The Rolling Stones

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.

The Rolling Stones in 1965, left to right, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Keith Richards, Source: Pop Expresso, Original author and source unknown.

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.

Advertisement for The Rolling Stones, Ottawa Citizen, 15 April 1965.

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,

Gazette (Montreal), 2016. “J.B. and The Playboys: Montreal’s Fab Five,”

J.B. and The Playboys, 2.0, 2019,

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,

Robb, Peter, 2017. “Remembering Treble Clef: Harvey and Louise Glatt changed Ottawa’s music scene forever 60 years ago,” Artsfile, 9 November,

La Baker

26 August 1955

If you wanted great entertainment, especially jazz, in Ottawa during in the 1950s, you went to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Among the many nightclubs located there, the most prominent were probably the Standish Hall Hotel in Hull and the Gatineau Country Club in Alymer. At these locales, one saw such legendary figures as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Sarah Vaughn.  On 26 August 1955, the curtain went up at the Gatineau Country Club on the incomparable Josephine Baker, known in her adopted France as simply “La Baker.” She was in Ottawa for a week’s engagement, her first and only visit to the nation’s capital.

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of a washerwoman and a vaudeville drummer who quickly abandoned his young family. A poor black girl growing up in the United States at its segregationist worst faced bleak prospects. As a young child she was cleaning houses for rich white people. By age thirteen she was waiting tables, and by age fifteen was already twice married and twice divorced. The only thing she got out of the second marriage, which lasted but a month, was her surname “Baker” which she kept throughout her life despite two more marriages…and two more divorces.

Despite this unprepossessing start in life, young Josephine Baker found her calling as an entertainer. In 1919, she joined a black vaudeville company. Two years later she came to New York, then in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance, to play in The Dixie Steppers. While initially judged too black to be in the chorus, she got her chance when a chorus girl got sick. She played the comic role of the inept dancer at the end of the chorus line who initially bungles the routine only to blossom into the troupe’s finest dancer.

Seizing an opportunity to dance in Paris, she voyaged to France in 1925 to join La Revue Nègre. Paris was a revelation. Here, a black woman could stay at the finest hotels and dine in the best restaurants without discrimination. Instead of being considered a second-class citizen or worse, she was admired and welcomed.

After touring Europe with La Revue Nègre, she joined the famous Folies Bergère. She was a huge success, her famed cemented by a dance in which she wore only a skirt made of sixteen, strategically placed bananas. Jaded French audiences had never seen such a performance. Its raw sensuality stunned them. By 1927, at the age of only twenty-one, she was the highest paid female entertainer in the world.

Josephine Baker, 1927, Folies Bergère, Un Vent de Folie, Waléry, Paris.

She became a film star, appearing in Zouzou (1934) and Princess Tam-Tam (1935), as well as several other films. Princess Tam-Tam was banned in the United States. It was not clear what shocked white America more, showing a black woman in a relationship with a white man, or a black woman cast in the lead role. She became an inspiration to oppressed African Americans.

By the mid-1930s, her performance style began to change. Out went the primitive, catlike eroticism of her youth in favour of the mature, French chanteuse in the style of Edith Piaf. Parisian audiences adored her.

In 1935, Baker returned briefly to the United States to perform in New York in the famous Ziegfeld Follies. It was not a happy experience. Now a star, she was allowed to stay in one of New York’s big hotels, but only if she used the service entrance. Her performance, which included dancing with white men, was still beyond the pale of even a liberal New York audience. After newspapers insulted her and made racial comments, she returned disheartened to Paris.

In 1937, she married a wealthy Frenchman, Jean Lion. While the marriage didn’t last, she became a naturalized French citizen, renouncing her American citizenship. She famously said that the Eiffel Tower “looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what does that matter? What was the good of having a statue without the liberty?”

When war came, Baker took on a new role as spy and resistance fighter. Using her fame as a shield, she smuggled secret messages amongst her sheet music to the Free French. Later, after fleeing to North Africa, she performed for Allied soldiers. She insisted that she would only perform in front of integrated audiences. After the war, the French government awarded Baker the Resistance Medal with Rosette and the Croix de Guerre.

She also took on a new persona, that of a grande dame.  Once famed for dancing in skimpy costumes, she now showcased the finest in French fashion, wearing designer gowns from Christian Dior and other leading fashion houses. In 1947, she married Jo Bouillon, a French orchestra leader.

She tried another return to the United States in 1951. She again insisted that she would only perform in front of non-segregated audiences. Her U.S. tour, which began in Miami, was a great success until she was denied service at New York’s prestigious Stork Club. After making an official complaint to the Club, she got into a battle of words with the famed American journalist Walter Winchell who accused her of being a communist. This was at the height of Senator McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade that led to hundreds of American entertainers being blacklisted. Baker was banned from the United States for nine years.

Josephine Baker, March on Washington, 1963, Château des Milandes.

Through the 1950s, Baker and Jo Boullion raised a group of dozen adopted children of all races which they called The Rainbow Tribe at Baker’s chateau, Les Milandes, and 700-acre estate in the Dordogne region of France. It was Baker’s effort to demonstrate that people of all nationalities could live together in peace and harmony.

Maintaining a fifteenth-century chateau while raising such a large family became even more onerous when Baker’s fourth marriage failed. Never a good business person, and very generous, Baker ran up large debts. Eventually, she lost her chateau to creditors, and had to return to the stage to repay her debts. Helped by Princess Grace of Monaco, she and her Rainbow Tribe took up residence in a home in Monaco.

In 1963, Baker was invited to join the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Wearing her French military uniform with all of her medals, she appeared on the podium where she gave a short speech of support. She said that it was “the happiest day of her life.”

That summer of 1955, when Josephine Baker came to Ottawa, the great entertainer stayed at the Château Laurier Hotel while she performed at the Gatineau Country Club. Travelling with her were her French maid, Miss Jeanette Renaudin, her musical director, Mikos Bartek, nine trucks of clothes, and a photograph of her husband, Jo Bouillon. Press reports said that her wardrobe was insured for $250,000 ($2.5 million in today’s money).

She started her visit with a press conference and special performance at the Press Club in Ottawa a few days before the official start of her gig. Dressed in a slinky black dress, she wowed the journalists in the room who wondered whether she would have a wardrobe malfunction. “If accidents happen, well, c’est la mode,” she said. Bob Blackburn, the Citizen reporter, said there was no describing her, “even the most extravagant adjectives can’t do her justice.”

Talking about her decision to go to Paris back in 1925, Baker told that journalists that she had been looking for more freedom to express herself. In the United States, the only thing a black woman could do in show business was to wear a bandana on her head. She hoped that her example would open doors in other fields for other African Americans.

She also claimed to have been one of the first entertainers to appear before a television camera. The event occurred in 1935 in the BBC Studios in England. She said that she was put in a little cubicle with her face painted white since that was the only way she could be seen on the equipment of that time. “Image me with a white face!” she exclaimed.

Advertisement, Ottawa Citizen, 24 August 1955.

At the Press Club, she sang in both French and English, performing her old favourites such as J’attendrai. There was a lot of focus on her wardrobe for her performance which ranged from a simple white tailored blouse to extravagant evening gowns. One gown, “a sheath-like creation” was decorated in an oyster shell pattern. As she walked, the shells opened to reveal smaller shells and little pearls.

Other engagements in Ottawa included a visit to the French Embassy and radio interviews in both languages.

On opening night in the Carnival Room at the Gatineau Country Club, Josephine Baker received a standing ovation. She wowed the audience with her showmanship, her informal bantering with the audience, and her ability to sing straight from the heart. Among the many songs she sung were Unchained Melody and Begin the Beguine. She modelled gowns by Christian Dior, Jean Dessès, and others. The Ottawa Citizen reported “Here is an entertainer who deserves all the superlatives one can name. She will live in your memory for many years to come. This is Josephine Baker, the incomparable.”

Josephine Baker, entertainer sans pareil, World War II hero and civil rights leader, died in April 1975 at the age of 68, struck down by a cerebral hemorrhage, one day after opening a new show at the Bobino Theatre in Paris celebrating fifty years in show business. A week later, 20,000 people attended her funeral at La Madaleine in Paris. The French government gave her a twenty-one-gun salute. She was buried with full military honours in le Cimetière de Monaco in Monaco.

An inspiration to many, including Beyoncé, today’s megastar, Josephine Baker once said “Surely the day will come when colour means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul, when birth places have the weight of the throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.” 

We have a long way to go.


BBC Wales, 2006. Josephine Baker: The First Black Superstar, YouTube.

Caranvates, Peggy, 2015. The Many Face of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy, Chicago Review Press, Chicago, Illinois.

Château et jardins des Milandes, Demure de Josephine Baker, 2020. Josephine Baker, Tribute to a Great Lady,

Official Site of Josephine Baker, 2020.

Ottawa Citizen, 1955. “They Call Her Fabulous But That Is Inadequate,” 24 August.

——————, 1955. “Josephine Baker Has Gala Wardrobe,” 25 August.

——————, 1955. “Standing Ovation For Baker At Gatineau,” 27 August.

Ottawa Journal, 1955. “Toast Of Paris, Josephine Baker Entertains Press,” 24 August.

——————-, 1975. “Singer, 68, dies in Paris,” 12 April.

——————-, 1955. “Final Tribute for Josephine,” 16 April.

The Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Trophy

2 February 1907 and 29 February 1908

Each November, thousands of rabid Canadian football fans huddle in the freezing cold, or more typically settle back on their chesterfields, to watch the Grey Cup game that pits the Canadian Football League’s Western Division Champions against the Eastern Division Champions in the quest for bragging rights as Canada’s best football team. The trophy was first given by Lord Grey, Canada’s Governor General, in 1909 as the top prize in Canadian amateur rugby football. The first Grey Cup champions were the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

Lord Grey
Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada, 1904-1911

During his term as Governor General from 1904 to 1911, Lord Grey handed out trophies for all sorts of events, including skating, horse racing, and even for the best dog in show at the Ottawa Kennel Club championships. Not to be outdone, Lady Grey had her own award for best Ottawa garden. Of all these prizes, the Grey Cup is probably the only one that has survived. However, for a few years, the Grey Trophy, properly known as the Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Trophy, was likely the best known of all of Lord Grey’s awards, and was highly coveted across the country.

Government House announced the trophy in late 1906 as means of promoting the performing arts in Canada and Newfoundland, then a separate dominion. Very early on, it was decided to offer two trophies, one for the country’s top amateur musical or choral group, and another for the best amateur theatrical company. Entrants were initially limited to provincial capitals, including St. John’s, and cities with a population of more than 50,000. Multiple city entries were permitted though it was expected that provincial government houses would limit the numbers to about fourteen, enough for two shows per evening during a week-long musical and dramatic extravaganza. Colonel J. Hanbury-Williams, the Governor General’s secretary, who was also a friend of Rudyard Kipling, took charge of the event, with the help of at least eight committees that dealt with such things as transportation, finance, entertainment, and the press. There was also a special committee for women. Provincial chairmen were also appointed.

The competition was open to amateurs, defined as persons who had not “lived by the profession” within the previous five years. However, the rule was not intended to exclude those that had been paid a nominal amount for performing in a choir or with a dramatic organization. The performances of each company would be limited to ninety minutes, and no company could have more than 50 members.

The first competition was held in Ottawa from 28 January to 2 February 1907 at the Russell Theatre. Sixteen companies—eight musical and eight dramatic—entered the competition from Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and St. John’s. To ensure impartiality, the judges for the competition were American. George Chadwick, the director of the New England Conservatory in Boston judged the musical entries. Kate Douglas Wiggin, the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and Langdon Mitchell, a Broadway playwright, judged the dramatic productions.

Earl Grey Trophy ii
Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Trophy. The trophy was designed and executed by Louis Philippe Hébert from suggestions of Lord Grey. The woman holding the mask symbolizes drama while the man holding the lyre symbolizes music. The fence between the two figures indicates that music and drama have their own territories. Each figure has a foot on the lowest rail to indicate a willingness to cross onto the other side. See Souvenir Programme, the Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Competition, Ottawa 1912.

Competitors had to pay their own way to Ottawa but the transportation committee organized discount fares on the railways. Group rates were also provided by area hotels, though the main venue hotel was the Victoria Hotel in Alymer which was completely booked for the event. In downtown Ottawa, a Reception Committee organized a city “rendezvous” spot at the Racket Club at 153 Metcalfe Street where a dancing hall was converted into a large, temporary drawing room complete with settees, comfortable arm chairs, and other amenities. There, performers, who were made honorary members for the competition, could relax, write letters, use the telephone, or read newspapers. It was staffed throughout the week with volunteers. Social events were organized for contestants, including a skating and toboggan party at Rideau Hall hosted by Lord and Lady Grey. There was also a tea at the Wright’s Greenhouse, a seven-acre, glass-covered conservatory, in Aylmer.

Two shows were held each evening through the week at the Russell Theatre—one musical and one dramatic—with ticket prices of up to $1. Ottawa led off the competition on the first evening with the D.F.P. Minstrels in the musical event. Shockingly racist, the minstrel show, in which its performers wore “black face,” was warmly received by the Ottawa audience. The finale of the show was “a medley of plantation songs and Southern war ballads.” Later that same evening, the Ottawa Dramatic Company put on Gringoire, a short comedy by Théodore de Banville about a poet forced to play in front of Louis XI of France. The play was performed in English despite it being written in French and all the actors, francophone.

The finale of the event was held on Saturday, 2 February in front of the largest and “most fashionable” audience. After the last two performances of the week, the judges announced the winners of the competition. The winner for best dramatic performance was Winnipeg’s The Release of Allan Danvers. The play had been expressly written for the Earl Grey competition by three amateur Winnipeg authors, Messrs. Beaufort, Devine and Blue, two of whom acted in the show while the third was the stage manager. According to the Ottawa Citizen, it was the first time a Canadian-written play had debuted in Canada. It was a three-act play with a very heavy plot line. Danvers, afflicted with locomotor ataxia, a muscle disorder, falls in love. Although his love is reciprocated, Danvers refrains from declaring his affections to his lady love since he is dying. Before running off to England to hide from her, his lady indicates her affection for him, but Danvers falls dead at her feet—hence, his “release.”

Based on criteria which included stage setting and the company acting as a unit, individual excellence in grace, diction, make-up and dress, and the power to impersonate and express a range of emotions, the Winnipeg Dramatic Club was selected as the competition winner with a total of 49 out of 50 marks. The Ottawa Dramatic Company managed 41 points for its Gringoire.

Overall, the two drama judges were impressed by the high quality of all the theatrical performances. They added that amateur theatre was typically “a crucifixion of the soul,” but that wasn’t the case over the week-long competition. They opined that Lord Grey’s competition should have a positive impact on both the amateur and professional stage. They hoped that it would help address the lack of a standard spoken English which was a deficiency of North America.

The Quebec Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1904 and led by its conductor, Joseph Vezina won the musical trophy. It had presented a classical programme but one of its best numbers, Valse de Concert, was written by Vezina himself. According to the Citizen, it was hard to believe that the orchestra consisted of amateurs, so good was the playing. Spontaneous applause broke out on several occasions during their performance. In scoring the competition, the judge gave the Quebec orchestra 27 out of a possible 40 points in four categories—attack, precision, and accuracy; intonation (singing/playing in tune); technical proficiency; and expression and interpretation. Ottawa’s minstrels received 16 points.

So successful was the week-long competition, Colonel Hanbury-Williams announced on the last night of the performances that Lord Grey was making the competition an annual event.

The following year, thirteen teams competed in the second annual Lord Grey Musical and Dramatic Competition. The competition was again held at the Russell Theatre in Ottawa. Subscription tickets for the full six nights of the competition cost $5. Again, the judges were American to avoid the appearance of bias.  Although competition rules had been eased for 1908 to allow any musical or theatrical group from a town or city of any size to compete, all the competing groups came from major eastern cities. Six of the contestants came from Ottawa, with the remaining participants coming from Quebec City (2), Toronto (2) and Montreal (3).

Again, the week-long series of musical and theatrical performances were judged a great success. Ottawa fared particularly well. On 29 February, 1908, Colonel Hanbury-Williams announced that Ottawa teams had won both the musical and dramatic events. The musical trophy went to the Canadian Conservatory of Music, conducted by Donald Heins. The Quebec Symphony Orchestra, the 1907 winner, and Ottawa’s Orpheus Glee Club came in tied for second place. The Canadian Conservatory of Music’s entry was essentially a string orchestra consisting of thirty violins, violas, violincellos and basses plus a grand piano. Its classical programme included Grieg’s Elegiac Melody, Minuet by Motzart, and La Dernier Sommeil by de la Vierge.

On the theatrical side, Ottawa’s Thespian Club won the Earl Grey Trophy for its two short productions of Food and Folly, a two-act “gastronomic” farce and A Light From St. Agnes, a one-act Broadway tragedy. Although the eventual winner of the competition, the Citizen’s reviewer was not terribly impressed by the Thespians’ farce. He described the play as “impossible,” thin on humour, with dialogue that tended to drag. He had much kinder words for A Light From St. Agnes. He thought the climax of the play was “admirably acted” with both the leading man and leading woman putting on strong performances.

Earl Grey Trophy
Souvenir Programme for the last Early Grey Musical and Dramatic Trophy Competition held in Ottawa in 1912, City of Ottawa Archives.

The Early Grey Musical and Dramatic Competition continued to be held for the next four years, moving to Montreal in 1909, Toronto in 1910, Winnipeg in 1911, and back to Ottawa in 1912. The 1912, and ultimately the final winners of the Lord Grey Trophy, were the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (for the fourth time) and Winnipeg’s Dramatic Society.

In late 1912, Colonel Lowther, the military secretary to HRH the Duke of Connaught who had succeeded Lord Grey as Governor General the previous year, said that the 1913 Competition would be dropped for “various reasons.”  It is possible that the new Governor General had other priorities, and didn’t see the point of adding to the lustre of his predecessor’s reputation. Organizing the competition must also have been a considerable challenge. Given its scale and the huge number of volunteers needed to organize and run it, the necessary logistics may have been too onerous to sustain.

Did the competition succeed in its mission in encouraging amateur music and drama? It’s difficult to say, not knowing the counterfactual. However, in 1913, just months after the cancellation of the Earl Grey Competition, the Canadian Federation of University Women launched the Ottawa Drama League (ODL), later known as the Ottawa Little Theatre. Over time, “little theatres” were also established in other Canadian cities. The ODL presented its first production at the Russell Theatre in 1914. In 1933, the Earl of Bessborough launched the Dominion Drama Festival in co-operation with the ODL at its Little Theatre on King Edward Avenue.

As for the Earl Grey trophies themselves, they seem to have disappeared.[1] An Earl Grey Trophy continues to be awarded at the Winnipeg Music Festival for the best school chorus. But it only dates back to 1923, six years after Lord Grey’s death. It is likely named for the “Earl Grey School,” the first winner of the cup-like trophy.


Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Trophy Competition, 1912, Programme, City of Ottawa Archives.

Manitoba Free Press, 1907. “Through Milady’s Lorgnette,” 12 January.

Montreal Gazette, 1906. “Earl Grey’s Contest,” 21 December.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1908. “Ability Shown by Ottawans,” 29 February.

Ottawa Citizen, 1906. “The Musical Competition,” 27 October.

——————-, 1907. “Judges For The Competition,” 18 January.

——————-, 1907. “Today Opens Competition,” 28 January.

——————-, 1907. “Last Night’s Performances,” 30 January.

——————-, 1907. “Winnipeg Dramatic Club and Quebec Orchestra,” 4 February.

——————-, 1907. “Earl Grey Competitions,” 4 March.

——————-, 1907. “Arranging For A 2nd Competition,” 26 March.

——————-, 1908. “Earl Grey Trophy,” 14 February.

——————-, 1908. “Not In Ottawa,” 18 March.

——————-, 1908.  “Earl Grey Musical and Dramatic Competitions and Competitors,” 19 February.

——————-, 1912. “No Earl Grey Competition,” 16 November.

Ottawa Little Theatre, 2019. History,

Winnipeg Music Festival, 2019. Trophies,

[1] If you are aware of the location of a trophy please send me an email.

Eugène Ysaÿe, the Tsar of the Violin

6 March 1905

To draw up a list of the top violinists of all time acceptable to everybody would be a nigh impossible task. Selection criteria and their appropriate weights would be open to debate. Recency bias, where we put disproportionate weight on more recent events or observations, could lead us to favour living artists over the dead, especially those whose careers preceded sound recordings. Regardless of such difficulties, on any list purporting to represent the best would appear such virtuosos as Yehudi Menuhin, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler and Isaac Stern. Of early masters, Niccolo Paganini, who was active in the early 19th century and was the composer of the fiendishly complex 24 caprices for solo violin, would also be on everybody’s list.  Of those currently playing, Itzhak Pearlman, Viktoria Mullova and Pinchas Zucherman, the Musical Director of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from 1999-2015, stand in the highest regard.

Another master, though one less known outside of music circles today, who would be a candidate for the world’s finest list is the Belgium-born violinist and composer Eugène Ysaÿe (pronounced “Ee-zah-ee).” The late, great Russian violinist, Nathen Milstein, once dubbed him the tsar of the violin. Kreisler reportedly wouldn’t play Ysaÿe compositions in the man’s presence, and said that Ysaÿe was the greatest interpreter of the Elgar Violin Concerto. This Concerto had been expressly written for Kreisler by Edward Elgar and is widely viewed as among the most difficult of a violinist’s repertoire.

ysaye san fran chronicle 21-5-1905
Eugène Ysaÿe, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 May 1905

Ysaÿe was born in 1858 in Liège. During his very early years, he and his older brother were taught the violin by their musician father who scrapped a living by playing in an orchestra in nearby Germany. He made his first public appearance as a violinist at age seven. He later studied music at the Liège Conservatory. His older brother was apparently the one who was supposed to have a musical career. But once he heard his little brother play a violin solo at age nineteen, he abandoned his career and is quoted as saying, “I shall never play again.”

As a young man, Ysaÿe’s talent was recognized by some the leading composers of the time. Ferdinand Hiller, the German-born composer and conductor, introduced Ysaÿe to Jacob Joachim, who at the time was considered one of the greatest violinists of the 19th century. On hearing Ysaÿe play, Joachim delphically said that he had never heard the violin played like that before. While it is unclear whether Joachim liked what he heard, his pronouncement illustrated the originality and freshness for which Ysaÿe was later to become famous.

At age 20, Ysaÿe came under the tutelage of the great Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps. (As a sidebar, Vieuxtemps owned and played a violin made by Giuseppe Guarneri in 1741 that Ysaÿe used during his early career. In recent years, that same violin, now known as the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesù, was played by Pinchas Zucherman. It was sold in 2013 for more than US$13 million and is currently on lifetime loan to American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.) Vieuxtemps enabled Ysaÿe to study music in Brussels for three years and gave him private lessons. In 1880, Ysaÿe became the leader of the Bilse’s orchestra in Berlin. In 1886, he became professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatory. He made his first trans-Atlantic tour in 1894.

Ysaye Wikipedia US Library of Congress
Eugène Ysaÿe, later in life, Wikipedia, U.S. Library of Congress.

By the early 20th century, Ysaÿe was in top form and was an international star of the first magnitude. He was described as a polar bear of a man—“huge, massive and royal,” with a broad brow and dark, flowing locks.  “Thoroughly bohemian,” he appreciated the finer pleasures of life, especially good food. He also was keen on the sporting world. However, money seemed to have come second behind his art. In an 1895 interview given in San Francisco, Ysaÿe claimed that he rather earn $80 a month working as a professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatory than take home $10,000 per year as a professor in Cincinnati. As fate would have it, he was to become conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1919, a post he held for three years.

He also valued highly his family life, and for many years lived in near seclusion with his first wife Louise Bourdau with whom he had five children—three sons and two daughters—in the small Belgian town of Godinne, south of Namur in Wallonia. (After his first wife died in 1924, Ysaÿe married his student, the American violinist Jeanette Dincin, in 1927.) To an American journalist to whom he gave an interview in his country home in 1904, Ysaÿe said that he found inspiration in the pre-dawn hours of the morning paddling in his small boat on a creek near Godinne.

Ysaÿe owned two famous violins—a Stradivarius and a Guarneri. The Stradivarius, dubbed the “Hercules,” was made in 1734 by Antonio Stradivarius in Cremona, Italy. Ysaÿe used this violin when he practised, preferring the Guarneri for concert work as it was less “fatiguing” for him to play. The Stradivarius was stolen from Ysaÿe’s dressing room in 1908 while he was performing on-stage at the Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was recovered from a Paris stop in 1925. In 1972, the violinist Henryk Szeryng donated the instrument to the City of Jerusalem where it is played by the concert master of the Israel Philharmoic Orchestra.

Ysaye violin Shinichi Yokoyama Nippon Muic Foundation
Ysaÿe’s Guarneri Violin, Nippon Music Foundation, photo by Shinichi Yokoyama.

Ysaÿe’s Guarneri violin was made Bartolomeo Giuseppe, also known as Joseph, Guarneri of Cremona in 1740. The violin bears the original label of its maker—“Joseph Guarnerius, fecit Cremonae, anno 1740, I.H.S.” In 1928, Ysaÿe reportedly added a second label “Ce Del Jesus fut le fidèle compagnone [sic] de ma vie,” which means “this Del Jesus [the name of the violin] was the faithful companion of my life.” Stories about how he acquired the violin vary. One newspaper account says that he had originally purchased the instrument in Paris for 30,000 francs on behalf of man who gave it to his daughter who was a pupil of Ysaÿe. The girl insisted that Ysaÿe play the violin in concerts. When Ysaÿe found it to be the ideal instrument for his temperament, he bought the violin from the pupil’s father for the same 30,000 francs. Another account has him borrowing the violin from the woman for his first North American tour. On his return to Belgium, he traded his own violin made by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini and an additional 40,000 francs for the Guarneri. In recent years, the violin was played by Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman who seems to favour instruments used by Ysaÿe. The instrument is owned by the Nippon Music Foundation and is currently played by Sergey Khachatryan.

In February 1905, Ysaÿe came to New York aboard the first super trans-Atlantic liner, the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse of the North German Lloyd line for a massive 75 concert tour of North America with Canadian stops in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. By this time, he was the highest priced violinist in the world. His income was said to be enormous. For this North American tour, which was organized by Robert E. Johnston who managed all the great violinists of the time, he was given a $50,000 advance (equivalent to roughly $1.3 million today) before he even left Belgium.

Ysaye 4-3-05 toej
Advertisement for Ysaÿe’s Ottawa performance, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 4 March 1905.

Ysaÿe arrived in Ottawa on Monday, 6 March 1905 for a single performance at the Russell Theatre. Ticket prices ranged from 75 cents to $2.00. On the day of the performance, 300 rush seats were released at 50 cents each. It was a sell-out crowd. 1,400 spectators came to see Ysaÿe perform. The Ottawa Evening Journal claimed it was the largest audience ever to greet an artist. Ysaÿe was accompanied by M. Jules De Befve on the piano. De Befve was the head of the piano department at the Liège Conservatory.

Without a doubt, the performance was the social climax of the winter season. All of Ottawa’s elite was there to listen to Ysaÿe, including the Earl and Countess of Grey. The programme started with Handel’s Sonata in G minor. The Citizen’s reporter wrote “every pianissimo crescendo, fortissimo, was brought out clear as a silver bell and the audience could have listened till morning.”  Other pieces played included the Ballade et polonaise by Vieuxtemps, the Chaconne by Bach, and Saint-Saëns’ violin concerto No. 3.

The evening was a huge success. The appreciative Ottawa audience gave Ysaÿe five encores.  A local musician of considerable personal reputation called Ysaÿe’s performance “the finest example of tone production and artistic impression he had ever heard.” One observer recounted that only the presence of the Governor General and Lady Grey restrained the exuberance of the crowd. Otherwise “the men would have stood up and thrown their hats into the air.” The Evening Journal enthused that Ysaÿe began where technique left off. “The soul of Bach will sing itself away to everlasting bliss so long as giants like Ysaÿe are raised upon earth” wrote the Journal’s reporter. When the master played Abendlied by Robert Schuman, the journalist wrote that his delicate muted tones seemed to wail and sing at his command and as his face became illuminated with the beauty of the thoughts suggested to him by Schuman so the music itself took on the form of beauty and together Ysaÿe and his audience were absorbed, spell-bound, lost, nor was the spell broken when the music ceased.

The journalist feared that this might be one of the last public performances by Ysaÿe outside of Belgium as there were rumours that the master was exchanging his violin for a conductor’s baton. Fortunately, this was not the case, though over time Ysaÿe devoted an increasing amount of time to composing, teaching and conducting. In part this reflected persistent health problems that plagued the virtuoso, especially in later life. According to Canadian violinist Maurice Solway who was a pupil of Ysaÿe in the late 1920s, ill-health went a long way to explaining why Ysaÿe sometimes trembled his bow hand while playing—that and apparently his unconventional bow grip using only three or even only two of his right-hand fingers.

In 1929, afflicted by diabetes and phlebitis, Ysaÿe lost part of a leg. But he continued to work. Two months before he died, his opus magnum, the opera Peter the Miner, was played in Liège. As he was too ill to attend the debut, Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians organized a radio broadcast so Ysaÿe could listen to it from his bed.

Following his death in May 1931, Belgium gave Ysaÿe a state funeral. On a pillow in front of his coffin laid his beloved Guarneri violin.

Sources:, 2018. Eugène Ysaÿe (b1858; d1931), Belgium, Violinist,

Cumberland Evening Times, 1931. “Eugene Ysaye, Violinist, Dies In Brussels,” 12 May.

Globe (The), 1931. “Ysaye Is Mourned In Music World,” 13 May.

Globe and Mail (The), 1981. “Grateful Solway’s Memories Pay Homage to Eugene Ysaye,” 23 October.

Detroit Free Press (The), 1904. “A Day With Ysaye.” 6 November.

Ottawa Evening Journal (The), 1905. “Coming Amusements,” 6 March.

————————————-. 1905. “Ysaye, a King Among Violinists,” 7 March.

Ottawa Citizen, (The), 1905. “Ysaye’s Recital,” 7 March.

Nippon Music Foundation, 2018. Instruments,

Salt Lake Herald (The), 1905, “This Week In The Theatres,” 2 May, 1905.

San Francisco Call (The), 1905. “With the Players and the Music Folk,” 21 May.

San Francisco Chronicle (The), 1895. “He Talks Of His Art,” 12 May.

Smithsonian, 2018. Violins: Guarneri Family of Violin Makers,

Tarisio Fine Instruments and Bows, 2018. Antonio Stradivarius, Cremona, 1734, the ‘Hercules,’

Ysaye, Szeryng, Kinor David, Semel,

——————————————, 2018. Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù,’ Cremona, 1740, the Ysaÿe,

——————————————, 2018. Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù,’ Cremona, 1741, the Vieuxtemps,

Topeka State Journal, 1905. “Ysaye Is Next.” 18 February.

We Want The Animals!

1 March 1967

In the mid-1960s, one of the most promising, up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll groups was The Animals. The British group, formed in 1963 with the gravel-voiced, bluesy Eric Burdon as lead vocalist, followed The Beatles across the Atlantic and helped to spearhead the “British Invasion” of North America. By Canada’s centennial year, the band already had a number of hit singles in the United States and Canada. It’s rendition of The House of the Rising Sun (Click here), which had topped the British singles’ charts in the summer of 1964, became number one in the United States that October. Another song, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (Click here) recorded in 1965, took the number two spot in Canada. The song became the unofficial anthem of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. Other big hits of the time included See See Rider and Don’t Bring Me Down, both released in 1966. The group appeared a phenomenal six times on the Ed Sullivan Show, one of the most avidly watched television shows of the era, once in 1964, three times in 1965 and twice in 1966.

The Animals
Early Publicity Photo of the original Animals, c. 1964, author: Richard William Laws, Wikipedia.

Imagine the excitement for Ottawa rock fans when it was announced that Eric Burdon and the Animals were to play on 1 March 1967 in the Coliseum at Lansdowne Park. This wasn’t the same group that recorded the band’s initial hits. That early group consisted of Erik Burdon (vocals), Alan Price (keyboard), John Steel (drums), Hilton Valentine (guitar) and Byron “Chas” Chandler (bass). But by late 1966, the group had disintegrated owing to a combination of drugs, alcohol, egos, and bad management. Frayed tempers due to long days of performing and touring didn’t help either.  In late 1966, Eric Burdon put together a new group called Eric Burdon and the Animals, consisting of Erik Burdon (vocals), Vic Braggs (guitar), Barry Jenkins (drums), Danny McCulloch (bass), and John Weider (guitar). The addition of John Weider, who also played classical violin, gave a different dimension to the band. It was this version of the Animals, playing many of the old Animals tunes, that toured North America in early1967, starting at Hunter College in New York in February 1967. (Click here for their rendition of See See Rider.) They came to Canada in late February with stops in Hamilton and then Ottawa before returning to New York to continue their U.S. tour.

The Ottawa concert was organized by Peter Charrier through an agency, assisted by James McConnell, a dance promoter, who helped with advertising and the distribution of tickets. Tickets were $2.50 or $3.00, equivalent to roughly $18-$22 today. The venue for the event was the Coliseum on Bank Street at Lansdowne Park. The Coliseum, constructed in 1926, was the venue for innumerable Ottawa political, social and athletic events. Before it was demolished in 2010 to make way for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, it was the home of the Ottawa 67s Junior A hockey team’s ticket office.

Eric Burdon and the Animals
Eric Burdon and the Animals, Publicity Photograph, 1967, Copyright ABKCO Records, Inc., Wikipedia.

The warm-up band for the event was Ottawa’s own five-piece The Eyes of Dawn. Formed in 1966, the group came to local prominence after winning a music contest in Hull. It subsequently became the house band for La Petite Souris coffee shop. In January 1967, it released its debut single Time To Be Going, (Click here) a cover of a song by The Fortunes, under the Sir John A. label. Being asked to be the warm-up band to Eric Burdon and the Animals represented the peak of the group’s short career.

The concert, which attracted more than 2,500 excited teenagers to the Coliseum, began without incident. But when The Eyes of Dawn had finished warming up the crowd and had left the stage, Eric Burdon and the Animals failed to show. For an hour and a half, an increasingly irritated and annoyed audience was left waiting without any announcements. Chants of “We want the Animals” changed to shouts of “Refund” and “We want our money.” Behind the scenes, the concert promoter was engaged in frantic negotiations with the band. While accounts vary, it seems there was a contract dispute. Apparently, the group was contracted to play two 40-minute sessions for $3,500. However, the Animals wanted to give one 50-minute performance. Charrier was agreeable as long as there was a pay cut. He claimed that he had already paid $1,750 up front, and was willing to give another $500, but the group wanted $1,000. Another report suggested that Charrier had offered the group only $300 in advance of the concert. Eric Burdon is quoted as saying “I am a product. I deliver my product and it’s over. Therefore the agency requires I be paid before I deliver.” Regardless, Charrier walked out of the negotiations expecting that the band would be forced to play. Burdon called his bluff and the Animals left the Coliseum without playing a single song. Later, Dan McCullough, the group’s bass guitarist, said that this was the first time that they had run into money troubles. While he said they were sorry, they had no choice but to refuse to play.

Inside, tempers were rising. When somebody turned the Coliseum’s lights out, the fans went wild. A sit-in to get ticket refunds turned violent as hundreds of annoyed teenagers vented their anger on their surroundings. The stage was destroyed, chairs thrown, and equipment damaged. Even floorboards were ripped up. A small fire was also reportedly set in a washroom. Damage and clean-up costs were later placed at $7,917. It took more than fifty police and security guards ninety minutes to restore order. At one point, the police threatened to turn fire hoses onto the demonstrators. From time to time, the crowd shouted “police brutality.” Twenty-five teenagers were arrested, though most were subsequently released without charge. A measure of peace was restored when police officers organized a return of ticket stubs to the audience so that spectators could receive a refund. Concert goers had handed in their entire ticket when they entered the Coliseum, rather than retain a ticket stub. Charrier claimed that is was a requirement of the Canada Central Exhibition Association, the Coliseum’s management, to facilitate the operation of automatic ticket-counting machines.

Two days after the riot, five teenagers arrested in the affray pled guilty in magistrates’ court for causing a disturbance, and received a suspended sentence and six-month probation. The magistrate, L.A. Sherwood, stressed that he was being lenient since many more teenagers had been involved in the riot but had not been caught. He also noted that while he had considerable sympathy for the offenders, there was no excuse for what they did. A charge against another teenager for destroying property owned by the Canada Central Exhibition Association was subsequently dropped on a technicality; the CCEA didn’t own the destroyed property. Another charge of underage drinking against the same individual was also dropped as police couldn’t prove that the young man had been imbibing from the half-empty flask of vodka found in his back pocket.

The Ottawa Journal ran an editorial entitled “Youth Running Wild.” It opined that the crowd had “every right to be angry,” but was shocked by “the wanton destruction and contempt for authority.” The newspaper placed the blame on the glorification of civil disobedience. “Teenagers have precedent aplenty for defying the police and taking matters into their own hands.” It thought that “crooked thinking” needed “some straightening out,” and that “discipline in home and school should be tightened up, police must be rapid and thorough…and courts should be clear that the price of lawlessness is intimidating.”

The following day, a remorseful crowd of 50 to 75 young men and women marched from the Ottawa police station to City Hall to apologize for their actions. Their initial intention was to confront the police and seek an explanation for police actions during the riot. However, the youths decided instead to march to City Hall. Acting Mayor Ken Fogarty met the teenagers on the front steps. Group spokesman, Tom Boyle, age 17, said “We have come to make a public apology.” He mentioned that when the Animals didn’t appear, a sit-down had been planned, but things got out of hand. Fogarty replied that the riot had blackened the name of Ottawa and that the city’s youth had been branded as irresponsible. He added, however, that the promoter had been at fault for not explaining the situation. He reminded the group that when somebody owes you something, you have a financial claim; “you don’t knock their block off.” The Acting Mayor thought their apology would go a long way towards correcting the image of the city’s teenagers.

The Animals TOJ, 20-3-67
Refund Advertisement for the Concert, The Ottawa Journal, 20 March 1967.

It took some time for the police to track down Peter Charrier, the principal organizer of the concert, as Charrier had initially disappeared, unwilling to be interviewed until he sought legal counsel. He later said that rumours that he had bunked off to Jamaica were untrue. He promised that all money would be refunded to all concert spectators even those who did not receive a ticket stub from the police. Subsequently, advertisements appeared in local newspapers indicating that concert goers were entitled to “refunds or part thereof” if they applied to certain Treble Clef stores and sign an affidavit indicating that they had purchased a ticket. The operative words were “part thereof.” The organizer later indicated that ticket holders would only get half refunds as they had enjoyed half a concert. In the event, the record is unclear how many concert goers actually received a refund. By the end of May, the Ottawa Journal had been unable to find anybody who had received a refund.

As for the musicians, Eric Burdon and the Animals left the Coliseum immediately for New York. Over coming years, the Animals continued to morph and change as band members came and went. Two days after the riot, The Eyes of Dawn went on to play a gig at The Oak Door, a teen nightclub at 485 Bank Street. The group put out a second single in late 1967 called Kaleidoscope, (Click here) and folded the next year.

After much discussion, the City of Ottawa on a 16-7 Council vote agreed to cover the cost of damages to the Coliseum. With a $5,000 deductible, insurance covered the remaining $2,917. The Coliseum never again held a rock ‘n’ roll concert.

Eric Burdon returned to Ottawa in 2013 for Bluesfest. At age 76 (as of 2017), he continues to perform, bringing the old Animals tunes as well as new ones to appreciative audiences.


Bunch, Adam, 2017. “A Rock ‘N’ Roll Riot in Ottawa,” Canadian Music Hall of Fame (The),

Canadian Music Blog, 2017. Top Hits of 1967,

Canadian Pop Encyclopedia, 2015. The Eyes of Dawn,

Canuckistan Music, 2017. The Eyes Of Dawn,

Classic Pop Icons, 2010. We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,

Hannan, Ross & Arnold, Cory, 2010. Eric Burdon and The Animals,

Globe and Mail (The), 1967. “5 Youths On Probation For Ottawa Riot Roles,” 3 March.

————————–, 1967. “Animals’ Fans Win A Refund,” 4 March.

Official Ed Sullivan Site (The), 2010. The Animals,

Ottawa Journal (The), 1967. “Animals: Wouldn’t Appear, 2,500 Teens Riot, Coliseum Wrecked. 2 March.

————————–, 1967. “five Admit Charges,” 2 March.

————————–, 1967. “Yourth Running Wild,” 3 March.

————————–, 1967. “Promoter Hopes to Refund Money,” 3 March.

————————–, 1967. “Apology – Protest For A Riot,” 4 March.

————————–, 1967. “Youth Charges Dismissed,” 25 March.

————————–, 1967. “Below the Hill,” 27 May.

————————–, 1967. “City Balks At Paying Riot Costs,” 1 June.

————————–, 1967. “City to Pay Coliseum Riot Damages,” 17 October.

Ottawa Tonite, 2013. “Eric Burdon at Bluesfest, 2013,”

Rolling Stones, 1991(?), “Eric Burdon – The Animals and Beyond,”

The Maharaja of the Keyboard

5 December 1945

In the firmament of great jazz musicians, few stars sparkle as brightly as that of Oscar Peterson. Born in 1925 to a hard-working, immigrant family from the poor St Henri neighbourhood of Montreal, Peterson burst like a fiery comet onto the jazz scene while still a teenager. Over a career that spanned more than 60 years, Peterson wowed audiences around the world with his prodigious piano technique, his amazing talent for improvisation, and a range that encompassed everything from the classics to stride, blues, boogie and bebop. He played with all the jazz greats of his age, including trumpeters, Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, and Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonists Charlie Parker and Lester Young, and such famed vocalists such as Sarah Vaughn, Billy Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. Demonstrating his range, he also accompanied such artistic luminaries as Fred Astaire, and the great violinist Itzhak Pearlman. It was Roy Eldridge who dubbed Peterson the “Maharaja of the Keyboard. Louis Armstrong called him “the man with four hands.” As well as playing the piano, Peterson was a talented composer, and had a singing voice comparable to that of Nat King Cole. His best known compositions are the Canadiana Suite, an album released in 1964, and Hymn to Freedom, composed in 1962. Oscar Peterson and his trio played Hymn to Freedom in 2002 at a gala in Canada to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee. In 2008, the Hymn was played at U.S. President Obama’s inauguration.

Oscar Peterson in 1977
Oscar Peterson in 1977, Portrait by Tom Marcello, New York, U.S.A.

Jazz was in Peterson’s blood. Both his parents, Daniel and Olive Peterson, had a passion for music, and encouraged their five children to learn instruments. A tight family budget was stretched to include a piano. Daniel Peterson, a self-taught piano player, instructed his wife and their five children how to play. Young Oscar initially studied the trumpet as well as the piano. But after a lengthy bout with tuberculosis in the early 1930s, which claimed the life of his older brother Fred, Oscar concentrated on the piano. Father Daniel was a demanding teacher, insisting on daily practice and assigning musical homework for his children while he was absent working as a porter on the railway. But Oscar, with his perfect pitch and ability to play songs by ear, was up to the challenge. Later, his older sister Daisy became his piano instructor. His first exposure to jazz came from listening to radio. His father, however, looked down on jazz seeing it as music for the uneducated. He insisted that Oscar learn the classics. Peterson later studied under two classically-trained pianists, Lou Harper and Paul de Marky, the latter was Canada’s most acclaimed classical pianist of the time who taught music at McGill University in Montreal. He also instructed private students, charging $15 hour, a huge sum for Oscar’s parents (equivalent to more than $200 in today’s money). From a very early age, Oscar played in churches, community centres, and schools. It was in such venues, Oscar began to learn how to improvise.

Peterson’s first big break came in 1940 when he auditioned for an amateur music contest hosted by CBC radio. He went on to win not only the Montreal competition but also the national finals held in Toronto. He was only 15 years old, and the only black contestant. He received a cheque for $250 (close to $4,000 today). From there, there was no looking back. He quickly out-grew his Montreal High School band, the Victory Serenaders, and gigs in the school gym. In 1943, he dropped out to play full-time in a popular Montreal big band led by the trumpet player Johnny Holmes after a spot for a pianist opened up when the group’s regular pianist was drafted into the army.

Peterson received further national exposure in 1945 when RCA Victor, one of Canada’s largest recording studios agreed to record him, releasing two 78 rpm records. They were hugely successfully. In early June 1945, Freiman’s Department Store on Rideau Street advertised in The Ottawa Journal “A new VICTOR ‘discovery’ for your piano pin-up collection. Name: OSCAR PETERSON, just a youngster of eighteen, a Canadian lad of inspired rhythm that flows from his fingertips in a sparkling, ear tingling, original style all his own.” The store encouraged people to come listen to a sample recording of I Got Rhythm at Freiman’s Record Studios located on the third floor of the department store, daring them to try to keep their toes quiet!

Peterson’s first known public performance in Ottawa took place on Wednesday, 5 December 1945 at the Glebe Collegiate Auditorium at 8.30pm. The performance called Hot Jazz, featured Oscar Peterson and his jazz trio: Peterson on the piano, Russ Dufort on drums, and George Murphy on bass. The prices of admission was 90 cents, $1.20, and $1.50. The trio played to a capacity crowd, with people standing two and three deep at the back of the auditorium. Extra seats were placed on the stage. Students from Carleton College’s (later Carleton University) sat or stood behind the stage, so that they could at least hear the music even if they couldn’t see the artists. The Ottawa Journal reporter described the twenty-year old Peterson as “one of the foremost exponents of jazz.” The night’s programme featured both classical pieces such as Chopin’s Polonaise as well as jazz pieces, including Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues and Peterson’s own composition “The Boogie Blues.” The enthusiastic crowd gave the trio three encores. At one of the encores, Peterson played the Sheik of Araby that he had recently recorded. The journalist concluded by saying that Peterson’s boogie-woogie was “probably the best heard in Ottawa for some time.” The trio returned to the Glebe Collegiate the following May. More than 1,200 people crammed into the school auditorium to hear them again perform a selection of classical and jazz numbers, including Peterson’s own compositions.

Between these two Ottawa performances, Peterson made his debut at the prestigious Massey Hall in Toronto in early March 1946. Most of the audience that night had only heard Peterson through his records. As in Ottawa and elsewhere, the crowd was dazzled by his technique and imagination; Oscar Peterson had made it to the big time. Appearances on the CBC radio series Canadian Cavalcade cemented his reputation for being the country’s most popular, up-and-coming, young artist. He made his American debut in 1949 at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where he played alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, and Ella Fitzgerald. Peterson had been “discovered” by music promoter Norman Granz who had been in Montreal for a meeting. Hearing Peterson play on the radio, Grantz, who produced the “Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP)” series of concerts, tours, and recordings, invited him to perform in New York. From then on, Oscar Peterson was an international star. In 1950, Grantz, who later became Peterson manager, signed him to a contract to perform with JATP. Over the following decade, Peterson participated in fifteen, cross-continent JATP tours.  Peterson’s business relationship and friendship with Granz lasted until the latter’s death in 2001.

Over the decades, Peterson performed in a number of small groups, usually trios. During the 1950s, the other two members of the group were Ray Brown on bass, and Herb Ellis on guitar. In 1958, Ellis left the trio and was replaced by drummer Ed Thigpen. During the 1970s and 1980s, Peterson played with Joe Pass on guitar and bassist Niels-Henning Pederson. In the late 1990s, Peterson formed a quartet, with Pederson on bass, Martin Drew on drums, and Ulf Wakenius on guitar.

Although successful from an early age, Oscar Peterson faced major challenges, not least of which was the racism that he confronted, especially when he toured the U.S. south during the 1950s and 1960s. Even in Canada, he had to endure discrimination, with hotels unwilling to hire black musicians. On one highly publicized occasion in 1951, he was denied a haircut in Hamilton, Ontario owing to his colour. The city’s mayor later apologized. In his quiet, understated way, Peterson fought back. He wrote his Hymn to Freedom in support of the civil rights movement. He was also instrumental in Canadian television advertising becoming more inclusive of minorities. Peterson’s home life also suffered from his constant touring. He was married four times. He also largely missed out on seeing his seven children grow up. Late in life, after suffering a stroke while performing in New York, his ability to use his left hand was impaired. Peterson fought through depression, and continued to perform to adoring audiences. He passed away from kidney failure on 23 December 2007 at 82 years of age.

Oscar Peterson
Statue of Oscar Peterson by Ruth Abernethy, unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on 30 June 2010 in front of 10,000 cheering spectators, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, January 2016.

During his lifetime, Peterson received many honours. Sixteen universities, including Carleton University, awarded him honorary doctorates. From 1991-94, he was Chancellor of the University of York in Toronto. He also received eight Grammies from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, including a lifetime achievement award in 1997 for his more than 200 records. In 1972, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and was promoted to Officer of the Order in 1984. In May 2010, just over two years after his death, Queen Elizabeth unveiled a statue of Oscar Peterson seated at his piano outside of the National Art Centre, a place where he had played many times during his long and productive career.


Batten, Jack. 2012. Oscar Peterson: The Man and His Jazz, Tundra Books: Toronto

Globe and Mail, 1946. “Swing Pianist Stirs Massey Hall throng,” 8 March.

——————-, 2007. “Oscar Peterson, Musician, ‘Man with four hands was one of the greatest piano players of all time.” 26 December.

Ottawa Journal, (The), 1945. “Freiman’s platter chatter,” 7 June.

—————————, 1945. “Hot Jazz.” 5 December.

————————–, 1945. “Peterson played to packed audience in Glebe, 6 December

————————–, 1946. “Oscar Peterson Plays to 1,200.” 10 May.

Marin, Riva, 2003. Oscar: The Life and Music of Oscar Peterson, Groundwood Books: Toronto.

Milner, Mike, 2012. “Frank Sinatra, Oscar Peterson and the maharaja of the keyboard,” CBC Music,!/blogs/2012/3/Frank-Sinatra-Oscar-Peterson-and-the-maharaja-of-the-keyboard, 6 March.

Peterson, Oscar, 1964. Hymn to Freedom, YouTube:


Oscar Peterson in 1977, Author Tom Marcello, New York, U.S.A.,

Oscar Peterson statue at the National Arts Centre, 2016  by James Powell.

Heartbreak Hotel

3 April 1957

In 1956 came a musical phenomenon the likes of which the world had never before seen. Elvis Aaron Presley, a poor, twenty-one year old boy from Nashville Tennessee with a ducktail haircut, smoldering good looks and deep blue eyes, took the world by storm.  His seductive, wide-ranging voice, and tunes that combined black rhythm and blues with country music, electrified the youth of America, starved for a fresh sound. “Heartbreak Hotel,” released by RCA Victor in January 1956 and Elvis Presley’s eponymous debut LP released two months later were instant successes.  Both rocketed to the top of Billboard charts, and stayed there for weeks. On stage, Presley’s singing prowess and sexually-charged performances wowed teenagers, and shocked a deeply conservative American establishment.

After his first album was released, Presley’s career, astutely managed and promoted by Colonel Tom Parker, went into overdrive with multiple appearances by the young singer on U.S. nationwide television, including the CBS Stage Show, the Milton Berle Show, and the Steve Allen Show. An estimated 60 million viewers watched Presley perform on the iconic Ed Sullivan Show in early September 1956. At this appearance, Presley sang the title song of his up-coming movie Love Me Tender for the first time in public. Advance sales of the song went gold before the movie’s release by 20th Century Fox that November. Owing to the wild success of his first appearance on his show, Sullivan invited Presley back twice more over the next four months. Many of his viewers were in Canada, able to pick up the American television signals.

Elvis Presley 1957
Elvis Presley on stage at the Ottawa Auditorium, 3 April 1957, City of Ottawa Archives.

Now a celebrity, Presley went on a multi-city eastern tour in March 1957 which brought him and his backup group, the Jordanaires, to Fort Wayne, St Louis, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and, across the border for the first time, to Toronto and Ottawa. Other than a stop in Vancouver later that year, it was the only time Presley was to perform outside of the United States. After back-to-back shows at Maple Leaf Gardens wearing his famous Nudie Cohen-design gold lamé suit in front of 30,000 adoring fans, Presley and his entourage boarded the overnight train to Ottawa. They arrived in the nation’s capital at 8am on 3 April 1957.

The Ottawa Journal disparagingly reported that Presley skipped lightly like a girl through Ottawa’s downtown Union Station, passing bemused and largely unmoved commuters on his way to an awaiting taxi. The singer was described as “red-eyed and rumpled with sleep,” with “traces of makeup and what looked like mascara” failing “to hide tired lines around the wobble-singer’s Grecian nose.”  Presley, who looked like “any Canadian boy who needs a haircut,” was wearing a dark suit, and a velvet shirt, covered by a “crumpled rosy beige raincoat, with smudgy white buckskin shoes.” Protected by “a flying wedge” of police guards and his entourage, he was taken by taxi to an undisclosed location for some much needed sleep, safe from the prying eyes of teenaged fans who were laying siege to the city’s hotels in hopes of catching a glimpse of the young singer.

Later that day, Presley played two sold-out gigs at the old Ottawa Auditorium, located on the corner of O’Connor and Argyle Streets where the YMCA is today. Ticket prices ranged from $2 to $3 for the 5pm show, and $2.50 to $3.50 (roughly $20 to $30 today) for the 8.30pm performance. While Presley was the headline performer, also on the program were Frankie Trent, a tap dancer, and Frankie Connors, an Irish tenor. Needless to say, the warm-up acts were at best tolerated by fans who were there to see Elvis in the flesh. Many had come from afar to be part of the fun. Busloads of teenagers made their way from Cornwall, Ontario, and from upstate New York. A special 10-car special CPR train called the “Presley Special,” or the “Rock N’ Roll Cannon Ball,” brought hundreds of fans from Montreal who paid $11 for the roundtrip, which included the price of admission. Some of the riders were the lucky winners of a Montreal, city-wide contest which asked them to answer the question “Why I would like to go to Ottawa April 3.” En route, four rock and roll guitarists got the fans into the mood.

16,000 mostly teenaged fans saw Elvis at the Auditorium, though a number of adults sporting “I love Elvis” buttons were spotted in the crowd. The singer again wore his trademark gold lamé jacket and gold accessories, but this time chose to wear dark trousers. Keeping to the adage of always leaving them wanting more, his sets were only 40 minutes long, consisting of nine songs. But he played most of his big hits of the day, including Don’t be Cruel, You Ain’t Nothin But a Hound Dog and Heartbreak Hotel. He also sang Love Me Tender, his adaptation of an old U.S. Civil War love ballad Aura Lee (or Aura Lea). Now considered a classic, ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one in the greatest 500 songs of all time, the Ottawa Journal reporter called Presley’s rendition “a travesty.” It was reported that the gate for the two performances amounted to $45,000, of which Elvis’s cut was $20,000.

Elvis’s trip to Ottawa was not without controversy. As was often the case south of the border, many adults considered Presley’s on-stage gyrations immoral and un-Christian.  Across the city, students were warned to behave themselves, and to do nothing that would bring disrepute on themselves or their schools. The nuns at Notre Dame Convent went further, pressuring their students to promise that they would not take part in the Elvis festivities. They kids were obliged to copy from the blackboard and sign a letter that read “I promise that I shall not take part in the reception accorded Elvis Presley and I shall not be present at the program presented by him at the Auditorium on Wednesday April 3 1957.” Some went notwithstanding the pledge. Those caught were suspended by the school, though they were later reinstated following complaints from their parents.

Fearing that crowds of screaming, near hysterical, teenagers might become disorderly as they had been at previous Elvis performances, a hundred special police and guards were on hand to keep control and to stop spectators rushing the stage. But the guards had relatively little to do besides keeping the aisles clear. Although the throngs of fans proved to be well behaved, they were extremely loud. So loud were they that it was difficult for anybody except those at the very front rows in the arena to hear Presley sing. Poor audio facilities at the Auditorium didn’t help either. But most spectators didn’t appear to mind, content to watch Presley do his thing on stage and be part of the event. As reported by the Journal “With every shimmy the idol’s knees further beckoned the floor. The closer they came, the louder became the screams and when he finally rested on the stage floor—thunder!”

Between performances, a quieter, more subdued Elvis Presley was on display. He greeted a number of young female fans that had been chosen to come backstage, and was photographed with them. Young Janet Fulton, only 13-years old at the time and, fortunately for her, a student at the Sacred Heart Catholic School rather than at the Notre Dame Convent, not only met her idol but received a kiss on the cheek. Presley also gave an interview to Gord Atkinson, host of the CFRA radio’s popular weekly program Campus Corner. Presley politely answered Atkinson’s questions about his sudden popularity, his purchase of Graceland mansion the previous week, his music, and family life. Atkinson then presented him with a scroll indicating that he had been chosen the “Top Artist” by the listeners of Campus Corner. Presley courteously thank him, and replied that he had received more fan mail from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal than anywhere else.

Elvis Kiss
13-year old Janet Fulton gets a kiss from the “Crown Prince of Rock and Roll” at the Ottawa Auditorium, 3 April 1957, City of Ottawa Archives.

Pictures were also taken of Elvis Presley with Ottawa jazz musician, drummer Arni May. As union rules required local talent to be hired for the performance, Presley requested that the Ottawa drummer, then only 18-years old, and his orchestra, play with him and the Jordanaires. May recalled that Elvis was a “first-class gentleman,” and had treated him like a friend. May was paid $30 as the band leader; his band members each received $20. May reprised his performance in August 2007 at an Elvis tribute concert at the Pacific National Exposition, fifty years after the singer’s only western Canadian event.

At the end of the evening performance, Elvis left the stage and quickly left the Auditorium never again to return to Ottawa. But behind him, he left memories of a lifetime for thousands of Ottawa teenagers.


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City of Ottawa, Elvis Presley,

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Plummer, Kevin, 2013. “Historicist—Elvis in Toronto, 1957,” Torontoist,

The Ottawa Citizen, 1957. “Flying Wedge Gets Elvis Safely Past Giddy Girls,” 3 April.

———————–, 1957. “Riding the Elvis Special was Weird and Wonderful,” 4 April.

The Ottawa Journal, 1957. “Presley in Ottawa, Skips Through Union Station,” 3 April.

————————, 1957. “16,000 See Elvis in Ottawa Shows,” 3 April.

————————, 1957.  “Teenagers Beseige (sic) Hotels,” 3 April.

————————, 1957. “Asked Girls Stay Away From Elvis,” 3 April.

————————, 1957. “Overwhelmed by Police Control,”

Toronto Sun, 2012. “Ottawa’s Arni May played with Elvis,” 9 January.

Vancouver Courier, 2007. “Arni’s ready to beat drums again for the King,” 3 August.

Images: A. Andrews, C. Buckman, D. Gall, T. Grant, 3 April 1957, City of Ottawa Archives,