Café Saint-Michel

Louis Metcalfe’s International Band at Café St-Michel, Photograph by Louis Jaques, from Concordia archives, P0088-02-03

address
770, de la Montagne Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

dates
1940-1953

Located on 770, de la Montagne Street, the Café Saint-Michel, which many compared to the famous Cotton Club in New York, was one of the jewels of Montreal’s nightlife during the 1940s and 1950s. Like Rockhead’s Paradise, which was all the rage in the city in this era, the Café Saint-Michel attracted international jazz stars such as trumpeter Louis Metcalf and Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Other personalities associated with the Montreal jazz scene, such as Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones, also played at Café Saint-Michel in the early stages of their careers. The American-Canadian Charlie Biddle, who later founded Biddle’s Jazz and Ribs, was also a regular at the Café. 

With the decline in popularity of jazz in the 1950s, punctuated by the tightening of laws around entertainment venues in Montréal, the Café Saint-Jacques, like other establishments that contributed to the city’s reputation, eventually closed its doors.

Sources

  • Le Devoir, 20 novembre 2014, Cahier C, pp.c5
  • The McGill Tribune Vol. 23 Issue 13, pp. 12
  • Vanessa Blais-Tremblay, « Jazz, Gender, Historiography: a Case Study of the “Golden Age” of Jazz in Montreal (1925–1955) » (Ph.D., Montreal, McGill University, 2018), pp, 37; 44-50.