If you were listening to rock radio in the late 70′s and into the 80′s, you may very well remember, as I fondly do, the radio commercials for the legendary venue that invited you to come and hang ‘under the neon palms, of the El Mocambo’.
On March 4, 1977, The Rolling Stones did just that, playing the first of two performances at the club, billing themselves as “The Cockroaches”. April Wine opened. Both bands would record their shows. The latter put out an entire album, while The Stones released tracks that would comprise Side 3 of their double album ‘Love You Live’. This by the way, was the event at which the Prime Minister’s wife, Maggie Trudeau, hung with the Stones, following them thereafter to New York City.
The El Mocambo was opened as a music venue in 1850. The building was first used as a haven for escaped slaves. The name and famous El Mocambo palm tree sign were erected in 1946. It was one of the first establishments in Toronto to obtain a liquor license. Musical acts appeared on separate stages located on the main and second floor of the building.
Located within walking distance of University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and George Brown College, the venue became a popular place for students living nearby. Throughout the 1970s the club was known as a bastion of the blues and rock and roll during a time better known for (or marred by) disco.
Over the years other major music acts appeared at the venue, including Marilyn Monroe, internationally famous jazz performers, including Grover Washington, Jr., Charles Mingus, and Al Di Meola, and rockstars like U2, Moxy, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Blondie and Meatloaf.
Other live recordings made by other bands/performers at the venue include:
Elvis Costello — Live at the El Mocambo (1978)
MacLean & MacLean — MacLean & MacLean Suck Their Way to the Top (1980)
Downchild Blues Band – But I’m On The Guest List (1982)
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble — Live at the El Mocambo (1983)
Mainline – Last Show @ The Elmo (2001)