24 April 1965
One of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time is undoubtedly The Rolling Stones. Formed in 1962 by Brian Jones (guitar, keyboard, and harmonica), Mick Jagger (lead vocals and harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar and vocals), Charlie Watts (drums,) Bill Wyman (bass guitar) and Ian Stewart (piano), the group is still going strong at time of writing in 2021. Over the years, some of the band’s members have changed, starting with Ian Stewart who dropped out of the group’s official line-up in 1963 to become its road manager though he did subsequently play from time to time until his death in 1985. Brian Jones died in 1969 shortly after being cut from the band, and was replaced by Mick Taylor until he left the group at the end of 1974. (He did, however, rejoin the band for it’s 50th anniversary shows.) In 1975, Ronnie Wood joined the Stones and has remained with the group ever since. Bill Wyman left in 1993. Despite comings and goings and untimely deaths, the core of the group, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, have been constants since the start.
Back in the early 1960s, when they were young and fresh faced, the band, along with other British singers and groups such as The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Petula Clark, The Kinks, and The Animals, took North America by storm in what would later be called the “British Invasion.” British groups topped the charts in Canada and the United States, and followed up with concert tours that drew thousands of excited teenagers eager to see their idols in the flesh.
The Rolling Stones crossed the Atlantic in early June 1964, with their first American gig in San Bernardino, California, ending their tour two weeks later in New York City. Their second American expedition took place just a few months later that autumn. The group returned to North America in the spring of 1965, starting their tour with stops in Canada—Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto—before heading to the United States.
After playing a one-night gig at the Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal, a show sponsored by CKGM Club 980 and the English promotor and personality “Lord” Tim Hudson, the Stones rolled into Ottawa for a single engagement on 24 April 1965 at the old YM/YWCA Auditorium on Argyle Street. The Stones were brought to the nation’s capital by Treble Clef Productions, a music production company owned by Ottawa-born Harvey Glatt, the noted music promoter, broadcaster, music retailer and record producer. Over the years, Glatt brought to Ottawa an amazing array of international and Canadian music talent, including such luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, and Bob Dylan.
Tickets for the Stones’ show were sold through Treble Clef, Glatt’s music retail outlets located at 104 Bank Street and at 68 Rideau Street. The cost was $2.50 and $3.00 each (approximately $20 and $24, respectively, in 2021 dollars). In the lead up to the performance, the Ottawa Journal held a contest asking the question “Would you like to meet the Rolling Stones?” To qualify, contestants wrote to the newspaper and joined The Journal Swing Club. At the end of the contest, the names of two lucky winners were drawn at random – Veronica Fosbery and Cathy Waiten.
The concert started at 8:30 pm. The Auditorium, which could seat 10,000 people, was only partially full with roughly 3,400 fans in attendance. The mostly teenaged audience made up for its size with its enthusiasm. The show started with two local folk singers, Nev Wells and Sandy Crawley, performing blues and country and western songs. The couple was followed by J.B. and the Playboys, a very popular group from Montreal, who played a mix of their own tunes and covers of the Beatles’ and other rock group songs. Reportedly, their set ended abruptly when the lead singer, Allan Nicholls, ripped his pants in the middle of one of their songs. (J.B. and The Playboys reunited in 2019 as J.B. and The Playboys 2.0.)
After the intermission, the Ottawa rock group The Esquires, not to be confused by the American rhythm and blues group by the same name, took the stage. Girls danced and swayed to their tunes. The Esquires, which had a national following, had just won the RPM Award, the precursor of the Junos, for best vocal and instrumental group of 1964. During the 1960s, The Esquires opened for other international stars, including the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, and the Dave Clark Five.
The excitement rose several notches higher when the Stones—Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman—finally appeared. Screaming teenagers rushed toward the stage, pushing back a cordon of eighteen policemen hired for crowd control onto the stage itself. One of the policemen was reportedly bitten on the ankle by one of the fans.
The Ottawa Journal’s headline said it all: “Pandemonium Greets the Rolling Stones.” John Pozner, the master of ceremonies, pleaded with the crowd to return to their seats so that the show could gone on. The Journal complained that the teenagers who had spent their allowance to buy the premium seats had been cheated by those who had rushed forward. Rushing the stage was also dangerous and ridiculous said the Journal reporter. Eventually, sufficient order was restored for the Stones to perform.
Despite being there to cover the concert, neither of Ottawa’s newspapers commented much on the music, beyond complaining that it was raucous and brassy. Both newspapers used quotation marks around the words concert and performance when describing the show, suggesting that in their opinion it was neither a concert nor a performance. They didn’t even comment on what songs were played. Oblique reference is made to only one song—The Last Time—which had been released as a single in Britain two months earlier and was to appear on the Stones’ Out Of Our Heads album. One could also presume the group played selections from its Now! album which was then the number one pop album in Canada.
Instead of the music, the newspapers focused on the crowd. Wilf Bell, the Citizen reporter, distastefully described the audience as being “as uncontrolled as a jungle rabble,” with teenage girls shaking and trembling at the contortions of the performers, and teenage boys, “many barely recognizable as such with their long hair,” shaking and stamping with the beat. He rhetorically asked This was fun? This was entertainment? before claiming it was mob hysteria and mass mesmerisation. The Journal’s coverage was scarcely better. It too focused its commentary on teenagers who “jumped wildly, waving arms, and imploring the Stones to look at them,” and “in some cases passing out if they got the slightest glance from Britain’s number two group to the Beatles.” It also reported on fights breaking out in the stands before the performance, “in some cases egged on by girls.” The newspaper was, however, impressed by the band’s sang froid, reporting that the Stones played on “not in the least perturbed by the frenzy they sparked.”
The concert ended without serious mishap, though three young men were arrested at the Auditorium after the performance for fighting. Subsequently, a magistrate gave the offending teenagers the choice of a $10 fine or three days in jail. As for the Stones, the Journal reported that four of the five performers successfully exited the stage. However, it claimed that “the fifth, long hair flying, was grabbed by a couple of policemen who mistook him for one of the frantic females.”
After the concert, Keith Richard, Charlie Watts and Mick Jagger apparently returned to their hotel, while Brian Jones and Bill Wyman went out clubbing.
The staid Château Laurier Hotel was clearly not prepared for the crowds of teenagers that swarmed the hotel in an effort to spot their idols. A hotel doorman needed four stiches to close a cut above his eye early Sunday morning when he was struck by a teenager trying to get into the hotel. A CNR policeman, Constable George Mosiuk, was also hit in the face and knocked to the ground by a young man who had been ejected from the hotel. The assailant was later charged with assaulting a policeman. The hotel’s manager said that he would never have allowed the group to book into the hotel had he known who there were. Apparently, the band had reserved rooms under their own names rather than under the group’s name. The manager also commented that these types of music groups “encourage an unpleasant element among teenagers.”
That Sunday, the morning after their gig at the Auditorium, the Rolling Stones left for Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto for their next and last stop on the Canadian leg of their North American tour. On 2 May, the Stones performed on the Ed Sullivan show for the second time of what would be six appearances. (See The Rolling Stones on The Ed Sullivan Show, 2 May 1965.)
Forty years were to go by before The Rolling Stones returned to the nation’s capital. In late August 2005, the band played in front of 43,000 fans, many middle-aged, at Frank Clair Stadium as part of their “A Bigger Bang” tour. While the rock stars were showing their age, they could still fire up a crowd. The Citizen called their performance “a triumph”—a far different assessment to their first appearance in Ottawa. There was one big difference between the two performances. With Mick Jagger now sporting a knighthood, which he received in 2002, the Stones were no longer the rebel iconoclasts of their earlier days. They had become (horrors) respectable.
Like they did forty years earlier, band members went clubbing while in Ottawa. This time to Zaphod Beeblebrox, the famous nightclub. Keith Richards tried to bum a cigarette from Rachel, the daughter of Ben Weiss, a fellow member of the Historical Society of Ottawa, but he didn’t like her brand. The Stones shot part of the video for their song Streets of Love at Zaphod’s.
In 2019, The Rolling Stones brought their latest “No Filter” tour to North America. Delayed owing to Mick Jagger having to undergo heart surgery, the tour resumed in June of that year following Jagger’s return to health. After playing seventeen extraordinarily successful gigs across the United States, the tour was extended into 2020. However, these later performances were postponed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. No Canadian stops were planned.
CBC. 2017. Zaphod Beebelbrox, landmark Ottawa music venue, closing May 14, 3 May.
Classic Rock 101.1, 2018. Flashback: The Rolling Stones Debut on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ 25 October, https://classicrock1011.radio.com/blogs/stoneman/flashback-rolling-stones-debut-ed-sullivan-show.
Gazette (Montreal), 2016. “J.B. and The Playboys: Montreal’s Fab Five,”
J.B. and The Playboys, 2.0, 2019, https://www.jbandtheplayboys.com.
Ottawa Citizen, 1965. “Four Stiches, one punch and a bite follow Stones,” 26 April.
——————, 1965. “Fine 3 youths for fighting,” 26 April.
——————, 1965. “‘Stones’ rock Ottawa,” 26 April.
——————, 1965. “U.K.’s Rolling Stones on Ed Sullivan Show,” 1 May.
——————, 2005. “Stones Rock Ottawa,” 29 August.
——————, 2005. “Streets: Stones’ music reaches across city,” 29 August.
Ottawa Journal, 1965. “Meet the Stones,” 20 March.
——————, 1965. “‘Stones’ In Canada,” 23 April.
——————, 1965. “Pandemonium Greets the Rolling Stones,” 26 April.
——————, 1965. “City Girls Meet Stones,” 26 April.
——————, 1965. “Battle of The Sexes,” 27 April.
Perusse, Bernard, 1965. “Rolling Stones – Here Soon,” Gazette (Montreal), 3 April, https://montrealgazette.com/entertainment/music/j-b-and-the-playboys-montreals-fab-five.
Robb, Peter, 2017. “Remembering Treble Clef: Harvey and Louise Glatt changed Ottawa’s music scene forever 60 years ago,” Artsfile, 9 November, https://artsfile.ca/remembering-treble-clef-harvey-and-louise-glatt-changed-ottawas-music-scene-forever-60-years-ago/.