Where history meets heart, music and great food in a landmark location

Ryan McLeish has a lively job with many highlights. 

As general manager of Calgary music hotspot the King Eddy for the past two and a half years, that definitely includes working steps away from the adjacent National Music Centre at Studio Bell’s largest artifact, the legendary Rolling Stones’ Mobile Studio. It’s where their seminal albums Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street were recorded, along with other little gems like Led Zeppelin IV (is it even legal to have a high school dance without playing Stairway to Heaven?) and Deep Purple’s 1972 album Machine Head with its monster hit, Smoke on the Water. 

But despite the lure of bowing down to worship at this gateway to rock and roll heaven, his favourite part of his job is actually weekend brunches.

“Brunch is my favourite service,” McLeish says. “Saturdays we have an acoustic brunch where it’s a different artist every Saturday. They do such a great job of singing songs people will know and recognize, along with their own songs. Calgarians will sit and wait over an hour to get into an OEB or Diner Deluxe. They have some great brunches, but, here, you don’t have to wait, and our staff does a nice job of welcoming everyone with a nice smile and everyone wants to have a good time.”

The iconic sign outside the King Edward Hotel, which was recreated brick by brick. 

Sunday brunches are hosted by Calgary songwriting gem Carter Felker with a different musical guest each week. Both brunches are family friendly, as are all music events at the Eddy, as it’s fondly called — including Calgary’s own gentleman cowboy singer Matt Masters, who regularly hosts the happy hour on Fridays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“We’re kid friendly. Kids are welcome day and night. Anyone under 18 can come for live music Friday or Saturday night. We encourage families to come for our brunches; we are seeing so many families come. It’s a great environment to introduce children to live music. It’s such a warm place.” 

And while it’s fitting that one monument to rock royalty, the Stones’ mobile studio, resides in another monument to historical royalty, the former King Edward Hotel — named after King Edward VII who was King of Canada when confederation occurred — that family brunch can foster conversations on history well beyond these aristocracies. Calgary historian Harry M. Sanders collected rich nuggets of the hotel’s past for the Historical Society of Alberta, like the fact the original three storey hotel was built in 1905 by Louis B. Charlebois to serve cowboys, ranchers and the working people who forged early Calgary. An addition added in 1907 topped up the building to five storeys. As part of Whisky Row, an array of hotels with bars, it took over from the Atlanta Hotel west of it to become the first chance
saloon for travellers arriving from the east, and the last chance saloon for travellers heading eastward.

During the rough and rowdy early days, Scottish-born second manager William Mill, who’d worked at an insane asylum then been a Calgary cop before taking over the hotel, was cited for running a loose and
unsanitary establishment several times.

The hotel’s notoriety carried forward during prohibition from 1916 to 1924 as the Eddy became known for bootlegging, and later became Calgary’s first desegregated bar under the management of Homer Meeks
from 1946 to 1962. Well, desegregated for Black patrons; women and escorts remained segregated from the men-only sections of bars in the city until 1957.

Fast forward to the 1980s and ’90s when the Eddy became Canada’s revered Home of the Blues, drawing artists like B.B. King, Alvin Youngblood Hart, John Hammond, Paul Butterfield, Buddy Guy and Pinetop Perkins. Even Canadian hit-maker Brian Adams played at the Eddy way back when, as did Sheryl Crow for a showcase to promote her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club.

In fact, National Music Centre CEO Andrew Mosker stated that the Eddy’s reputation as Canada’s prime blues venue was the reason Studio Bell’s National Music Centre, which bought and lovingly restored the Eddy, was built where it is, just across 4th Street S.E. from the Eddy and attached to it by a skywalk. When the King Edward Hotel closed in 2004, it was the second oldest hotel in Calgary and the longest-running hotel and bar. In 2013, as part of building Studio Bell, the hotel bricks were numbered, taken apart, and then rebuilt for the Eddy’s 2016 opening as a dedicated music venue. Even the storied front step was saved.

Some of this rich history makes it a natural venue for corporate events as well, McLeish says. 

“People tend to come in and just love the atmosphere here and also the history and love hosting events here compared to the normal stale event hall, I guess you might say.” 

As the preferred caterers for the National Music Centre, the Eddy has prepared food and libations for events for General Electric, the Alberta Law Society, Landmark Cinemas and many more. They cater everything from cocktail parties with appetizers to complete meals, all befitting of holiday parties, Stampede parties, and beyond. There is even a rooftop area available for private events, Stampede firework views included.

The team also offers some once in a lifetime moments. 

“We’ve hosted some events this year and hope to do some more. Early in this year we did a Glenmorangie Scotch tasting. We actually opened up the Rolling Stone Mobile and everyone was able to go in and listen to Led Zeppelin IV as it was recorded through the Rolling Stone Mobile Studio. We also did a tasting and full dinner menu. 

“We have an upcoming one in November where we are doing a wine tasting from a California winery, and the artist we are showcasing will be Fleetwood Mac. They actually recorded two albums in that mobile, Penguin and Mystery to Me.”

All this musical history seems to make the food taste even better. Some of the best things on the menu continue to be the spicy chicken sandwich, the burger with the works, and, perhaps made especially savoury by the sweet music played during consumption of it, the chicken and waffles served at brunch. McLeish highlights the fact the Eddy, being deeply rooted in Calgary’s beginnings, also remains deeply rooted in highlighting Calgary’s best, be it music or food and drink.

“We are as local as possible. We have 14 taps which are all local breweries. Alberta Distillers (located in Bonnybrook) we use for a lot of our cocktails and we work with them.”

This ethic of local also includes expanding to embrace all the locals who call Calgary home. “Our Korean platter (is what) I have most days for lunch,” McLeish says. “One thing we’re showcasing is we have a diverse menu so everyone walking in could see a dish they recognize or that brings memories from home, like our Korean barbeque platter. One of our staff members is from Korea. We make our kimchi from scratch here.” 

From its history arising within 30 years of the signing of Treaty Seven to the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio over 50 years later to its legacy as a place where music and those who make it are honoured, the King Eddy is a one-of-a-kind venue which offers great food, great music and indelible history, all in the same sitting. There is no other place like it in Calgary, and few places like it in Canada and beyond.

For information on the King Eddy’s food and music, check out kingeddy.ca.