Stompin Tom Connors, 1936-2013
Canada lost one of its greatest cultural icons March 6th when Stompin Tom Connors passed away peacefully of natural causes at his Peterborough Ontario residence. Connors’ who was 77 years old, knew he was in poor health and posted the following memo on his website in the days prior to his death.
[styled_box title=”Hello Friends” color=”gray”]I want all my fans, past present or future to know that without you, there would not be any Stompin Tom.
It was a long, hard, bumpy road but this great country kept me inspired with its 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 keep the Maple Leaf flying high and to 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.
Your Friend Always,
Stompin Tom Connors[/styled_box]
Born to a single mother Isabel February 9th 1936 at Saint John, New Brunswick, Charles Thomas Connors was positioned by Children’s Aid Society with a family at Skinner’s Pond, Prince Edward Island but hit the road at the age of 14, criss-crossing the country with his trusty guitar, picking up odd jobs as he travelled, be it as a grave digger, tobacco picker, fisherman or a fry cook. Hitchhiking along the Trans Canada gave Connors a unique perspective of this country and plenty of fodder for his unique folk song lyrics.
Legend has it that Connors found himself a nickel short of buying a beer while visiting the Maple Hotel in Timmins so bartender Gaet Lepine offered him a drink if he’d get on stage and sing a couple of songs. That one stint turned into a 14-month engagement which was broadcast on the local CKGB radio station. It was during this stint that the manager noticed Stompin Tom’s left boot heel, which he pounded to keep rhythm, was turning his stage into sawdust so he suggested a wooden plank be positioned under his foot, thus creating a Stompin Tom trademark, the `stompin board’.
Connors created national attention with songs about Canadians and their environment. “Bud The Spud”, “Big Joe Mufferaw”, “Sudbury Saturday Night” and of course “The Hockey Song” would become part of Canada’s heritage. Connors had an ornery side though, returning his Juno Awards in protest against winners who had moved from Canada to the United States calling these artists border jumpers’. He even criticized Gordon Lightfoot for recording `The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald’ because the ship Lightfoot sang about wasn’t Canadian!’
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Eschewing a major label, Connors, released his first records on the Rebel/Dominion labels before launching his own Boot Records label. As he released his autobiography, `Before The Fire’ in 1989, Connors celebrated by signing a distribution deal with Capitol Records, releasing a new album, `Fiddle And Song’ which included “Lady K.D Lang” and the patriotic “Canada Day, Up Canada Way”. Connors would release a total of 27 albums.
It was at a Capitol Records’ launch party for Connor’s `Fiddle And Song’ release held at Toronto’s Troubadour Club where I had my only meeting with Stompin Tom. After a bit of coaxing, Connors got on stage for a rousing performance, finished the set and announced from the stage that he would only do a second set if he received a sufficient quantity of beer! His table was soon groaning under the weight of beer bottles, gifted by thankful patrons, and he of course executed a second set.
I had received a copy of Connors’ book and approached him to autograph it for by wife’s father who resides in Cape Breton. Noting my wife’s father used to work for Nova Scotia’s railway police department, Connors grimaced and said, “at some point in time I’ve probably ran into him!”
Connors was an artist who did not suffer fools gladly; he was rebellious, cantankerous and refused to conform to Canada’s music industry, thus his move to send back his Junos and his refusal to be inducted into Canada’s Country Music Hall of Fame. Yet his songs are forever woven into this country’s social fabric and anyone who had the privilege to catch Connors live will always remember a truly magnetic performer.