Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Gord Rhodes and the Magic of Barrymore's

For the past two weeks, I've been thinking about Gord Rhodes, a man best described as a visionary and legend of the Ottawa music scene. In recent months, Gord has been spit polishing his collection of rock and roll memorabilia and posting the pictures on his Original Barrymore's Facebook site.

I was trying to get hold of him to say that Scott and I wanted to help him put together a documentary. We wanted to interview him about the grand old days of Barrymore's.

Never heard from him.

Today, I heard the news, oh boy.

Gord had entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the sky.

God bless him.

I  knew Gord back in the last 70s, when I was a little girl reporter who covered the music scene for the Ottawa Citizen. I got to know him and his business partner, the brawny, colorful Sonny Thomson when they ran Barrymore's and brought some of the greatest acts to the former strip club. Nobody knew how they got B.B. King, or U2 to come to the shabby theatre.

I was just glad to be sitting with the guys from AC DC having a beer after their Civic Centre show.

The appeal of Barrymore's had a lot to do with Gord's business acumen, a little good luck and perhaps a little nefarious activity on the part of Sonny behind the scenes.

It was always a happening spot.

At Barrymore's, I saw Frank Soda take a beer bottle to the head while he was singing Take My Picture Please wearing a television set on his head. I saw Carole Pope nearly fall off the stage. And we saw every cool rock and blues band there was: David Wilcox, Dutch Mason, Doug and the Slugs, Minglewood.

Barrymore's stole my heart and ruined my hearing.

It was awesome.

You might think that Barrymore's wasn't really a great place for a 22-year-old to hang out by herself, but, with Sonny and Gord around, I knew I was safe. If anybody messed with me, Sonny would simply throw them down the stairs.

God rest you, Gord and Sonny that other merry gentleman. You changed a lot of lives and brought happiness to many.

I will never forget you.


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  3. A great blog about a great place and those (Gord, Sherry, Sonny) who made the musical magic happen for all of us to enjoy. However, I do not think that Sonny ever threw a patron down the stairs. Perhaps you saw inebriated patrons falling down stairs, or perhaps you are confusing Barrymore's with the Chaud. Barrymore's was an establishment where one could enjoy the music without fights breaking out in the middle of a show. Gord, Sherry and Sonny were respected by regular patrons (even a few bikers) and went to enjoy the music. For the majority, it was a "safe" place because of the respect that the owners garnered. The atmosphere and the music of Barrymore's will never be able to be replicated in that room again. Thank you for the great memories, Gord, Sherry, and Sonny!