Archive Montreal Blog

The New Penelope Cafe and its era in Montreal


The New Penelope Café and its era!

Call for memories!

Open for just a few years in the late 1960s, the New Penelope Café is legendary in the history of Montreal music and nightlife. It was the first independent concert venue in Montreal to feature important names in 1960s rock, blues, folk and jazz, from Muddy Waters and Frank Zappa to Joni Mitchell and Jesse Winchester. It was also a well-loved hangout in the Carré Saint-Louis/ Milton-Parc area where the city’s counterculture and arts scene emerged.

The non-profit organization ARCMTL is working on a book and online exhibit about the New Penelope Café and its era, 1965 – 1970.

Orange and purple poster advertising a concert

Allan Youster’s somewhat battered copy of a poster advertising house band The Sidetrack at the New Penelope Café, summer 1967.

We’re looking for anyone who remembers those times, or who may have material such as old posters, flyers, audio or video recordings, ticket stubs, newsletters, publications or other ephemera.

The era began in the early 1960s, when the folk music craze was booming across North America. Montreal had a number of cafés and venues featuring folk music, including Finjan’s where a young Bob Dylan played as an unknown folk singer passing through town in 1962.

The New Penelope had its roots in this folk scene, starting out as a small café called The Fifth Amendment before becoming the Penelope and eventually The New Penelope. The man behind it all, Gary Eisenkraft, was himself a huge blues fan and a folk singer who had often played in the cafés of Greenwich Village in New York.

Eisenkraft leveraged his experience and his many connections in New York to begin organizing blues and folk music concerts in Montreal. Soon, he was also bringing up avant-garde acts such as The Fugs or the free-jazz revolutionaries The Young Ones to the delight of Montreal audiences that would not otherwise had any chance whatsoever of seeing these acts perform locally.

The rapid cultural evolution that happened in Montreal from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s was happening all over the world – the post-World War II establishment was giving way to a new generation bent on trying new things– new music styles, new fashions, new slang and expressions. There were changes in the media landscape as well, with the emergence of counter-cultural magazines, newspapers, FM radio and on and on.

Colourful poster advertising concerts

Poster (designed by Peter Adams) advertising several concerts at the New Penelope Café.

In Montreal, this was reflected in the emergence of community newspapers and magazines such as Logos, Pop-See-Cul, Take One and Mainmise, and the arrival of CKGM (later CHOM) FM. The New Penelope’s concerts were advertised in these publications, alongside many neighboring businesses such as the Phantasmagoria record shop, The Purple Unknown poster and paraphernalia shop and many more.

Through this exciting project, Montrealers will be able to go back and learn about these places and people who did so much to lay the foundations for the city’s thriving independent arts and music milieu.

Please contact us if you or someone you know may be able to help! We can be reached by email at or leave a message at our archive centre in Montreal, 514-279-6187.

To find out more about the New Penelope Café, check out these blog posts with longtime NP doorman Allan Youster here, or local rock journalist Juan Rodriguez here, as well as designer Francois Dallegret here.

The New Penelope Café and its era is a project made possible in part thanks to funding from the Governement of Canada and the Digital Museum of Canada.

ARCMTL Hiring support position for archives  
 Postcards from Montreal mid 20th century

Leave a Comment


  1. Barry Nester
    Sunday, February 28th, 2021
    I tried to send a message to your email yesterday, but it came back " '' on 27/02/2021 22:39
    Server error: '501 : domain missing or malformed'"
    If you want to collect material, you'd do well to see that your email works properly!
    • Thursday, January 20th, 2022
      There appears to be a period after the .org in your email, try again with just -- no period after the G, it should work! We get emails daily at that account.
  2. John Rudel
    Monday, April 12th, 2021
    Hot summer nights on Stanley with the Brown brothers and their mates.
    Cherish the experience.
    Butterfield and Muddy -
    The real deal
  3. Richard Giguère
    Tuesday, December 21st, 2021
    I saw Paul Butterfield Blues Band,
    It was Amazing and many more,like the Sidetracks,good memories...
    Richard Giguère
  4. Pat Christie
    Thursday, January 27th, 2022
    I enjoyed going to the New Penelope Coffee House in the late sixties. Great musicians! It was a safe place to listen to artists. It was a very welcoming place. I don’t have any collectibles, just happy memories.
  5. Joey Em
    Thursday, July 21st, 2022
    The New Penelope was my late wife's favourite place in the early 70's.
    Such fond memories of her talking to Gary Eisenkraft, an old school mate of hers.
    Best Times of our lives!
  6. Dr. Doug Buchanan
    Wednesday, December 28th, 2022
    I saw Frank Zappa there as well as the Fugs. I missed Jesse but saw him on a regular basis at the Yellow Door. That's another place that deserves a little memory.
  7. nissen chckowicz
    Thursday, January 5th, 2023
    Saw The Paul Butterfield Blues Band in a memorable concert where Butterfield performed part of the song "Knock on Wood" from the bathroom at the back of the room. Great band with Buzzy Feiton on lead guitar; Jason Sandborn et al for a big horn section and Bugsy Maugh on bass who sang a great"Drivin' Wheel". It was an incredibly vibrant performance in a very rustic and intimate venue.
  8. Peter Wales
    Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
    Favourite next door pre show eating spot = The Swiss Hut. Many a Friday night spent watching some of the best blues artists do their thing and some non blues groups too like The Fugs!
  9. Steve Giles
    Monday, May 22nd, 2023
    I recall a basement coffee shop near McGill. Gordon Lightfoot sang there in '66 or '67. 1st public performance of the Railway Song. The room could feel the talent. The stage was a 2x4 ply stand. He was tall; nearly touched the pipes in the ceiling. Epic!
  10. John Rudel
    Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
    Well put
  11. lindacorbeil
    Sunday, June 4th, 2023
    I worked st the New Penelope in 1967. A lifetime ago but I loved it!
  12. Pierre Desjardins
    Saturday, October 28th, 2023
    Je me souviens avec affection du "Penelope", rue Stanley et du "New Penelope" rue Sherbrooke.
    Au fait, savez-vous quend le "Penelope" devint le "New Penelope"? Était-ce avant le déménagement vers la rue Sherbrooke?
    Au fait, j'ai quelques enregistrements du Paul Butterfield Blues Band contenant l'introduction par Gary Eisencraft. Bons souvenirs...
    • Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
      Bonjour - on a tout les infos et vont poster plus d'histoires apropos des Penelopes sous peu. Sherbrooke était ouvert de janvier 1967 à octobre 1968 et c'était fini après ca. 3 lieux avant ca avant hébergé des Penelopes - New Penelopes. Si tu peut nous contacter par courriel on aimera bien en connaitre plus sur vos enregistrements! arcmtl @ arcmtl . org merci!
  13. Amber Harvey
    Saturday, November 18th, 2023
    I remember seeing Frank Zappa, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, and Gordon Lightfoot there.
  14. Stuart Macdougall
    Tuesday, December 19th, 2023
    Used to go there during the 60’s. Saw Paul Butterfield Blues band and Mothers of Invention and on Sundays local blues bands played with a local TMR blues band led by Andy Higgs on guitar( forget the name). Such an awesome live venue
    • Paul Reilly
      Thursday, April 4th, 2024
      “Sidetrack” was their name. We saw them there quite often,
      I always considered they were the house band.
      The Sidetrack consisted of Alan, Christopher and Peter Brown, Kenneth Gullmartin, Andrew Higgs and John Lewis.
      Peaked around 1969.