The very first time I went to Grossman’s, in 1969, it was to see Downchild.  The leader of the band, Donnie Walsh, wanted me to manage/publicise the band, and I had a rep back then as a blues maven, having had a hand in bringing the likes of Sleepy John Estes, Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk and B.B. King to Toronto (indeed, to Canada) for the first time.

Failing to get service, I was a little abrupt with one of the waiters, who promptly had me thrown out. On the way, Al Grossman (bless his memory!) muttered that I could come back tomorrow and all would be forgiven.  So I did, and so began a friendship with that band, and that bar, which continues today.

Ozzy was a character, and when the new owners took his picture down, there was such an outcry that it was replaced; it’s there for all to see, stuck on a pillar in the outer room.

Ozzy had every disease known to man all at once – or he certainly looked as though he had – but he was at his scabrous best on Saturday afternoons when The Happy Pals would play (and still do; one of the most surprising pleasures of Toronto and one you should take every visitor to see and hear).  Ozzy would not serve you until you had purchased tickets for a raffle, the prize for which was a box of steak knives which, I presume, had fallen from the back of a
truck somewhere on the way to the bar.

As far as I know, nobody EVER won the steak knives, and the draw was always held VERY late at night, if it was held at all. But Ozzy always picked up a couple of hundred bucks every Saturday afternoon.

And that, children, was when a buck was worth a buck, not 61 cents!

I’ll bet Ozzy and Al are trading bullshit stories now, wherever they are….

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