Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll

Canal Street Tavern legend Mick Montgomery tells all

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: Mick Montgomery, former owner of Canal Street Tavern
After more than 30 years as the owner of Canal Street Tavern, Mick Montgomery knows well the impossible-to-resist tonic of good music, larger-than-life musicians and carnal urges. Dayton City Paper sat down with the celebrated former venue owner to hear some of the more amorous accounts, from at his home in the Oregon District where he is currently working on a website dedicated to archiving the vast musical history of Canal Street Tavern.

Blushing Venus

“In the early days of Canal Street, say the ’80s through probably the end of the ’80s/early ‘90s, most of the national touring acts would crash here at my house. … One of the features I had down here that was kind of my little personal luxury was I had a master bathroom that had a big Jacuzzi in it that was plenty big enough for more than one person. [Mick lowers his chin and raises his eyebrows.]

“On several occasions, somebody that was crashing here wound up bringing somebody from the club over ’cause they knew about that and wound up spending the night keeping me awake in my bathroom, which was right off of my bedroom. So, that was always interesting.

“I remember the first time that ever happened was with Shawn Phillips. Shawn Phillips was a pretty big act at the time, and he would sell out the club. He had minions, raging fans who just, like, totally wanted to be in his presence. And the girl he wound up bringing over here one night … I think she was a waitress at the time – she later on became one of my office managers – she wound up being the one. After hours, she was hanging around, Shawn was hanging, cleaning up, putting stuff away, getting ready to go home. And he latched on to her, so she came over here. And I’ll never forget, I mean she was a real sweet, sort of innocent, naïve type – at least I thought she was [laughs] ­– and she acted so embarrassed around me after that. She always acted like there was some issue. She acted like I was her dad or something, you know?”

Afternoon delight

“I had just hired a guy to be my day bartender, which was a major position of trust. … I came in there one afternoon, probably about two in the afternoon, so we had been open for an hour or something, maybe even two by then, and I walked in the front door and walked around in front of the office and looked in. Nobody’s in there. I mean absolutely empty and no bartender. I opened the office door, which was closed but not locked. Nobody’s in there. I’m wondering, ‘What in the heck’s going on, man? What if somebody walked in here? If one of the guys from across the street came in here and saw this, he’d walk behind the bar and get him a bottle of Jack Daniels and split.’ So, I walk over to the end of the bar. I hear some commotion back in the green room. I go back and open the door of the green room, and this new guy is ballin’ my office manager. [laughs] And there was this seat that was built in back there, and they were just going at it, man. And I go, ‘Uh, ahem. ’Scuse me. We’re open, right?’”

Blowing smoke

“[John Hartford] had just avid, rabid fans here, and he put on a great show. And every time, at the end of the night, there was always people standing in line to buy his CDs, get him to autograph them, bringing his old albums back in to get him to sign, and there was always some little cutie hipster chicks who would always be around, ‘Oh, tee hee hee,’ to the point where, a few times, his wife started touring with him, and she like was, like, keeping her eye on things. And it was pretty interesting because it was obvious that was what was going on.

“There was a girl – who I had had a bit of a crush on at one time – who hung around the club a lot. And she fancied herself kind of a little sexpot, you know. And she was a cutie, and a good person, a good heart. She had the hots for Hartford, OK, so she’s hanging out at the bar. Hartford and I, the M.O. back in those days, our little modus operandi, was after the box office was all counted and he was finished packing up his instruments and stuff, we would go in the office and I’d settle up with him … She was aware of how things worked and how we did things, and she says to me, ‘When you’re done in there, tell him I really want to talk to him and wink wink.’ And I go, ‘OK, I will. I have no problem with that.’ So, we settle up, and we talked for a while. He was always a very congenial type of a guy. We’re getting ready to leave out of the office to go out to the bar. We were probably going to have a beer before we closed up and went home. And I open the door and saw her sitting out there, and she had this big grin on her face, and I said, ‘Oh yeah, see that chick sitting out there?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well, she asked me to tell you that she really had something she wanted to talk to you about. Do you mind?’ And he says, ‘I don’t have any problem with that.’ So I motion to her, and she comes walking over, and I figure, ‘OK, I’ll bow out of this picture.’ … It wasn’t more than three or four minutes later, I hear her go, ‘You fucking asshole!’ And he opens the door and has this funny look on his face and just comes walking over, doot da doot da doo, and I’m wondering, ‘What in the heck?’ So, I find out from her later, and she had no problem telling me this story, she says, ‘Well, I thought I was being really cool, and I offered him a line of coke, and he said, ‘Aw, I don’t do that shit, but you can give me a blowjob if you want to.’’ [laughs] And she was insulted by that. And it was like hey, you know, get real.”

Friends with benefits

“There happened, many times, to get to be true relationships between some of these more well-known singer-songwriters and somebody here in the area. To the point where sometimes it wound up being to our advantage, the fact that one of our serious customer-supporter-music fans in town wound up getting to be really friends with somebody, and even after they got too big to typically play a 200-seat room, they’d stop back in Dayton just because they had a friend here. And so we’d get a couple of extra years of shows out of it.”

Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at


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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at or through her website at

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