The Imperial Room At The Royal York

From 1974 to 1986, I was music director of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.  I was mainly responsible for the Imperial Room, a 400-seat dining room featuring nightly dancing and a cabaret-style stage show. We were considered the last great cabaret in Canada (and the second last in North America, after San Francisco).

I fronted a nine-piece house band, to which we added players as needed. For example when Ella Fitzgerald performed, we needed eighteen musicians; Tony Bennett required an orchestra of twenty-four.

The house band consisted of:

Trumpets:  Erich Traugott,  Bobby Herriot
Trombone:  Jerry Johnson
Saxophones: Harvey Kogen,  Jim O’Driscoll
Piano: Bruce Harvey
Bass: George Kozub
Drums:  Bruce Philp
Band Leader: Howard Cable

Additions to the house band (as required):

Trumpets: Sam Noto,  Bram Smith Jr.,  Jeff Reynolds,  Al Stanwyck
Trombones: Alastair Kay,  Rob McConnell,  Ron Hughes
Saxes: Moe Koffman,  Bernie Piltch,  Vern Dorge,  Jerry Toth
Guitar: Andy Krehm, Bill Bridges
Percussion: Marty Morrell,  Peter Appleyard

During my 13 year tenure, many stars were featured – a new one each week. Our performers included Broadway stars, movie stars, legendary singers of the Big Band\Swing era, television personalities, R&B acts, and more.  Almost all of the big names of the 70s and 80s played during that period. Although the list is quite long, over the course of this blog, I will try to write at least something about each of them.

I often get asked the question, “Who was your favourite performer of all of these?” My reply without hesitation is: Ella Fitzgerald.  So it is only fitting that my first Royal York performer post will be a fond memory of the great lady of song.

Pure Ella (Verve Records)

Pure Ella (Verve Records)


Filed under Royal York Hotel

11 responses to “The Imperial Room At The Royal York

  1. Peggy Feltmate

    What an amazing list! A terrific band. Can’t wait to hear your comments on the many “greats” that played the Imperial Room!

  2. Hi Peggy: I’m going to write about three of those stars in this first set (Ella, Count Basie and Ginger Rogers). Then I’ll move on to the CNE Grandstand Show. Later I’ll come back to the Imperial Room and do three more.

  3. Al Am

    When did Ella perform at the Imperial Room?

  4. Hi Al:
    The first time I worked with her was Sept 1974. See this blog post:

    There were three other occasions which I will look up in my day timers from the 1970s and 80s.

  5. Howard- I have a recording you did for CBC – My Buick, My love And I. could you tell me who were the vocalists on that session? – Really pleased to find you on line – Mickey Clark

  6. Jim Kelly

    Ah yes, the Imperial Room at the Royal York. I saw Rita Coolidge there in 1983 or ‘84. I was there with the mother of my godson.
    And, it was the best steak I ever had. Welll worth the $30 I paid.

  7. Tony Capra

    A real historic time in the life of the Royal York. I remember it well. In reading the list of musicians I don’t see Ron Kempt in the list . I always thought he was an instrumental part of the band. Correct me if I am wrong. Thanking you in advance Tony

  8. Scott Gushue

    Wonderful history as such I love. But looking for history on an old neighbor who played there perhaps a few years earlier. Terri Quinn, bass player, no jokes! He entertained us for the last couple years before he passed, claimed to be house band there, worked with Robbie n Ronnie.please share and let me know any history. Thanx

  9. Does ANYONE know where there is a list of performers and dates when they played the Imperial Room ?? I saw several performers in that room – Tony Bennett … Nancy Wilson … Rita Moreno … Tina Turner … and others … and it would be nice to see a complete list.
    ALSO … I have very fond – and FUNNY – memories of Louis Jannetta.

  10. Mary Louise Evans

    1984 I believe….Ella Fitzgerald. A dream come true ! I will never her for as long as I live.

  11. Mary Louise Evans

    1984..I believe it was ! It was a Friday evening and I felt that it was a dream of a lifetime to be dining on the most delicious prime rib that I had ever tasted while listening to my favorite vocalist , Miss Ella Fitzgerald. Only seem’s like yesterday !

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