Our tribute to the iconic Toronto coffee house.
By far the most famous of all Yorkville’s clubs was the Riverboat coffeehouse, at 134 Yorkville. Owned and operated by Bernie Fiedler, the Riverboat opened in October, 1964 and quickly became part of a prestigious North American circuit that included Detroit’s Chess Mate and New York’s Bitter End. Situated below street level, the club seated 120 people in red booths amid pine walls and brass portholes.
Every seat was in close proximity to the stage, providing an intimate showcase of the top names in popular music, including Howlin’ Wolf, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Tim Buckley, Ritchie Havens, Junior Wells, John Prine, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Buddy Guy, Kris Kristofferson, John Lee Hooker, Doc Watson, Tim Hardin, Jerry Jeff Walker, Janis Ian, Steve Goodman, Odetta, Seals & Crofts and James Taylor.
The Riverboat is where the protest folk singing star Phil Ochs wrote his popular ballad “Changes.” When Eric Clapton was in Toronto with his band Cream, the Riverboat is where he went, with his hair tied in a bun as a disguise, to hear Tom Rush perform. When actor Jack Nicholson was in town shooting The Last Detail, he snuck in through the Riverboat’s backdoor to catch some late-night music. Everyone played the Riverboat except Bob Dylan, although even Dylan was rumored to have sat, incognito, in one of the back booths one night.