Updated: Jan 28th, 2017
If you have never visited Toronto then you might not be aware that we have an AMAZING music scene. It is 100% true that you can come and visit our city on ANY Night and find first class live music to listen too. As a Lindy Hopper I’m so spoiled on the live swing music I can dance to almost every night (especially in the summer time). As a Rockabilly fan I’m also equally lucky to have several amazing bands right on my door step and currently a regular monthly rockabilly night as well!
For my blog post today I want to shed the light on some of the amazing Rockabilly Music right here in Toronto and surrounding cities (some are ones I know well and some are ones I don’t but they are all amazing).
(Note: I’m sure I missed some bands and I do apologize)
I love the Millwinders and have blogged about them before when they played at VIVA this past year. They have this great traditional rockabilly sound that is just fantastic. If you ever get to see them live they are loads of fun (and they are all super nice!) and if you like vintage style then Sarah (the only lady in the band) is your gal. Her vintage style is drool worthy AND she is a Toronto Vintage Society member too.
The Swingin’ Blackjacks
The Swingin’ Blackjacks was the first Rockabilly band I had ever seen live in Toronto and they quickly became a favorite of mine. With their sound being a blend of Rockabilly and Jumpin Blues you can easily dance the night away to them…and I have! Matt and the band always put on a top-notch show and you can usually catch them playing somewhere in the city, several times a month. Very hard-working band.
The Royal Crowns
Once again another favorite band of mine with an outstanding rockabilly sound that will keep the party going all night long. I try not to miss these guys when they are playing as they don’t play a ton of shows and they really are a must see band. Their sound touches on many genres of music-rockabilly, rock and roll, hillbilly jazz, surf, and rhythm and blues to name just a few. Also 2 of the members “Teddy Fury” and “Danny Bartley” have deep musical roots stretching back to the early ’80s, playing in key bands such as The Bop Cats and Shotgun Shack (source). So this band has a strong Rockabilly background.
Tennessee Voodoo Coupe
I think I’m going to become a broken record here in a minute…another favorite band! SEE how lucky Toronto is?? I’m only on band # 4 and I have already gushed so much. Anyways TVC is a band I have danced to and seen live too many times to count. They even performed at VIVA LAST Year and they were so good! TVC is headed up by the very talented and charismatic “Big Rude Jake” who has had a long and successful career in Rockabilly, Jazz, Swing etc. and it shows in his music. This band is always putting on a good show.
Video Note: The dancers in the “dark” in this video are friends in the scene.
Alistair Christl (Update: Moved Out of Canada as of Dec 2015)
Self described as the “Reigning Canadian champion of “Hillbilly Bop” – a style that combines the best of Honky tonk, Country Swing, Roots Rockabilly, Jazz and Blues Alistair is another show stopper. I have seen him play the Rockabilly Brunch at the Dominion on Queen many times (as well as many other events) and he always impresses every time. He is super fun to dance too as well.
The Kat Kings
The Kat Kings have this great Bluesy/Rockabilly (Bluesabilly?? lol) sound that is just so sweet to listen too and dance too. They are another hardworking band that perform all over the city and beyond. One of my favorite performances was a couple of years back at the Elvis Tribute night at Hughs Room. Kevin the lead singer was just so perfect to lead this tribute night and I think Elvis would have been proud.
Ginger St. James
I have only seen Ginger play once and it was awhile ago but I plan to change this very soon because she is an outstanding vocalist and great performer. To sum up her style there is a great quote on her website that says: “Raunchy, sassy, bluesy, rockin’ with a good-sized dash of jazz AND country, this is a total delight to the ears of any connoisseur of great music. – Tara Jennings”
Hell Bent Rockers
The Hell Bent Rockers are an awesome band from just outside of Toronto in the city of Hamilton. There sound is high-energy mix of classic rock & roll and authentic 50’s rockabilly. Just the kind of Rockabilly I personally love and have enjoyed every time I have seen them perform. I’m looking forward to seeing them next Friday at the 3030.
The Greasemarks according to their website describe themselves as “Leaving a trail of stained pillows, broken hearts and busted amps in their wake.The Greasemarks have been doin’ 50’s rockabilly loud, nasty & right since 2007″. I have seen this band a few times and have to say this statement is true 🙂
The Diamond Drapes
Another great band from Hamilton, the Diamond Drapes are a well dressed band with a classic Rockabilly sound. I only recently saw this band perform about a year ago and I was kicking myself for not seeing them sooner, they are so good! I stayed on the dance floor all night long.
Ronnie has been playing his rockabilly brand of hobo country for years now. Prior to forming his own trio in 1989, he had already played and written songs on several albums and had been a member of Jimmy Roy’s 5 Star Hillbillies, Herald Nix, The Nervous Fellas, The Bughouse Five and countless other rockabilly and roots-based bands. He has released eleven albums of his own, nine of which are on European labels (Source).
New Band Alert! The Straight Eights
Band features Teddy Fury on Drums, James Henry from the Millwinders on bass, Alistair Christl on guitar, and Big Rude Jake on vocals and rhythm. You could call it an all-star band! They can be found right now at Castros (2116 Queen St E, Toronto) from 5:30pm-7:30pm.
Extra Music Note: Toronto has also a number of Psychobilly Bands that have a real following as well and are very good if that is your favourite style. Bands like:
The Howling Bullets
Christian D and the Hangovers
For regular updates on the scene make sure you follow the “Toronto Vintage Society” who is always up to date on all events Rockabilly and beyond in Toronto.
Do you have a favorite band? And it does not have to be in Toronto. I always love hearing about other bands in other cities (that is why I love VIVA for the chance to see new bands). Do Share!