Music History

10 famous–and infamous–Toronto concerts

[I was asked to write this for Postmedia. -AC]

In the Before Times, our social calendars were filled with concerts and festivals.

It’ll be that way again someday — we hope — but until such time, we have memories of gigs past. Here are 10 famous and infamous music events from the GTA over the last 70 years.

1. Elvis Presley, Maple Leaf Gardens, April 2, 1957.

Because Elvis’ manager/controller Colonel Tom Parker had passport issues (he allegedly killed a man in his native Holland under his real name Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk), Elvis played just five shows outside the U.S. Two of them were at Maple Leaf Gardens, thanks to the effort of Leaside’s Carol Vanderleck, who collected a 2,443-signature petition to bring Elvis to the city. Top price for a ticket was $3.50, the equivalent of $32 today.

2. The Beatles, Maple Leaf Gardens, August 17, 1966

The Beatles’ final tour featured a matinee and evening performance at MLG, with one of their trademark press conferences in between at the King Edward Hotel. The entire time, they were protected by a by-the-book constable from the Aurora OPP detachment. Lore says that the band managed to charm this guy into submission over their 24 hours today. His name was Sergeant Robert Pepper. You don’t think that…?

3. Rock n Roll Revival, Varsity Station, September 13, 1969

Facing a financial disaster, promoter John Brower placed a desperate last-second phone call to Apple Corps in London hoping to convince a Beatle to appear at the show. John Lennon happened to be in the office at the time and agreed to hastily put together a band and fly over. He enjoyed the experience so much — his first-ever solo show outside The Beatles — that this gig seems to have convinced him that he could exist without his bandmates. Legend also says that the practice of holding up a lighter at a concert began here.

Read the rest here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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3 thoughts on “10 famous–and infamous–Toronto concerts

  • The SARSstock show was the first concert that I ever volunteered for. I helped out a family friend who had signed up to keep a bank of port-a-potties clean. (It wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be – people were kind of dumb and lined up to overuse the first row in a bank of 100 stalls.) When we were able to go up and watch shows, we were allowed to walk up the crowd barriers – and for pure s**** and giggles, I made it a point to go to see Justin Timberlake. A fish out of water, absolutely. He knew it. Judging by the number of water bottles that made it to the stage when he came out, the audience definitely new it. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt and after realizing he was going to front a band and not pull out a dance pop act, walked away feeling generally impressed.

    Also, out of the half a million people that were there that day, the only people in the crowd that I recognized were the couple from Michigan who took the train to Toronto with me from Sarnia. They got tipsy during the trip and thought they’d give me a lesson in converting Farenheit into Celsius.

    All in all, it was a damn good day. We should have another one once this stupid Covid crap is done and over with.

    • I second a big concert with some Canadian Artists!

  • Beg your pardon, but I thought that constable’s name was Sergeant Randall Pepper.


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