchild Blues Band, Mr. Donnie Walsh. 

Also, joining in on bass was another multi Juno Award-winning star, Gary Kendall.  

A lot of stars had cut their teeth at Grossman’s went on to be legends like the late great Jeff Healey, Carol Pope with Rough Trade, Amanda Marshall & Alannah Myles just to name but a few.  Next up, was the every engaging Frankie Foo & The Yo-Yo Smugglers

 Dance floor went from tumbleweeds to crazy in less than 0-60 seconds with every square inch of that iconic floor filled with dancers who knew how to jump & jive.  Their Ska infused Jazz is something to see, it’s creative, unique & unique sells.  They have been regularly performing at Grossman’s now for 15 years with residency playing EVERY last Friday of each month.  Grabbing your attention from start to finish with their signatures Sally Brown too I’m in the Mood For Love & Hey Bartender.  Oooo that sexy saxophone enhanced this brilliant 8 piece & the audience went nuts for these Toronto’s traditional music masters.

This next outstanding 4 piece, was a Grossman Alumni & 1 of Toronto’s music royalty featuring Russell Williams on guitar, Terry Wilkins on bass (Lighthouse, Big Sugar, Rough Trade & David Wilcox), Bill Hedefine on drums (Host of Grossman’s Sunday night jams) & none other than Best Blues/R&B winning Jack Richardson Music Awarded, & 2012 Memphis International Blues Challenge Semi-Finalist, that’s right folks, it was the 2011’s London Free Press-Local Album of the Year winner/lead singer & harmonica ace, Mr. Robbie Antone.  Let me tell you, they project mesmerizing popular hits like Route 66.

Next up was the 2017 ALGMS recipient & 2018’s event host, Dan McKinnon.  

This man is a great entertainer, well spoken & can he SING?  His sound is like that a delicious mouth-watering steak; truly hearty, meaty & with the right juicy flavor to keep your hunger & palette engulfed.  Dan has this deep & rich side too, like a great tasting wine getting better & better with age.  

He reminds me of Colin James, especially when he is in the zone with closed eyes & epic gurning facial expressions, so young, yet so seasoned! He introduced his mates on drums Mike Carbon & on bass Peter Eratostene as they ripped right thru his newest album The Cleaner just released in 2018, with a few from his 1st album As Sharp As Possible, Sharing More Than a Song.  They introduced you to a cover by Johnny Taylor that means the world to Dan’s heart as he perfected the Last 2 Dollars.  They were Raining Down on You giving the audience a sample of what was to come at the end of the night as his career is zooming forward fast, he surely Ain’t Looking Back!

Then, the moment we had waited weeks for, arrived! The presentation of the Amy Louie Grossman’s Music Scholarship was presented by Alexandra Wong to guitarist/vocalist 
Matt Allan & The Swinging Blackjacks

featuring on bass multi award-winning Gary Kendall, & they will take this win to remaster, repackage & re-launch their album from almost 20 years ago.  They shared their Misery Train, with Little Easter, showing how I Love You So with a Little Red Head just to name but a few, mixing in that spicy cajun bluesy country-flavored classic rock.

Multi-Awarded Danny Marks

mounted the stage remembering Ronnie Hawkins stating, “I wish he was here tonight!” as he broke into a unique version of Mary Lou right into Secret Agent Man. This man sings it like it is, dedicating the Kinks LOUIE LOUIE to the Louie Family as Amy loved the oldies rock.  The pioneering spirit inside Danny Marks is like no other & glows strongly with no sign of showing exhaustion as he projected perfection, interacting stories with the audience exuding his much-known humor.

Charisma, tons of it climbed the stage & his name is Jerome Godboo 

who is the ALGMS’s 2014 recipient,  He is an internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter & harmonica player with a creative force that no one can reckon with.  Unique masterpieces oozed from Jerome Godboo & The Action Sound Band’s pores extending to his hard playing on the accordion on Lord Show Me How right into Rooting Out My Devils & he even incorporated his chest plated frottoir too.  Jerome brought lifelong musical brothers Eric Schenkman (Spin Doctors) on guitar, frequent flyer of Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks boot camp bassist Leonardo Valvassori to the forefront this eve & rounded out the bottom end on drums with highly sought drummer Gary Craig who is Toronto based ( who currently tours Canada with Jann Arden & has performed live & in the studio with many artists including Anne Murray, Bruce Cockburn, Colin Linden, Blackie  the Rodeo Kings, Tom Cochrane, Jann Arden, Kathleen Edwards, Marc Jordan, The Rankin Family, Jimmy Rankin, Gregory Hoskins, Jenn Grant, Stephen Fearing, Jesse Cook, Suzie Vinnick, Jason McCoy, George Canyon, The Wilkinsons, Allanah Myles, John Bottomley, Lawrence Gowan, The Kings, Eddie Schwartz, Karyn Ellis & Trudy Artman.  During this memorable set, Jerome showed he wasn’t just an accomplished blues-men with 14 albums under his 30+ year trademark tool belt, he too has performed with Ronnie Hawkins, Prince, James Cotton, Tragically Hip, Levon Helm, Billy Ray Cyrus & recorded & toured with Alannah Myles, Dutch Mason, Jeff Healey & Kawartha’s Jimmy Bowskill just to name but a few.  I have seen his genius live several times, but it was like witnessing him for the 1st time all over again, the acoustics were fabulous, he is always bringing something new and entertaining forward & goosebumps were plentiful, as this Grossman’s staple revved up our audience with Bright Lights Big City, Judgement Day and crowd favorite Cross-Eyed Cat 
surely here to stay Not to Fade Away.  

Steve Marriner (Monkey Junk frontman & Colin James bandmate)

is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter & Maple Blues Award Host Steve Mariner was stoked to perform this showcase upon his very 1st time playing at Grossman’s Tavern.  He added groove & texture to this stellar blues set with 2017 Juno awarded singer/songwriter & harmonica winning blues roots specialist Paul Reddick which, also featured Toronto’s well-known bassist extraordinaire & Juno Awarded Gary Kendall on bass.  Paul incorporated the famous skin skills of professional studio drummer Vince Maccarone rounding out 1 seductive sound as they dove into Paul’s raspy blues catalog, hits from his 5 albums, making you feel good like you were laid in the shade.
 Also, in the house once again was the stupendous 2015 ALGMS recipient, singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, illustrator, Chloe Watkinson.  She never ceases to amaze as she blows your mind every time especially with her original A Universe.  She nailed Sam Cook‘s Bring It On Home To Me, what a unique sound she owns. She dove into Odis Redding & some gospel, which is her niche!  Kinda hard not to be rich in talent when you have musical icons as parents, mom was the incredible Carla Jensen & her dad, world-famous Terry Watkinson who was keyboardist with Canadian Rock Legend Max Webster. She is an internationally acclaimed household name with Massey Hall, Hugh’s Room & over a decade-long residency at Grossman’s Tavern.
Closing the show was 2018 ALGMS Host & 2017 ALGMS recipient & award winning Toronto based Blues act on the rise, that’s right,

Dan McKinnon returns to set this stage ablaze taking the establishment by Storm. He presented original hits King Baby, 17 Years, &  All Mine, proving he’s More Than Enough talent to wet your rockin’ blues appetite.  Dan & his album The Cleaner has a One Track Mind & it should be on your Christmas list 2018.   

Was a true honor to attend & review this artist development bursary event, & want to thank the Louie family for your kind words and for your open invitation for years to come!!!  I am looking forward to attending next years 2019 8th Annual moving forward. It definitely was well worth the price of admission.  

Let’s help keep Amy’s dream & the Toronto music scene alive,  support your dedicated local artists & the loyal local live music establishments.