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Music Memory - Richard Flohil

Music Memory is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, offering the "Music For Memory Project":  a program based on the effects of music and stimulation on people with dementia, by providing them with iPods containing personalized music. For more information, visit

Richard Flohil is a recently semi-retired Toronto-based publicist, writer and concert promoter who has been involved with more than 100 artists' careers in a 45-year career. He is currently writing a book, provisionally titled “Louis Armstrong’s Laxative, and 100 Other Mostly True Stories About a Life in Music”

The year was 1957.

As I wandered down Yonge Street on my very first afternoon in Canada, I saw a sign outside a bar called the Colonial Tavern, The sign out front read..


I almost ran into the empty club; the lone bored bartender was polishing the counter.

“Earl Hines is playing here?” I asked, trying to hide my amazement. He kept polishing, but nodded. “the Earl Hines?” I asked. “The guy who played piano with Louis Armstrong in the ‘20s and had a big band in the ‘40s?” He nodded again.

“Well,” I asked nervously, “how much does it cost to get in?”

“It’s free,” he said. “But you have to buy two drinks.

I returned that evening. Hines, with a spectacular hairpiece, was arguing with the club owner. Apparently The piano wasn’t tuned.

The band — Darnell Howard on clarinet, Jimmy Archey on trombone, John Lindsay on bass and Earl Watkins on drums — also included a boyhood hero of mine, Muggsy Spanier, on trumpet.

On the break, I offered to buy Spanier a drink. He growled: “Just because I play jazz doesn’t mean to say I drink. Leave me alone.” I didn’t know that this sad faced man was a recovering alcoholic.

Hines, disregarding the out-of-tune piano, played brilliantly, and while the band, with its traditional Dixieland line-up may not have been as “modern” as the leader would have liked, it sounded golden to me.

Perhaps Canada was the promised land, after all.


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