Monday, 25 October 2010

A little known Toronto music landmark bites the dust

When I used to live down on Gerrard Street I used to often pass by a building on 225 Mutual Street called the Mutual Street Studios and wondered what it was. It was a single story building with a front done in that vaguely art-deco style of the 1950's and 60's with a wide foyer and jutting veranda. It's retro-gone-somewhat-to-seed look stood out. It looked like how you would expect Sun, Chess or Stax studios to look. I always wondered what it looked like inside. I couldn't tell if it was still being used as either a recording or television studio anymore. Sometime last year or so it became obvious that it was sitting empty. Now it's gone, demolished as of September.
It wasn't until it was gone that I found out about it's storied history and roll in Toronto's musical history.
It turns out that CHUM radio got it's start there in 1947 before they moved to their 1331 Younge street headquarters. Then RCA Records took it over and used it as a recording studios recordings the likes of Rosemary Clooney and Mel Torme to rock legends like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Gordon Lightfoot, Steve Winwood, Rush, B.T.O., Mark Knopfler, BB King and Anne Murray. Mutual Street Studios was in fact the last of the studios in Toronto that was large enough to handle full scale orchestras and was known for it's great acoustics.
Unfortunately there was less and less call for studios as the years went on due to changing tastes (less strings and horns) and cheaper smaller studio setups and RCA sold the building in 1970 to McClear Studios who kept it running for film post production and soundtrack recording until they went bankrupt in 2005 and the building sat empty until the neighboring Best Western Hotel bought it. This September they demolished it to make room for more parking. Bastards.
This is actually not the first time this has happened on Mutual street which must have been a fairly important street once upon a time. Believe it or not two blocks further south sat the Mutual Street Arena, home of the Toronto St. Pats, the NHL hockey team in the 1920's before Conn Smythe renamed them the Maple Leafs and built Maple leaf Gardens which has itself been dodging the wrecking ball for years now. Mutual Street Arena manged to stick around for decades as The Palace, a roller rink until the early 1990's when it was demolished to make room for condos and a Dominion store. The same fate some had planned for the Gardens as well.
I swear Totonto has no knowledge or respect for it's history.
For more details on Mutual Street Studios check out The Torontoist. Click on the title of this article for a direct link.


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