Yonge Street Music History Murals – Part I

2020 - Yonge Street Music History murals by Adrian Hayles are located on a building at 423 Yonge St. The nine iconic musicians on the north-facing mural include (from top to bottom) Ronnie Hawkins, Glenn Gould, Dianne Brooks, Jackie Shane, Muddy Waters, Shirley Matthews, BB King, Gordon Lightfoot and Oscar Peterson
2020 – Yonge Street Music History murals by Adrian Hayles are located on a building at 423 Yonge St

The History of Music on Yonge Street murals are located on the north and south sides of a 22-storey building located at 423 Yonge St (north of Gerrard St E, between McGill St and Granby St) in the Downtown Yonge area of Toronto.

This article focuses on the north-facing mural at Granby St, which celebrates the iconic musicians and the legendary venues that helped define Yonge Street’s music scene from the 1950s through to the 1960s. The incredible 70 m tall murals were created by artist Adrian Hayles and presented by the Downtown Yonge BIA.

The Musicians & Venues

The north-facing mural was completed in 2016 and features nine musicians and six Downtown Yonge area locations (from top to bottom):

2020 - Looking southeast toward the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural by Adrian Hayles located on a building at 423 Yonge St and Granby St. Out of the nine musicians on the mural, five are visible in this photo and include (from top to bottom) Ronnie Hawkins, Glenn Gould, Dianne Brooks, Jackie Shane and Muddy Waters
2020 – Looking southeast toward the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural by Adrian Hayles located on a building at 423 Yonge St and Granby St

Ronnie Hawkins, pictured singing next to Le Coq d’Or Tavern facade, was one of the tavern’s most famous performers. In 1958, Arkansas-born Rompin’ Ronnie and his band, The Hawks, headed to Canada, eventually landing in Toronto. They played their high-energy rockabilly sound at the former clubs’ Le Coq d’Or, the Hawk’s Nest and the Nickelodeon.

Glenn Gould is depicted playing his Steinway piano. A child prodigy, the Toronto-born classical pianist, gave his first public performance on the organ at the Eaton Auditorium in the former Eaton’s College Street store in 1945. He was just 13 years old. Today, the auditorium is known as The Carlu in College Park.

Dianne Brooks is shown next to the Sam the Record Man sign. Born in New Jersey, the talented R&B, jazz, and blues artist was a popular entertainer at the Yonge St clubs, including the former Club Bluenote. The Bluenote was an intimate after-hours R&B dance hall.

Jackie Shane is pictured near the Massey Hall sign. The Nashville-born transgender soul singer found fame in Toronto. She played sold-out shows at the former Saphire Tavern and also performed at the Brass Rail Tavern and the former Hawk’s Nest.

Muddy Waters is seen playing his guitar near the Friar’s Tavern sign. He’s an iconic and influential American blues singer who played the former Colonial Tavern and The Rock Pile at the Masonic Temple.

Shirley Matthews is pictured next to the Colonial Tavern sign. In the 1960s, Ms Matthews, who had been a Bell Canada switchboard operator, had her R&B singing career launched at former Club Bluenote.

BB King is shown playing his Gibson guitar, Lucille. The legendary American blues singer-songwriter performed at venues in the Downtown Yonge area, including the former Colonial Tavern and the historic Massey Hall.

Gordon Lightfoot is pictured singing into the mic. The Canadian folk-music superstar was a regular entertainer at the former Steele’s Tavern and has done over 170 shows at Massey Hall, first performing at Toronto’s beloved music venue in 1951 at the age of 13.

Oscar Peterson is depicted playing his piano. The renowned Canadian musician is regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. Mr Peterson played at the former Friar’s Tavern, Massey Hall and also at the former Town Tavern, where the jazz album On the Town with the Oscar Peterson Trio was recorded in 1958.

Out of all the venues mentioned above, the only three that exist today are Massey Hall, The Concert Hall at the Masonic Temple (once known as The Rock Pile) and The Carlu (once known as Eaton Auditorium).

Yonge Street Music History Mural & Venue Photos

2020 - Yonge Street Music History murals by Adrian Hayles are located on a building at 423 Yonge St. The nine iconic musicians on the north-facing mural include (from top to bottom) Ronnie Hawkins, Glenn Gould, Dianne Brooks, Jackie Shane, Muddy Waters, Shirley Matthews, BB King, Gordon Lightfoot and Oscar Peterson
2020 – Yonge Street Music History murals by Adrian Hayles are located on a building at 423 Yonge St. The nine iconic musicians on the north-facing mural include (from top to bottom) Ronnie Hawkins, Glenn Gould, Dianne Brooks, Jackie Shane, Muddy Waters, Shirley Matthews, BB King, Gordon Lightfoot and Oscar Peterson
2020 - Looking southeast toward the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural by Adrian Hayles located on a building at 423 Yonge St and Granby St. Out of the nine musicians on the mural, five are visible in this photo and include (from top to bottom) Ronnie Hawkins, Glenn Gould, Dianne Brooks, Jackie Shane and Muddy Waters
2020 – Looking southeast toward the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural by Adrian Hayles located on a building at 423 Yonge St and Granby St. Out of the nine musicians on the mural, five are visible in this photo and include (from top to bottom) Ronnie Hawkins, Glenn Gould, Dianne Brooks, Jackie Shane and Muddy Waters
2022 - One of the two 22-storey Yonge Street Music History murals by Adrian Hayles located at 423 Yonge St and Granby St. The north-facing mural celebrates the iconic musicians and the legendary venues that helped define Yonge Street’s music scene from the 1950s through to the 1960s
2022 – One of the two 22-storey Yonge Street Music History murals by Adrian Hayles located at 423 Yonge St and Granby St. The north-facing mural celebrates the iconic musicians and the legendary venues that helped define Yonge Street’s music scene from the 1950s through to the 1960s
2022 - History of Music on Yonge Street I plaque. The mural was presented by artist Adrian Hayles and the Downtown Yonge BIA
2022 – History of Music on Yonge Street I plaque. The mural was presented by artist Adrian Hayles and the Downtown Yonge BIA
1950 - The Edison Hotel was once located on the southeast corner at 335 Yonge St and Gould St. The building is pictured on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural
1950 – The Edison Hotel was once located on the southeast corner at 335 Yonge St and Gould St. The building is pictured on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural (City of Toronto Archives, Series 574, File 18, Item 49377)
1958 - Town Tavern was once located at 16 Queen St E. The renowned Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson recorded the album On the Town with the Oscar Peterson Trio at the Town Tavern
1958 – Town Tavern was once located at 16 Queen St E. The renowned Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson recorded the album On the Town with the Oscar Peterson Trio at the Town Tavern (Canadian Architectural Archives, Panda Associates Fonds, PAN 58686-1-17)
1961 – Looking southeast toward the front entrance to Massey Hall from Shuter St, just east of Yonge St. Massey Hall's iconic sign is depicted on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural
1961 – Looking southeast toward the front entrance to Massey Hall from Shuter St, just east of Yonge St. Massey Hall’s iconic sign is depicted on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 1, ID 70)
1965 – Looking south on Yonge St towards Le Coq d’Or Tavern, once located at 333 Yonge St. Le Coq d'Or Tavern's sign is shown on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural
1965 – Looking south on Yonge St towards Le Coq d’Or Tavern, once located at 333 Yonge St. Le Coq d’Or Tavern’s sign is shown on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC01221)
1970s – Looking southeast towards Friar’s Tavern, once located at 279-283 Yonge St and Dundas Square. Friar's Tavern sign is pictured on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural
1970s – Looking southeast towards Friar’s Tavern, once located at 279-283 Yonge St and Dundas Square. Friar’s Tavern sign is pictured on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 548, Item 24)
1972 - The Saphire Tavern was once located on the northwest corner of Richmond St E and Victoria St, in the Confederation Life Building. Soul singer Jackie Shane played sold-out shows at the venue
1972 – The Saphire Tavern was once located on the northwest corner of Richmond St E and Victoria St, in the Confederation Life Building. Soul singer Jackie Shane played sold-out shows at the venue (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 17, Item 22)
1973 – The Colonial Tavern was once located at 201-203 Yonge St. Colonial Tavern's sign is depicted on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural
1973 – The Colonial Tavern was once located at 201-203 Yonge St. Colonial Tavern’s sign is depicted on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1118, Series 377, Item 782)
1977 - Looking northwest towards the corner of Yonge St and Walton St just south of Gerrard St W in the Downtown Yonge area. The second floor of the grey building at 372 Yonge St was home to Club Bluenote from the late 1950s until 1969
1977 – Looking northwest towards the corner of Yonge St and Walton St just south of Gerrard St W in the Downtown Yonge area. The second floor of the grey building at 372 Yonge St was home to Club Bluenote from the late 1950s until 1969 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 3, Item 21)
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking southeast from Elm St towards Sam the Record Man, once located at 347 Yonge St. Sam the Record Man's sign is shown on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural
Between 1978 and 1980 – Looking southeast from Elm St towards Sam the Record Man, once located at 347 Yonge St. Sam the Record Man’s sign is shown on the north-facing Yonge Street Music History mural (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 307, Item 12)
1963 – Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern
1963 – Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks performing at Le Coq d’Or Tavern (York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC00077)
2021 - The Yonge Street Strip map by J Sherman displayed at the Friar’s Music Museum
2021 – The Yonge Street Strip map by J Sherman displayed at the Friar’s Music Museum
 
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