Music Memories of Yonge
Explore Downtown Yonge’s music history with us!
Content researched and written by Nicholas Jennings.
Tavern ClubGet Directions
Offering everything from jazz and rock to rhythm & blues, this club was the epicentre of the Yonge Street scene and the place where Bob Dylan found his backing band.
From 1963 to 1976, Friar's Tavern served as one of the Yonge Street strip's most popular nightclubs. When Jack Fisher opened Friar’s, the tavern promised "the finest in food." But its musical offerings were truly superb, ranging from jazz greats Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton to local favourites David Clayton-Thomas, Jon and Lee & the Checkmates and Levon & the Hawks. The latter had served their apprenticeship with Ronnie Hawkins and were now one of the city’s best bands. On a tip from Albert Grossman’s Toronto-born employee Mary Martin, Bob Dylan flew to Toronto on Sept. 15, 1965 to check out Levon & the Hawks as his potential backing band. Their after-hours jam at Friar’s led Dylan to hire the group (later known as the Band) to help create his revolutionary new sound—an occasion Time magazine called “the most decisive moment in rock history.” Friar’s closed in 1976 and the heritage building served as the home of the Hard Rock Café from 1978 to 2017, after which it became Shoppers Drug Mart’s flagship store, with the Friar’s Music Museum located on the second floor.