The earliest sounds of ska, rocksteady and reggae in Toronto could be heard in this West Indian nightclub where the legendary Jackie Mittoo once appeared.
Located upstairs at 248 Yonge where the Eaton Centre now stands, Club Jamaica provided a welcome home for Toronto’s growing Caribbean population. Opened in the mid-1960s by Jamaican ex-pats Fitz Riley and Karl Mullings. the club brought curry chicken and the first sounds of ska, rocksteady and reggae to Yonge Street, even before Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff became popular. Club Jamaica’s first house band was the Sheiks, a group comprised of keyboardist Dizzy Barker, guitarist Val Bent and drummer Everton ‘Pablo’ Paul. Occasionally, the Sheiks were augmented by guests like singer Earle Heedram, a.k.a. the Mighty Pope, and legendary keyboardist Jackie Mittoo. The Cougars, featuring singer Jay Douglas, later took over as the house band. Before it closed in the late ’60s, Club Jamaica had built a strong following, thanks to its spicy dishes and tasty sounds.