Historic Venue Where Stones And Hendrix Played Reborn: The El Mocambo

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the popular Kensington Market in Downtown Toronto. Vendors lined the streets with their merchandize, as it was the first pedestrian Sunday of the season, and people flocked to popular restaurants who took their services outside for the day. While all of this was happening, just across the street, rock and roll history was being discussed by living legends.

The future of the El Mocambo:

Most music lovers already know the name Eddie Kramer. He is the man who produced every Jimi Hendrix album and, for the purpose of this article, he is also the man who produced the highly sought after Rolling Stones tracks from their surprise El Mocambo shows in 1977.

Eddie was folding shirts and greeting customers in the new El Mocambo store at 66 Kensington Ave and was joined by Greg Godovitz. Yes, that Greg Godovitz – the bassist and vocalist from the Canadian trio Goddo – a staple in the Canadian music industry for over 50 years.

It was a site to be seen. Kramer, whose rolodex is probably unmatched, and Godovitz, who has played in venues across North America, happily greeting customers into the store. What was really interesting was the reaction the customers had when they finally realized who they were talking to. Godovitz is the historical curator for the El Mocambo while Kramer is overseeing the production of the new state of the art studio that will be on the top floor.

A few hours after the store opened you could hear a boisterous laugh from down the street.

“There he is.” joked Kramer. Who is he? Well, he is the man responsible for the re-birth of the El Mocambo. In the last few years, he may be most known for being a Dragon on the Dragon’s Den, but Michael Wekerle is a self-proclaimed rock star in the world of Canadian finance who purchased the club. “As a kid growing up, I tried to play the El Mocambo. All of my friends say they played at the Elmo, but I never did. I finally played at the El Mocambo. I just had to buy it first.”

Wekerle, who was already sporting the brand’s shirt, talked for nearly 20 minutes. He was a ball of energy and immediately hugged Godovitz and Kramer when he walked into the store.

“Initially he wanted me to book the El Mocambo but I said I am more of a ‘yes guy’ than a ‘no guy’,” Godovitz said while also wearing one of store’s new shirts, “Booking the bands means you have to say no to a bunch of them, so I said, ‘let me be the historical curator for it’, and there you go.”

A big part of the El Mocambo’s history is the legendary concerts that took place. Arguably the biggest show of all was The Rolling Stones double nighter in 1977.

“The Stones called me up and said they had a bunch of concerts coming up and asked me to record them. They wanted to make a surprise appearance so they picked the El Mocambo,” Kramer reminisced, “Of course this is a very famous story, Keith [Richards] gets busted, but it didn’t stop them from doing an amazing show. If you can imagine, Keith having just been busted and he is still on drugs. It was a really rough time for him but it became a worldwide event when they finally appeared. They were under the name ‘The Cockroaches’ and so when they finally appeared the crowd went wild.”

Just one year after the ‘Stones infamous 1977 show, Godovitz’s band took to the stage. “I was just reading my diary on the night and it said how nervous I was that I could barely sleep.”

Godovitz, Kramer, Wekerle and many others are all working on getting the venue ready for a late 2017 opening. They say they will pay tribute to the history of the building but they are hoping it is going to be the go-to venue in North America. The building has been completely gutted and – not only will it have two clubs inside – it will also have a recording studio.

There is still a lot of work to do but Wekerle already knows who he plans on having re-open the venue.

“Guns N’ Roses.” Wekerle said without hesitation, “They are here October 29th and Slash is a friend of ours, so you heard it here first. Guns N’ Roses at the El Mocambo. I haven’t even talked to them yet but it will happen.”