Long time proprietors of Grossman’s tavern, the Louie family, held their 6th Annual Amy Louie Grossman’s Music Scholarship (ALGMS) fundraising event on September 26th, 2017.
Grossman’s Tavern 1st opened for business on Spadina Avenue in early 1943, and has been owned by the Louie family since 1975 with the decor within, reflecting this 70’s era. This was my first time inside the internationally acclaimed Toronto jazz, blues, folk rock hot spot and most definitely not my last. Grossman’s Tavern is known as Toronto’s longest running live music venue that produces an eclectic range of entertainment most nights of week. This comfortable rustic decor took me back to an innocent era, much similar to when I was a 70’s musician’s child, somehow time has frozen this bar’s appearance, but, that is what gives it true character and makes it a comfort zone for me. I personally like the feel of an older more laid back establishment, the food was delish and great prices too. I was greeted at the door with a huge smile that belonged to the amiable Elizabeth Wong that treated me like royalty from start to finish, even remembering my name upon departure, a lot of establishments could learn a thing or two from Grossman’s staff and their genuine hospitality, simply refreshing.
Amy Ye-Oi Louie was the focal point of this evening.
She was known as a Toronto real estate agent by day & well adored Grossman’s bartender by night. 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 life long struggle with congenital heart disease at the age of 45. After her passing, her family made sure her dream became reality & they established a musical scholarship in her honor, that would benefit & assist struggling musicians with their projects & creative careers, especially those that had a Grossman’s connection.
The 6th Annual event seen the bar packed from 6pm til 1am with music enthusiasts and a list of A-Class musical talent of stellar proportions, predominantly honored scholarship recipients like Jerome Godboo. 2014’s recipient and Toronto’s award winning internationally acclaimed singer and harmonica player brought life long musical brothers Eric Schenkman (Spin Doctors) on guitar and Paul Brennan ( Weber Brothers, Animal Slaves, Odds and Big Sugar) on drums to the stage for a memorable set. Jerome is an accomplished blues-men with 14 albums under his 30+ year trademark tool belt, who has performed with Ronnie Hawkins, Prince, James Cotton, Tragically Hip, Levon Helm, Billy Ray Cyrus and recorded and toured with Alannah Myles, Dutch Mason, Jeff Healey and 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 to the forefront, goosebumps were plentiful, as this Grossman’s staple revved the audience with Bright Lights Big City, Judgement Day and crowd favorite Cross Eyed Cat. www.jeromegodboo.com
Also, in the house was 2015 ALGMS recipient and 2nd act to last of the night, singer, songwriter, bassist, dancer, actor, illustrator, Chloe Watkinson & members of Park Eddy and The Distillery. She blew me away with ‘A Universe’ & I fell in love with ‘Get Back to Love’ wow, what a unique sound she owns. Kinda hard not to be rich in talent when you have musical icons as parents, mom was the incredible Carla Jensen and 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 and over a decade long residency at Grossman’s Tavern. www.soundcloud.com/cwatkinson
Who could forget the energizer bunny and MC Raha Javanfar, bassist and front woman for Bad Luck Woman and Her Misfortunes. Raha was the perfect MC and should have a career in radio or TV with her spunky and amiable persona. Raha and her misfortunes, Fraser Melvin on guitar, Andrew Moljgun on saxophone and Jonathan Hyde on drums, are also the 2016 recipients of this prestigious scholarship and sure know how to put on a high energy showcase, beyond compare. From start to finish the dance floor came alive as they pumped 50’s 60s rockabilly blues style with Aw Shucks – Bigelow – I’ve Got A Feelin and Same Old Blues. www.badluckwoman.com
Officially kicking this outstanding lineup into high gear was, 7 piece authentic old-time dixieland jazz band the Happy Pals. They mesmerized the full house with their versions of 1910 era ‘Little Liza Jane’ & ‘Caledonia’, followed by trio The Sinners Choir, and another act that wowed me, Frankie Foo and The Yo Yo Smugglers. He had me at the burgundy blazer and matching fez and sexy saxophone, this 8 piece had the dance floor so crowded I had to jettison from my front row seat to safety, the audience went nuts for these Toronto’s traditional R & B Rock infused SKA masters, with trombone to boot. www.happypals.ca
I was in my glory to finally witness the next 2 artists live. 1st was multi award-winning singer, song-writer, poet, children’s author, CBC Radio personality Robert Priest, who has been 1 of the very few Canadian Artists who has founded life long success in both the literary and musical fields. Robert engaged the audience with his Great Big Face Band featuring Bob Cowan and Dave Hines on guitar, and brought up vocalist Annette Fairweather for his huge hit Bon Chance Marie. www.poempainter.com
Neil Chapman accompanied by Dave Hines, blew my mind with his comedy and stage presence. This was a performance I could scratch off my bucket to do list, simply stellar. I followed his career from when he performed on stage with Leonard Cohen, Carol Pope and was pleasantly surprised to read that he shared stages with Buffy Sainte-Marie & Randy Bachman. Neil’s creativity grows on me like moss to a rock, dig it totally. He reminds me of a blues rock infused Springsteen meets Robin Hawkins. His hit Good Boys Go Insane from his 2002 CD Hope in Hell was fanfreakintastic, not to mention his Might As Well Be On Mars from his time as band member of the Canadian New Wave act the Pukka Orchestra was brilliant. Had to chuckle at his story that led up to his latest hit, inspired by his daughter, I Look Good in a Cowboy Hat. www.neilchapman.ca
Another of Grossman’s finest mounted that stage, The Porch Dog Choir featuring music veteran Bill Hedefine on drums. They strolled us through I Must Be Crazy, Groovin and That’s Alright By Me. Although fairly new on the scene, this act is dominated by seasoned musical veterans drummer Billy Hedefine, guitarists John Keating and Stephen Neale and bassist Gary Krantz. www.facebook.com/theporchdogchoir
The 2017 winner of the ALGMS was presented to blues rockin guitarist, singer, song-writer and multi award-winning Toronto based Dan McKinnon based out out of Toronto. Fresh off the heels of receiving the 2017 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search, Dan was honored to receive the $2,000 career advancement scholarship from Amy Louie’s cherished sister Christina Louie, Christina’s daughter Alexandra Wong (Amy’s niece) & MC, 2016 recipient, Raha Javanfar of Bad Luck Woman and Her Misfortunes. The scholarship funds will go towards the making of Dan’s next record, which will be released in the spring of 2018.
Dan performed a smokin’ hot set with Last Two Dollars, She’s Nineteen Years Old and Messin’ With The Kid, featuring his best friend Rob Capilano on bass and the Mark Carbone on drums. www.danmckinnonmusic.com
Was a true honor to attend and review this artist development bursary event, and look forward to attending the 2018, 7th Annual, definitely well worth the price of admission. Let’s help keep Amy and the Toronto music scene alive, support your dedicated local artists and the loyal local live music establishments.