Toronto was a rhythm & blues town in the 1960s and this tiny after-hours club was ground zero—with Motown stars often dropping in to perform impromptu sets.
To walk upstairs at 372 Yonge was to step into a world where electrifying soul and dazzling dancing were on full display. Opened in 1958 by Al Steiner, The Bluenote featured top-flight house bands Bobby Dean & the Gems, Kay Taylor & the Regents, the Silhouettes and the Rogues (later Mandala) and standout singers Dianne Brooks and Eric Mercury. Vocalist Shirley Matthews was discovered at the club and went on to record her hit single “Big Town Boy.” Thanks to invitations from Steiner, visiting Motown stars Stevie Wonder and the Supremes stopped in after their Toronto concerts and wowed audiences with surprise guest sets. Before it closed in 1969, the Bluenote (another incarnation of the club operated in a different location from 1982-92) gave the city a much-needed shot of rhythm & blues and helped to define what became known as the Toronto Sound.