The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern


A complete history of Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern, “the Birthplace of Canadian Rock,” to coincide with its seventieth anniversary.

Like the Queen Street strip that has been its home for seven decades, the Horseshoe Tavern continues to evolve. It remains as relevant today as it did when Jack Starr founded the country club on the site of a former blacksmith shop. From country and rockabilly to rock ‘n’ roll, punk, alt/country, and back to roots music, the venerable live music venue has evolved with the times and trends — always keeping pace with the music.

Over its seventy-year history, the Horseshoe has seen a flood of talent pass through. From Willie Nelson to Loretta Lynn, Stompin’ Tom Connors to the Band, and Bryan Adams to the Tragically Hip, the Horseshoe has attracted premier acts from all eras of music. In The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, David McPherson captures the turbulent life of the bar, and of Canadian rock.


Expect to learn more than you ever imagined about this venue at Queen and Spadina.


At a time when music venues are under attack by gentrification and development, the Horseshoe remains immortal. I’ve long wondered what those checkerboard floors would say if they could talk. Now they can.

Alan Cross, internationally renowned radio broadcaster, music writer, and author

David McPherson does an amazing thing with this affectionate and informative book about the “Legendary Horseshoe Tavern.” As someone who has performed there and attended countless shows there over the years, it made me feel like
I was a witness to something much bigger and more integral to the history of Toronto’s ever-changing music scene.

Ron Sexsmith

David McPherson’s tall cold pour of a story left me smacking my lips, nodding my head, and feeling just fine. My recommendation: pull up a chair, drain off one chapter, then another, and the next. Before long, you’ll feel absolutely giddy about the Horseshoe and its raffishly distinguished history, Toronto, music, this excellent writer, and the whole wide world.

Charles McNair, emeritus books editor at Paste Magazine and author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Land O’ Goshen

David&#8217s book is a glorious two-handed plunge into the loam of the most famous rock ’n’ roll club in Canada; digging in the weeds to find the bones that find the ghosts who played there, from Hank Williams to Tom Connors to Frankie Venom to Townes Van Zandt and beyond.

Dave Bidini, founding member of Rheostatics, BidiniBand, and author Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972

The Horseshoe Tavern has long been the most important club in Canada, down at the corner of Queen and Spadina in Toronto. Whether it’s legendary residencies from Stompin’ Tom to the Rheostatics, or a super-surprise concert by the Rolling Stones, or my own band playing a string of New Year’s Eve shows in that room that I will never forget, the Horseshoe is Canada’s beating heart of rock ’n’ roll. David McPherson’s book does a brilliant job illustrating just that.

Grant Lawrence, The Smugglers

About the Authors

David McPherson

Posted by Kendra on November 15, 2016
David McPherson photo

David McPherson

David McPherson is president and chief creative officer of McPherson Communications — a writing and public relations consulting business. He is a regular contributor to Words + Music, Hamilton Magazine, and No Depression. Over the years his writing on music has also appeared in Paste, American Songwriter, Canadian Musician, Exclaim!, and He lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

Jim Cuddy

Posted by Kendra on April 11, 2017

Jim Cuddy

Jim Cuddy is a Canadian singer-songwriter primarily associated with the band Blue Rodeo. He attended North Toronto Collegiate Institute, where he met and befriended Greg Keelor, his future bandmate. He also went to Upper Canada College and Queen's University. Cuddy was born in Toronto, Ontario.