From jazz to blues to bluegrass to indie punk, Toronto’s Silver Dollar Room has offered an eclectic range of music throughout its sordid past. Its large, glowing sign has stood as a lodestar for years, drawing night owls to the corner of Spadina Avenue and College Street. The City of Toronto officially recognized the venue’s place in Toronto’s music history with a heritage designation in 2015, but the lore and legend that surround the space have assured that the title is more than warranted.
Opened on the first day of 1958, the Silver Dollar quickly became a hotspot for jazz musicians, a reputation it would maintain through the 1970s, when acts like Jim Heineman, John T. Davis and Tommy Okie took over as the venue’s house band. It entered a phase as a strip club in the 1960s, while police troubles plagued the bar in the ’70s and ’80s. In the mid-1990s, booker Gary Kendall helped re-establish the bar’s focus on music by turning the Silver Dollar into a thriving blues club, while booker Dan Burke’s presence in the mid-2000s brought the club similar acclaim for indie, garage and punk rock shows.
Since then, the Silver Dollar has been the site of many notable Toronto shows. Wolf Parade member Dan Boeckner debuted his Operators project there, while Courtney Barnett introduced herself to Toronto audiences with a 2014 residency at the venue. Acts like Solids, Bleached and Mexican Slang have played the room in the past few years, further shoring up its status as a destination for indie and garage rock.