Le Coq d’Or Tavern was located at 333 Yonge St (between Gould St and Dundas St, on the east side) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto.
Before the Famous Venue
In the late 1940s, before the tavern became one of the most renowned rock’n’roll venues in the heart of the Yonge Street strip, Le Coq d’Or was a fine dining restaurant and cocktail lounge. The building’s two upper floors were home to Olympia Bowling and Billiards.
Ronnie Hawkins & Making Rock’n’Roll History
In the late 1950s and 1960s, the tavern became a wildly popular club with the music scene exploding in Toronto. The venue was to become host to many musicians, including Ronnie Hawkins, Bo Diddley and Goldie and the Gingerbreads.
In 1958, Arkansas-born Hawkins and his band, The Hawks, came up to Canada. They began playing venues in Ontario, eventually landing in Toronto, becoming regular performers at Le Coq d’Or Tavern. His rockabilly sound, a mix of blues, country and rock music, along with his high-energy performances, were legendary. Hawkins was known for doing back-flips and having go-go dancers in golden cages on stage. He opened the Hawk’s Nest, a teen dance club above the tavern too.
Ronnie Hawkins, also known as “Rompin’ Ronnie,” “Mr Dynamo,” and “The Hawk,” mentored many Canadian musicians. Some of the famous Hawks included Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, who went on to perform and tour with Bob Dylan and became “The Band.” As Hawks left the band, upcoming musicians were waiting in the wings, including David Clayton-Thomas, David Foster and Lawrence Gowan.
Le Coq d’Or, which translates to The Golden Rooster, closed in 1976. The tavern had a significant role in creating a style of music known as “Toronto Sound.”
In 2013, Ronnie Hawkins was named an Honorary Officer in the Order of Canada for his contributions to the development of the music industry in Canada and his support of charitable causes. He made Ontario his home.
On May 29, 2022, Ronnie Hawkins passed away at the age of 87.
After Le Coq d’Or Tavern
From 1991 to 2017, the building was home to HMV, and today it’s Tokyo Smoke.
At 297 Yonge St, on the second floor of Shoppers Drug Mart, is the Friar’s Music Museum. A tribute to Toronto’s music history, the free micro-museum features memorabilia from many of Toronto’s top clubs, including Le Coq d’Or, Colonial Tavern, Friar’s Tavern and the Brown Derby.
Le Coq d’Or Tavern Photos
- Heritage Toronto (plaque)
- The Canadian Encyclopedia: Ronnie Hawkins
- The Governor-General of Canada: Mr Ronnie Hawkins
- Vintage Photo 1: Ronnie Hawkins performing at Le Coq d’Or, November 14, 1963. York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC00077.
- Vintage Photo 2: Bo Diddley performing at Le Coq d’Or, January 29, 1965. York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01227.
- Vintage Photo 3: Hawk’s Nest on Yonge St, December 2, 1965. York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01221.
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives
- Street Photo: Google Maps