Denis Faulkner, 2014
Denis Faulkner, 2014

Denis Faulkner,
Founder and Owner
October 1960 to December 1968

Whenever I meet someone who remembers Café Le Hibou Coffee House, we trade stories and inevitably the question pops up, "Why not write something about it?" I often thought about doing so, wondering what form it would take. A website became the obvious answer, and with encouragement from Pierre-Paul Lafreniere, the last owner, I set off to do it. Many of us feel that Le Hibou was a particularly important part of Ottawa cultural and social life in the 1960s. Indeed, many people still talk about their good memories of the place. I have good memories too, but Le Hibou, and that entire time period, was also a pivotal period in my own life. I didn't know it then, but as I look back, it was very defining, since without it, my job at the CBC and my meeting of Penny Knight, whom I married, would not have happened. Meeting the many artists, the singers, musicians, actors, graphic designers—some becoming famous, others not—proved quite exhilarating and fulfilling. Perhaps others will also want to share their experiences. Maybe the stories, the photographs, the posters or even an old theatre program will awaken a memory, or elicit a story or photo you'd like to share, and perhaps we could all enhance the persona of Le Hibou past.


Le Hibou defined my high school years

Growing up in Ottawa, Le Hibou was THE weekly destination for my Nepean High School friends and I and a defining activity of my teenage years. I was blessed to see many of the great acts described by others posters in Le Hibou's intimate setting. My kids find it hard to believe this I saw such great acts without going to a stadium with 20000 strangers. In the early 70's, Jim Fenton and I did our best to create a Le Hibou-like atmosphere at Queen's University in Kingston’s "Bitter Grounds Cafe". We were lucky to land some great acts but ultimately Bitter Grounds, like other Café’s, were a victim of the times as tastes changes. I am looking forward to reading Ken Rockburn’s new book on the history of Le Hibou.

Le Hibou

As a teen I remember visiting Le Hibou twice. The Capital Theatre in Ottawa had shown a Beatles film, perhaps "Magical Mystery Tour" and afterwards me and a friend went to Le Hibou for a filming of Nosferatu. The next day The Ottawa Citizen reported that George Harrison had been at the cafe and had gone unrecognized by the people inside. In the spring of 1967 I went to Le Hibou as a 16 year old and somehow managed to interview Dianne Brooks and Eric Mercury. I submitted my piece to a long defunct magazine,SOUL located in Toronto and was blown away to receive a copy of the May/June 1967 issue with a, full page article I had written on the pair. i still have intact magazine today and if you contact at marknorthwest@hotmail, I would be happy to provide a copy of the article and the backstory to how I got to interview these wonderful performers.

Le Hibou at Bank and Sussex and Penny's Potbelly Boutique

Coming to Ottawa from Europe, Wim and I sampled Le Hibou both at its Bank location and on Sussex Drive, enjoying good music and a great atmosphere. The two-story interior was also unique. As I was part of the crafts scene, I got to know Penny at Potbelly Boutique, where I sold my original leather and silver jewelry. Le Hibou is a precious part of our Ottawa experiences in the sixties and early seventies. We still enjoyed Le Hibou in our early years at Au Gout Artistique, which later converted to Café Wim, just a few doors away. Yes, we were inspired! Thanks, Dennis for the memories.

Tim Hardin, T-Bone Walker and Van Morrison

I remember seeing Tim Hardin who was late by about an hour because (rumour had it) he was at the Laf. Still gave a great show. Another time I saw T-Bone Walker and his son ... also memorable. But by far, the best concert for me was Van M. who played his Astral Weeks album ... number 19 on the Rolling Stone greatest albums of all time. What a great concert. Thank you Dennis and Le Hibou. P.S. Attended after hour jams where I had to walk home to the west end afterwards because there were no buses ... sometimes in the winter :-).

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee

What a night. I was a country girl, new to the city, not very experienced and not really sure what to make of the whole scene I was in. I sure knew I was electrified with the music and taken away on a wonderful, musical journey that night. It was a mind blowing show then my friend Claudette Sabourin and I leave and discover there are no buses running. We are pretty high and poor university students so we decided we'd hitchhike to where we were boarding, way out in the west end of Ottawa; not Kanata but the most westerly part near a large shopping plaza... name escapes me now. Anyway, a couple guys were walking down Bank Street too and we decided to walk together. We spent the whole night with them walking along Carling Avenue until we got to, oh yeah, Bayshore! The sun was coming up and buses started running and the guys were very disappointed that we decided to go home which meant they had to take the bus back downtown to wherever they lived!!! One of those amazing experiences that I'll never forget, well I hope I don't!!!

Thank you Le HIbou!

I lived in Ottawa 1970-1973, went to Ridgemont HS. One night in the winter of 1971 I was wandering around the backstreets of Rideau area, feeling cold and lonely. Then I saw some people standing outside some kind of a club. When the door opened for a moment, hot and heavy blues music exploded through the door and engulfed me. Next thing I knew, I was inside and listening and dancing to the great Jame Cotton Blues Band! I had come over from Japan in 1970 but had difficulty making friends and was slightly depressed at that time, but this night at the Le Hibou changed everything for me. I went there whenever my favorite artist/band was playing. I even formed a blues band with my friends (yes, I had a few good friends). In addition to Jame Cotton BB, I was lucky enough to see the legendary Muddy Waters from about 10 feet away. I remember him drinking milk while he played (had a glass on top of piano). He was accompanied by a blind guitarist named Tony Pena (I think). Another memorable night for me was seeing the original Weather Report group in September 1972. The group had just made its debut and was starting a North American tour. When I got to Le Hibou about two hours before the show and found Wayne Shorter all alone, cleaning his saxophone at a table. I had been his fan since the Miles Davis years, so I asked for autograph and chatted with him. Again I got to see the band perform from point blank range, including the incredible Joe Zawinul on keyboards and Miroslav Vitous on bass. If I had not found Le Hibou that night in 72, I'm not sure if I could have survived two more long and cold winters in Ottawa. I had been a music fan before finding Le Hibou, but listening to records by yourself has its limitations (especially in the winter). Seeing the great bands at the Le Hibou really inspired me and gave me the energy to go on in life... I'm still enjoying music (and other crazy things like playing basketball) 40+ years later. I heard that the club is no longer there, but I would like to say (belatedly): Thank you Le Hibou (and all the musicians), for changing my life!!

Blows My Mind Then and Now

I was a student at Carleton in the mid/late 60s. The first act I saw at Le Hibou was Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. I knew them from records I'd heard as a teenager. I could hardly believe they were in Ottawa. I spoke with Brownie very briefly. They were dynamite. Sonny blew us away with his harp. Later, I saw Otis Spann, Tim Hardin, James Cotton, T-Bone Walker, John Prine, and John Lee Hooker. Somehow I wound up in the green room upstairs talking with John Lee. Wow! Amazing to think that he and so many more greats gigged there. Van Morrison came and he played the whole of MOONDANCE, which had just been released. I'd only vaguely heard of him at the time. One night I saw Bill Stevenson play. He was a great blue pianist and from Ottawa. He and Otis Spann so inspired me that I learned how to play blues piano, which I do to this day. Without Le Hibou I might be playing tin pan alley tunes! So I thank that wonderful club from so long ago. Great, great memories. Thanks, Denis. and John, too.

A Saving Grace

Living in Nepean, I think it took about an hour and half to get downtown, on the #71 and #6 buses, but it was totally worth it. I saw so many great artists at Le Hibou. David Wiffen, Bruce Cockburn, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Rambling Jack and a very young Murray Mclaughin, who claimed he had been fined for vagrancy while hanging around in the train station waiting for his show to begin. Going there always made me feel like I had managed to escape to somewhere sort of magical. Thanks for making this page.

Gratitude and Fond Memories

I discovered and went through the website a few weeks back. Thank you for hosting and sharing these great memories and reflections. I had forgotten all the wonderful people and musicians that I have been blessed to see up close and in person. Almost everyone listed I was able to see at one time or another, as I was for many years a weekend regular. They are a part of the music that still plays in my heart. So much GREAT music, food, and coffee. (Oh the coffee - I first discovered double espresso at midnight at Le Hibou and did not sleep for 2 days!). One person of note I remember seems to be missing (perhaps by unintentional lapse of recall). Dr.John and his voodoo entourage blew through like a bayou breeze (even through it was rather wintery outside) trailing their tales of GooGooGumboYaYa... Thanks and cheers (the other Dr. John)


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