The Toronto Historical Jukebox: "Brain Washed" by David Clayton-Thomas & The Bossmen

During the 1960s, young people flocked to Yorkville from all over the continent. Some came for the music, some for the drugs, some to escape trouble at home, some just because it was the place to be. And for a few Americans, coming to Toronto also meant they could dodge the draft and the war in Vietnam.
David Thomas-Clayton didn't have to worry about the draft — he grew up in North York — but he knew plenty about trouble at home. He ran away as a teenager to live on the streets, got into trouble with the law, and eventually ended up in a reformatory where a fellow inmate taught him how to play guitar. When he got out, he headed down to the Yonge Street Strip, where he was hired to play in a series of awesome bands: Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks (who would later meet Bob Dylan and change their name to The Band); The Rogues (who were the house band at an after hours soul club on Yonge Street called Club Bluenote, where legends like Stevie Wonder and The Supremes would stop by to jam after their Toronto shows — The Rogues would eventually change their name to Mandala and become a kickass funk group); and finally David Clayton-Thomas & The Shays (a showcase for his famously powerful vocals).

Eventually, he started spending more time in Yorkville, where he could be found playing his guitar into the wee hours of the morning on the steps of a church on Avenue Road. That's when he formed yet another band: David Clayton-Thomas & The Bossmen. He wrote "Brain Washed" in 1966 as an angry protest against the war in Vietnam.

The song was a hit. It roared up the CHUM charts all the way to #1 — and stayed near the top for 16 straight weeks.

Soon, he would leave Toronto. After playing a gig with the blues giant John Lee Hooker, he followed him south to New York City. That's where David Clayton-Thomas finally started singing with the band that would make him famous: Blood, Sweat & Tears.


Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and the Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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