Rockin’ at The Knob

For anyone who hasn’t lived in Toronto, Scarborough (or as it has been slagged, for decades, Scarberia) is part of the Greater Toronto Area and has been either a suburb of T-O or a city in its own right.

Back in the early ’80s Toronto’s Best Rock, Q107, posed this question:

“What’s the definition of a cultural event in Scarborough?”

Answer…Goddo at the Knob.

Toronto’s hard rockers Goddo played the Knob Hill Hotel dozens of times. I saw them once at that suburban venue and to this day, two memories remain. As I and my friends Gord Howard and Alfie Petitti were paying the cover charge in the lobby, one patron staggered out of the showroom and vomited at our feet.

Welcome to The Knob.

The other memory? Even though it was the early ’80s, Greg Godovitz introduced Goddo’s tune ‘Under My Hat” as such…

“This is a song you all should know because we’ve been playing it for so fucking long.”

I’ll cut Greg, Gino and Doug some slack. Maybe an off night. Maybe Greg had a shitty day.

But the Knob was my rock club during my days at Centennial College, when I aspired to be a writer for Rolling Stone, sitting in Stevie Nicks’s living room and starting my profile of Stevie with colourful descriptions of the decor, the surrounding area or whatever pets Stevie may have owned at the time.

I did arrange for an interview with Canada’s Metal Queen, Lee Aaron, and got to know Karen (real name Karen Greening) and hang out with her and the band in their suite at the Knob between sets. Guitarist George Bernhardt was surprised that I wanted to chat with him as well.

“Everyone wants to talk to Lee…no one wants to talk to us.”

Ahhh, but the dear old Knobbie will always bring back memories of one band, Scarborough’s own Santers. AKA, the Rick Santers Band, who made it on to Q107’s Homegrown album in the early ’80s. A few years later, their version of Free’s “Allright Now” went to #13 on 1050 CHUM’s top 30 chart and got plenty of airplay on the Mighty Q.

Take a look at this cute couple.

Santers bass player Rick Lazaroff and the lady he’s been married to for over 20 years or so, Darlene Watters.

In 2007, I moved to Wasaga Beach and found a tourism website run by Darlene called Wasaga Dot Com. Near the bottom I saw an adverting link. Contact Rick Lazaroff. I did, and told Rick all about my Knob/Scarborough history with the band.


We connected and became tennis buddies. As for Darlene, I had seen her band Shattered Heart play at the Harbour Inn, in Owen Sound in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

But it all began in that concert room at The Knob. Watching Laz kicking his left leg out and attacking his bass through many Santers tunes and Zep songs (though their best covers were of Mississippi Queen and White Room) and Rick/Ralph Santers/Santer and his brother Mark shaking the foundations as we pounded several Molson Canadian tall boys.

It wasn’t as legendary as The Gasworks (where I also caught Aaron, Santers and Anvil) but The Knob Hill Hotel will forever be in my rock and roll heart as the place where I rocked my weekends away at McCowan and Eglinton.


One of my greatest disappointments in moving to Wasaga Beach 11 years ago was finding out the storied rock venue, The Dardanella, had become a dance club. Fuck off! Fuck you and the SeaDoo you rode in on. No one has rocked the Dard in over a decade but if I could have one wish…on what will be the 100th birthday this summer of the grand old lady of the beach…which due to mismanagement and neglect, was only open a grand total of 7 days last summer…

Let The Dard Rock again, and whether you hail from Scarberia, Brampton, Oshawa or wherever, we can feel that bass drum in our gut and raise our glasses to the venues that shaped our lives.

Go back to 1976 and I’m sitting in the Elaine Theatre, across the road from The Knob, and watching what went on to become one of my all time favourite movies, The Bad News Bears.

In the words of Bears shortstop Tanner Boyle, “”I’ll drink to that.”

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Before Elvis there was Bill Haley

My latest iTunes podcast.

Elvis Presley popularized the mix of country and R&B but Bill Haley was there first.

Source material: Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll, by Nick Tosches.

Below, Elvis visits with Haley during Bill’s European tour.

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Facebook had it right in the beginning

Facebook scolded me several years ago.

I can’t recall the exact wording but it was something like, “We’ve noticed you have several friend requests that have gone unanswered or been ignored…please only send requests to people you know personally.”

Followed by an insulting command…you had no other choice…to hit a button that said, “I Understand.”

Facebook was not MySpace. Connecting with random people was discouraged and Zuckerberg and his army of tech watchdogs were watching us. Not to the degree they’ve been tracking us of late but still disturbing. “You bought a Stephen King book on Amazon, here’s an ad for Amazon or something to keep you clicking, sharing, purchasing, posting, clicking again, sharing again.”

The warnings ceased and I was able to connect with people in the radio and music business, and folks I just plain liked.

For example, comedian David Brenner.

I sent David a friend request in 2005 or so. Denied. Brenner had 5,000 friends already. Followed up with a personal message explaining that I’d tried to friend him and while I UNDERSTOOD Facebook’s policy of contacting real life friends or acquaintances, I just wanted to reach out as a fan.

To my great delight, Brenner replied. He joked that contrary to Zuck’s guidelines, he preferred to connect with those he hadn’t met. I saw David in concert at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto in the late ’70s, when Brenner was a regular guest on the Mike Douglas show and a frequent fill-in for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

He remembered the O’Keefe. It’s probably a supermarket today, he said. I reassured David that the venue was still a popular theatre. Can’t recall if it was the Sony Centre or The Hummingbird Centre at the time but it had not become a flea market or a parking lot.


Brenner died in 2014 at the age of 78 so he was in his early 70s when we connected. In our online chats, I got the feeling David felt forgotten by the modern comedy establishment. Why wasn’t he a panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher? After all, it was David’s “Did you ever notice…” that gave birth to Jerry Seinfeld’s “What’s the deal with…”


David Brenner was the exception to Facebook’s real friend only or person you’ve at least said hello to in person policy. I was friends for a short while with Amy Poehler, maybe it was the Canadian connection because of her marriage to Toronto-born Will Arnett. I may have been friends with another Toronto native, Samantha Bee (her aunt Jan lives in Wasaga and is in my volleyball group) until Sam changed her page from a personal one to a fan site.

I am still Facebook friends wth actress Kim Dickens. She was a standout in the HBO’s “Deadwood” and “Treme.” I loved Treme. If you haven’t seen it, the series dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans district of the same name. Treme featured many musicial icons from that city, including Fats Domino.

The recent Facebook privacy scandal resulted in me facing the choice of deleting my account or scaling things back.

I chose the latter.

I cut my friend list in half. Down from 600 plus to whatever it is now and really, do I want to view baby or cat photos from someone I haven’t seen in years? My radio show was cancelled in January (still have an iTunes podcast, check the link on the right side of this site) so having a ton of sort-of friends isn’t much of a benefit now.

It’s not about numbers. It’s about genuine connections. You comment on my posts, and I “react” to yours. Love that Facebook term. Reacted? Did they LOL, shake their fist or faint? Tell me, Zuck, I want to know the details.


Then again, “reacted” beats Twitter or Instagram. I challenge any celebrity to reply to a fan on one of those sites. Jennifer Lawrence, Selena Gomez, Fergie, Channing Tatum (my Mom is 91 but she knows who he is!) when a fan replies to your Instagram post with words like beautiful, stunning or love you, you should blow their minds by saying, “Hey, thanks! We should hang out some time.”

Facebook is no different than those sites, in terms of promotion. Be my friend so I can get more customers. Really, why would I befriend or “like” a store I don’t shop at? I will choose, thank you very much. You want a real connection and unless I have bought your products or eaten your food, I’m not much good to you.

And if you post all damn day, I will unfollow.

So yes, Facebook had it right from day one. At best, it’s a way of staying in touch with distant relatives, high school and college friends and former or current co-workers you actually like. Or like-minded folks you’ve never met. Or those in your field of work that inspire and hey, LinkedIn is just fucking boring.

After more than a decade on Facebook I’ve ended up with the list I want. If you found this through Zuck’s data-mining enterprise, cheers. You made Johnny’s cut list.

But…if for some reason you want to cut me, I won’t be offended. It’s only Facebook. Not something we’ve paid for (at least with Amazon I get free 2-day shipping, Mozart in the Jungle and The Looming Tower).

And thanks in this lifetime and the next to David Brenner. I’ll recap one of his best bits. He’s riding the subway in his hometown of Philadelphia (go Flyers!) and sitting on a newspaper. The guy next to him asks David if he’s reading that newspaper. Brenner doesn’t know what to say. The next time it happens, David stands up, turns the page, sits down on the newspaper and says….


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Chuck Berry and Johnny B Goode

My latest iTunes podcast. Chuck Berry and my favorite rock and roll song of all time…and the tune that helped me become Johnny Maraca when Sean Anderson and The Black Holes called me up to the stage. Go Johnny Go, indeed.

Reference material:



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