Looking back on a legend…
Toronto author and one-time Londoner David McPherson will be talking about his new book The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History.
McPherson says it was surprising to discover that in over the 70 years of its existence, no one had ever pulled together a history of the fabled club.
After securing permission from the club and a publisher, he set out following up on the list of contacts Horseshoe management gave him.
“The first person I talked to was musician Colin Linden, who talked about what a landmark it is and the ghosts and spirits that live there,” McPherson says.
“From then on everyone referenced Linden’s view that it was the launching pad for so many band’s careers.
“If you played there, it meant you had hit a certain mark or level in your career,” he explains. “It was like playing Massey Hall. Once you played the Horseshoe, it meant you had a certain place in the Canadian music industry.”
A legendary bar has legendary characters
That reverence comes across in The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, but what fascinates is the stories about and from such disparate characters as The Garys, who ran punk shows out of the club in the late 70s, the late Stompin’ Tom from the country days, and of course from the staff themselves.
Longtime Horseshow bartender Teddy Fury emerges as one of the book’s most compelling sources with his mix of anecdotes, explanation of the culture of the bar and occasionally bizarre tales. Fury, a musician himself, was once in The Bopcats and, more recently, a current member of The Royal Crowns.
“Teddy has so many good stories, he could write his own book,” chuckles McPherson.
He says there is one tale he declined to include involving a party of small people and sex on a pool table. But Fury’s tale of meeting the Rolling Stones during their surprise 1997 show makes up for it.
“Teddy was asked to bring a case of water down to the dressing room,” he says. “He’s looking around and seeing Ronnie Wood, and Mick Jagger and then spots a lump on the couch that he thought was a jacket.
“He realizes that it’s Keith Richards so he goes up to him and tells him what an influence he was to him and such.”
McPherson says that in response, Richards said something to Fury that sounded like a rolling gargle.
“Teddy said that even if you hypnotized him he could not tell you what Richards said to him that night.”
London’s Horseshoe counterparts
In the end, McPherson goes back to the mystique of the place and the seminal role it played in so many Canadian music careers. It’s no coincidence that the book’s foreword was penned by Jim Cuddy. Blue Rodeo, like countless musicians, grew their reputations and skills on the Horseshoe stage.
“The first time you walk into places like Call the Office and the Horseshoe Tavern you think: this is what all the excitement is about?” he laughs.
“It’s nothing special to look at but it’s about the legacy there, the history, the little things, the sound, the intimacy of a small room and seeing a great band in a room like that.
“I hope places like this not only survive but thrive. It takes people continuing to go out to hear live music,” he adds.
“That’s a musician’s livelihood these days. It’s not like they’re making money on CDs anymore.”
David McPherson will be at Brown & Dickson Book Store at 7pm, Friday, September 29 to speak about the book, tell stories and sign copies.
Feature photo via HorseshoeTavern.com