RIP - Michael ‘Xray’ Macrae - One time legendary owner and talent buyer of the Horseshoe Tavern (circa 1981 to 1998) and Ultrasound

X-Ray had an office at the H-Shoe in the basement forever known as the ‘dungeon’ - It was next to Blue’s Rodeo’s record company ‘Risque Disque’ - To get a booking at the venues you had to request a private meting with him there, bring along a cassette tape of your music, lol, and pitch - As Michael was a larger-than-life large man, at first he seemed intimidating to many but once you got to know him there wasn’t anyone in the country who loved live music and live music artists and musicians more than he did.

He was a talent buyer in an era of no advance ticketing, no contracts, no offers, and no artist rider, it was his word and handshake and yet at the same time his old school ‘trust me’ approach became legendary in Toronto - He was loved and adored by Canadian musicians.    

X-Ray was also a curator of all things indie, artist do it yourself, alternative, rootsy music in his venues. He didn’t care much for the ‘industry’ at large as he was artist and musician focused. His partnership with Kenny Sprackman, (which was created by H-Shoe original owner Jack Starr) paved the way for the venue’s glory years (post Gary’s) as the country’s foremost Canadian artist development venue.

He helped develop young artists like Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip, the Watchmen, and Amanda Marshall. X-Ray also had a musical love affair with all things Austin, Texas - He attended the very first SxSW and visited Texas often, continually bringing Austin and Texas artists like Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Kelly Willis, Bill Kirchen, & Alejandro Escovedo to Toronto. When I was hired to be the ’Shoe’s talent buyer (Aug 1995) X-Ray directed me to attend my first SxSW the following year (Mar 1996) - He told me ‘just buy a plane ticket, get a hotel, and we’ll hang’ - Thus I remember standing on the curbside of the Austin airport then, with Laskey and Jordan in tow, looking for a cab, when lo and behold Xray pulled up with his enormous souped up pick up truck and a motorcycle in the rear cab!

‘Jump in' he said, ‘You’re in Texas now, so you need to eat BBQ b4 you do anything else, so we’re going to the patio at the Green Mesquite’

Yup the same folksy organic ‘Green Mesquite patio’ years later the H-Shoe (as an honour to X-Ray) would throw it’s annual pre SxSW Wed parties and where a caravan of Toronto councillors (including then Mayor Ford and soon to be premier Ford, Colle, Crawford, Tanner, Hollett, Henderson, & Terrill) and us soon to be Toronto Music Office volunteers (eventually TMAC) would munch down at (that was a surreal happening!)

In later years X-Ray retired from the venues and instead worked for his close friend actor Dan Akroyd - I recall a 6-8 week period where X-Ray held court at the ’Shoe during the filming of Blues Brothers 2000 film in Toronto - You had the likes of MG’s Steve Cropper sitting in our office every night - Michael was in his his music glory listening to all the Stax stories  

He will be dearly missed!

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With the recent closure of Soundscapes, The Horseshoe Tavern front bar will be overseeing refunds for cancelled or postponed tickets that were purchased at Soundscapes for any shows presented by Collective Concerts, The Horseshoe Tavern or Lee's Palace. Customers can request a refund at The Horseshoe Tavern front bar once Covid restrictions are lifted and the front bar is open.