“El Mo” rocks on: New investor saves Toronto’s legendary music venue from closure

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A new investor is buying the most important night club in Toronto’s history, El Mocambo, so the venue will not be closing its doors for good after a benefit show tonight.

“El Mocambo to be bought by Michael Wekerle of Dragons’ Den,” said Michael Wekerle on Twitter at about 11:45 am this morning. “YES it’s true.”

Micheal Wekerle: Photo Credit BNN

Micheal Wekerle: Photo Credit BNN

Wekerle, who is a co-founder and CEO of merchant bank Difference Capital and a new panelist on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, confirmed on Twitter on Dec 6. that he was saving the music venue. A press conference was held at the El Mocambo at 5:30 pm. After the event Wekerle continued to Tweet.

“I will be making a major announcement tonight at 9pm at @ElMocamboTavern!  See you all there!, he said. “No shortage of press on the purchase of the El Macombo! The iconic landmark has been saved! Thank you to everyone for the amazing responses & comments on the purchase of the @El Mocambo Tavern! Looking forward to seeing everyone there!”

Wekerle put a deposit down this morning to buy the El Mocambo. The deposit has been accepted and the sale is scheduled to close by middle of January 2015. As a condition of the sale El Mocambo must be kept as a music venue.

Tonight, the El Mocambo is hosting Light of Day, a Parkinson’s disease benefit concert, which features John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, the Pat Travers Band, Wally Palmer of the Romantics and other classic-rock acts.It was assumed the venue was closing down for good, at least temporarily, after the show. Instead, the concert will feature Wekerle being handed the keys to the building on stage.

The iconic El Mocambo neon palm tree sign was put up for sale on eBay on Oct. 21. The sign has served as a beacon for entertainment in Toronto for more than six decades.

“Is it just me or does WEK fit nicely in the sign?” said Wekerle. “A little El WEKambo??

Wekerle, who has been described as a cross between Mick Jagger and Warren Buffett, will take the El Mocambo stage to play with his band in celebration,

The El Mocambo is probably best known for the surprise show by The Rolling Stones, who performed upstairs for two nights in March 1977. The Stones billed themselves anonymously as “the Cockroaches,” but word leaked out and massive crowds turned up. The show was recorded and released as one side on a double album called “Love You Live”.

For a time, blues performers such as Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Lightening Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Big Walter Horton were favourite attractions.

The El Mocambo has changed owners an estimated 10 times. Most recently, it was purchased by Mr. Grosso and Marco Petrucci for $2.95-million in 2012. Financial difficulties forced them to put the property back on the market in early 2014. The El Mocambo was put up for sale in March for $3.95 million.

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Say good bye to “The El Mo”: Legendary Toronto music venue has been sold and is closing in November

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The most important night club in Toronto’s history, El Mocambo, was put up for sale in March for $3.95 million and is having its last concert on November 6. The event marks the end of a legendary entertainment venue, which has hosted a long list of famous blues, rock and jazz musicians and groups.

ElMocamboTavern

The property at 464 Spadina Ave was sold conditionally to a new owner in September and it appears as though the venue is closing down for good. Another clear indication that the end is near is that the iconic El Mocambo neon palm tree sign was put up for sale on eBay on Oct. 21. The sign has served as a beacon for entertainment in Toronto for more than six decades.

The El Mocambo is probably best known for the surprise show by The Rolling Stones, who performed upstairs for two nights in March 1977.  The Stones billed themselves anonymously as “the Cockroaches,” but word leaked out and massive crowds turned up. The show was recorded and released as one side on a double album called “Love You Live”.

The album reached #3 in the UK, #5 in the US. When Margaret Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, made an appearance, the show became a significant political event. Margaret’s sightings with Mick Jagger caused a national scandal.

Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded a concert film at the El Mocambo. Texas Flood is the debut album of American blues rock band Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, released on June 13, 1983 by Epic Records.

For a time, blues performers such as Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Lightening Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Big Walter Horton were favourite attractions. Toronto’s Downchild Blues Band played so often at the club they were effectively the house band.

The owners initiated a music policy in 1972 that was heavy on rock music, which targeted young patrons who took advantage of a reduction in the drinking age, from 21 to 18. The age was raised to 19 in 1979. Musical acts appeared on separate stages located on the main and second floor of the building.

The palm tree is also a reminder of the El Mocambo’s early days as one of Toronto’s first cocktail bars. The venue’s history can be traced back to the Liquor License Act of 1946, which loosened the province’s alcohol regulations, allowing hard liquor to be sold by the glass for the first time since 1917. The owners envisioned a Spanish-themed club, inspired by their visits to American cocktail bars and trips to South America.

The origin of this building as an entertainment venue dates back to 1850. The building was first used as a haven for escaped slaves.

Who let the Dog out? Vancouver blues master Harpdog Brown is coming to Toronto for CD release Party

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Harp Dog Brown is Vancouver’s most prominent blues harmonica player. He is currently touring Ontario and is having a party in Toronto in early November to release his latest CD.

Harp Dog

Harpdog’s latest album titled “What It Is” was released in March and has received critical acclaim. The album includes 14 tracks, 10 originals and four classic covers, which feature Brown and The Harpdog Brown Band. This video of the song “Whisky Bottle” was recorded at the Vancouver Fanclub on June 13, 2014. If you listen closely it seems to clearly reflect the style of Little Walter’s song “My Babe” .

The band, which plays traditional Chicago blues, consists of drums player John R. Hunter, guitarist Jordan Edmonds and bass player George Fenn. The newest member is the 29-year-old Edmonds, who often plays with Brown as two-man duo.

The main influences on Harpdog’s unique style are Chicago Blues musicians who released records on the Chess Record label in the 1950’s, which include Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller). As a result, the covers on the album include Little Walter’s “Blue Lights” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “In My Younger Day.” The following song is called “No Money in the Till”.

Harpdog’s cd “Naturally” was voted #1 Canadian Blues Album of 2010 by The Blind Lemon Survey. His album “Home is Where The Harp Is” won the coveted Muddy Award for the best NW Blues Release in 1995,  from the Cascade Blues Association in Portland. He was eligible for the award because the album was recorded in the U.S. He was also nominated for a Juno for the best Blues Release of the year in Canada in the same year.

Harpdog was born in Edmonton, Alberta but he is currently based out of Vancouver. He was first inspired to start playing the harmonica at the age of 17, when he saw James Cotton play at the University of Alberta in 1979.  He got his start in Vancouver’s blues scene in 1988 playing the role of Elwood Blues in a Blues Brothers Tribute band, which gave him his debut gig at the Commodore Ballroom.

Brown received his nick name in 1989 while playing with friends in a bar called Mama Golds near Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver. While setting up between the first and second set, two well-dressed young men decided they really liked Brown and started to buy him drinks. By the third set, they started buying drinks for the band. At the end of the night, the young men started chanting “Harpdog! Harpdog!”   He named the band the Harpdog Brown & The Bloodhounds in March of 1990.

Harpdog has been touring Ontario during the month of October and had several CD release parties for his new album “What it is”. He will have the next release party in Toronto at The Monarch’s Pub on Nov. 6. For this show, Harpdog is teaming up with bassist Gary Kendall and drummer Mike Fitzpatrick.