Stompin’ Tom – A Canadian Icon

I think everyone in Canada knows about Stompin’ Tom Connors – for anyone else around the world reading my blog, he was a proud Canadian, folksy-country musician / singer who graced the halls of small town hotels and community centers across the country for decades singing his self-written songs.  Sadly he died last week at the age of 77 years old.  My kids grew up listening to Stompin’ Tom on road trips to the east coast or music blasting from our garage during the summertime.  He was truly a Canadian icon.

Stompin’ Tom Connors was born in New Brunswick, Canada and raised in a foster home in Skinners Pond, Prince Edward Island.  The story goes that Tom left home at the age of 15 to hitch-hike across Canada……. for the next 13 years, writing songs and literally singing for his supper.  In Timmins, Ontario (where my aunt still lives) he was a nickel short for a beer at the Maple Leaf Hotel so he sang a few songs – and a legend was born.   He went on to sing in small hotels and bars right across the country, including our local old hotel in the early 1970’s…… and eventually larger venues.   A waiter at the King George Tavern in Peterborough, Ontario nicknamed him Stompin’ Tom in 1967 because of his habit of stomping his left heel to keep time to his music.

Vintage Cassette Tape

My Vintage Cassette Tape

All Stompin’ Tom Connors’ 300 songs were in reality, a history of Canada.  Some of my favourites include:  Big Joe Mufferaw (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy3knGGzZr8&feature=player )  which is a song about a legendary French-Canadian logger  who travelled around the Ottawa valley (where I live) visiting many local landmarks (including our local hotel) ;  Bud the Spud “from the bright red mud” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtySGSuKZe8 ),  about a truck driver carrying “another big load of” P.E.I potatoes to Ontario  ;   Tilsonburg (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDItmh42Rio) about when he worked in the tobacco fields in Tilsonburg, Ontario – I burst out in full chorus singing “my back still aches when I hear that word” whenever I’ve overdone it and my back hurts! ; Lady KD Lang, a song about Canadian singer K.D. Lang, who “jumps around like a rangatang” ;  The Ketchup Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkZ62XvJHVQ);  The Bug Song because I can relate to THAT one with all the mosquitoes we have around here;  and of course, The Hockey Song, a.k.a. The Good Ol’ Hockey Game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFYV0P5f_t4) ,  which is  played at many National Hockey League games in Canada and always at the beginning of Ottawa Senators hockey games.   Many songs were about historical events like Fire in the Mine,  Algoma Central 69 (Railroad), The Black Donnelleys (massacre), and The Martin Hartwell Story (surviving bush pilot), to name a few.

Stompin’ Tom never ‘sold out’ and went to the U.S. to sing or ‘make it big’.  He was as big as HE wanted to be.  I respect him for that.  In 1979 in a fit of frustration and disappointment he returned all 6 of his Juno awards as a statement of personal protest against the Americanization of the Canadian Music Industry.*

Canadian Postage Stamp

Canadian Postage Stamp

Chris and I finally went to see Stompin’ Tom Connors in concert in 2006 at our local arena – it was a real treat to watch such an artist perform!  My sister Betty recalls  “I remember going to Hamilton Place to see him when Mark LaForme, Danny Lockwood and Larry Murphy (friends) toured with him … and I remember Danny bringing us back a tape from PEI about 35 years ago when he was touring all around Canada and we played it constantly!   I remember in 1978-ish, Brent and I went to Timmins  and we went to the Maple Leaf Tavern – where Stompin’ Tom played.  When we went on our family trip in 1989 – we crossed on the ferry to PEI and we had the tape in the tape deck and when we drove onto PEI soil – we blasted Bud the Spud!!… Great memories!!”

I always felt that a “Stompin’ Tom Connors Course” should be given at colleges and universities simply for its historical value.  Each song tells an important story……..a real piece of Canadian history.

Stompin’ Tom Connors had the foresight to leave one final letter to all his fans, to be published after his death:

“Hello friends,

I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin’ Tom.”

“It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with it’s beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.”

“I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.”

“I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.”

Sincerely,

Your Friend always,

Stompin’ Tom Connors”*

In the last few weeks of his life, Stompin’ Tom helped plan his own Memorial Celebration now on March 13th, 2013 in Peterborough, Ontario in the local arena which he insisted be open to the public.  In lieu of flowers, the Connors family has asked that “donations be made to your local food bank or homeless shelters, in memory of Stompin’ Tom.”*

What a class act, eh!

What memories of Stompin’ Tom Connors do you have?

* http://www.stompintom.com/

Sister Bet's Stompin' Tom concert ticket

Sister Bet’s Stompin’ Tom concert ticket

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana
    Mar 13, 2013 @ 12:26:37

    He’ll be missed here is a nice tribute to him on you tube….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYa0F39Vcv0

    Reply

  2. Nicole
    Mar 13, 2013 @ 12:36:24

    When John and I first moved to Sudbury, we heard about this guy with a kind of cool name playing at the local hotel so we went to see him and were hooked. It was a rough night as it wasnt the best hotel in town. Much later we saw him at the North Grenville Municipal Centre. When my son Pat was little on our annual trip down to the maritimes, all he wanted to hear was Stompin Tom over and over again. Everyone loved the guy and the stories through his songs.

    Reply

  3. Betty
    Mar 14, 2013 @ 01:02:19

    He was a character and he was different than any other singer/song-writer that I have ever known… I respected him for his unique-ness… Loved hearing him sing/perform with my friends in the Mark Laforme band at Hamilton Place many years ago…

    And yes… I still have my ticket stub from that show!!…LOL…

    Dr. Connors will be sorely missed….

    Betty….

    Reply

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