Tom at Free Times Café, Toronto, March 31 9 PM

Ah, my folk singin’ days.

Back in the 80s, I came back from a European
backpacking tour, walked into the Kensington
market, saw a new café just about to open,
walked in, and introduced myself to Noel Paolo,
the owner.

freetimesposter1

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it
was something to the effect that I would be
back on Thursday night to play, and I like
to start before 10 PM.

So, Thursday night I showed up and started
playing. It was about 9:45.

I played until after 4 AM, without a break, immediately
connected with a few of the locals, and I was off
and running. I met Bob Wiseman there my
second or third night. We became fast
friends. I met the wonderful Marlene Goldman
there and Glen Hornblast, and many others.

That was a good summer. It was fun to play
at a small café, but I kept on telling Noel, “No
cappuccino-making during the ballads”.  You
know how noisy those cappuccino makers
are. They sound like a bear with a serious
eustation tube problem.

He did it one time too many, and I walked out
in the middle of a song one night.

Noel chased me down Augusta street saying,
“I forgot! I’m sorry! Come back!”.

Somewhere around this time I played my first
gig at the Free Times Café. Scared the crap
out of me. It’s funny to think back on what seems
like the Big Time when you’re starting out.

Tom the young turk the summer of the Blue Calf Café

Tom the young turk the summer of the Blue Calf Café

I’m thinking back even further  to my very first paid gig,
opening for Miss Penny Lang at the Yellow Door
in Montreal. I was upstairs tuning my guitar,
trying to calm my nerves when I heard a big gravelly
female voice say, “Hey Tom, come on over here and
get yourself a big mouthful of Vermouth!”.

Ah, a sweet welcome. I haven’t seen Penny for decades.
Can’t wait to remind her about the Vermouth.

So, the Free Times….I have played there a lot. I played
there with my pal Rick Maltese in the ‘Laura Hubert Trio’.

I played there with ‘Country Kitschin’. The Angels of
Montenegro played there at least once. I’ve guested
there a hundred times.

Feels like home to me, pace Mr. Randy Newman.

So come on down and see me at the
Free Times on Tuesday night. Sharing the bill
is Mardi Jayde with Gadi Foltys. Mardi is a wonderful
singer, writer, person who I love madly. She always
gets me to sing on her records. Gadi is a wicked guitarist,
producer and all around mensch.

Yes folks, Tuesday night I’m playing the big time…we will
start shortly after 8 PM, and well before 9 PM. I promise
if you come I’ll make sure you get a thrill and a surprise
or two, okay?

Thanks for Judy Perly for keeping a great live venue
alive for all these years.

VIDEO: Tom St. Louis Live @ Free Times Café

P.S. Near the end of my stint at the Blue Calf Café
(which got its name, of course, from an administrative
bungle at the business registry office), Noel told me
that he had explicitly decided NOT to feature music
at his new café. He wanted it to be the haunt for artists
and poets. Many musicians had approached him during
the pre-opening renovations. I was the only one who
simply introduced myself and TOLD him when I was
going to start.

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