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Stompin' Tom Connors

Background information
Birth name Charles Thomas Connors
Also known as Tommy Messer
Born February 9, 1936 (1936-02-09) (age 74)
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Genres Folk, Country
Occupations Singer-songwriter, Musician
Years active 1967–present
Labels Rebel Records (Canada), Dominion Records, Boot Records, Cynda Records, ACT Records, EMI
Website www.stompintom.com

Charles Thomas "Stompin' Tom" Connors, OC (born February 9, 1936) is one of Canada's most prolific and well-known folk singers.

He lives in Wellington County, Ontario.

Contents

Early life

He was born Charles Thomas Connors (known as Tommy Messer) in Saint John, New Brunswick to the teenaged Isabel Connors and her boyfriend Thomas Sullivan. He was a cousin of New Brunswick fiddling sensation, Ned Landry. He spent a short time living with his mother in a low-security women's penitentiary before he was seized by Children's Aid Society and was later adopted by the Aylward family in Skinners Pond, Prince Edward Island.

At the age of 13 he left his adoptive family to hitchhike across Canada, a journey that consumed the next 13 years of his life as he travelled between various part-time jobs while writing songs on his guitar. At his last stop in Timmins, Ontario, which may also have been his big "break", he found himself a nickel short of a beer at the city's Maple Leaf Hotel. The bartender, Gaet Lepine, agreed to give Tom a beer if he would play a few songs. These few songs turned into a 13-month contract to play at the hotel, a weekly spot on the CKGB radio station in Timmins, eight 45-RPM recordings, and the end of the beginning for Tom Connors.

Musical career

During the mid-1970s, Connors wrote and recorded "The Consumer", an ode to bill-paying that became the theme song for the popular Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) consumer affairs program, Marketplace. For the first few seasons, Connors appeared in the opening credits of the program, before "The Consumer" was replaced as the theme — initially by an instrumental background version and ultimately by another piece of music entirely.

In 1974 Tom had a mini-series running on CBC Television in which he met and exchanged with folks from all across Canada. The series called "Stompin Tom's Canada" was co-produced with the help of CBC and ran for 26 episodes of 30 minutes each.

Typically writing about Canadian lore and history, some of Connors' better-known songs include "Bud the Spud", "Big Joe Mufferaw", "The Black Donnellys", "The Martin Hartwell Story", "Reesor Crossing Tragedy", "Sudbury Saturday Night" and "The Hockey Song" (aka "The Good Old Hockey Game"); the last is frequently played over sound systems at National Hockey League (NHL) games.

Interestingly, Tom has never lost touch with Gaet Lepine, the bartender he befriended in Timmins. In fact, over the years, the two have co-written many songs together. These songs are featured in Stompin' Tom's 250 Songs songbook.

The song that Tom wrote the fastest was Maritime Waltz; time, 12 minutes.[1]

Nickname

Connors' habit of stomping the heel of his left boot to keep rhythm earned him the nickname "that stompin' guy", or "Stomper". It wasn't until Canada's 100th birthday, July 1, 1967, that the name Stompin' Tom Connors was first used, when Boyd MacDonald, a waiter at the King George Tavern in Peterborough, Ontario introduced Tom on stage.[2] Based on an enthused audience reaction to it, Tom had it officially registered in Ontario as Stompin' Tom Ltd. the following week. Various stories have circulated about the origin of the foot stomping, but it's generally accepted that he did this to keep a strong tempo for his guitar playing — especially in the noisy bars and beer joints where he frequently performed. After numerous complaints about damaged stage floors, Tom began to carry a piece of plywood that he stomped even more vigorously than before. The "stompin' " board has since become one of his trademarks. After stomping a hole in the wood, he would pick it up and show it to the audience (accompanied by a joke about the quality of the local lumber) before calling for a new one. It was reported that when asked about his "stompin' board", Tom replied, "it's just a stage I'm going through". Stompin' Tom periodically auctions off his "stompin' boards" for charity with the latest board selling for over $14,000.00

Retirement and nationalistic protest

As the 1970s progressed, he retired to his farm in Norval, near Georgetown, Ontario, to protest the lack of support given to Canadian stories by the policies of the Federal government, particularly the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). He also boycotted the Juno Awards in protest of the qualification guidelines set by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) for possible nominees who were being consistently nominated and awarded outside of their musical genre. He strongly opposed artists who conducted most of their business in the United States being nominated for Junos in Canada. Connors, who referred to these particular artists as "turncoat Canadians", felt that in view of the fact that they had chosen to live and work in the U.S., it was only fair that they competed with Americans for Grammy Awards, and left the Juno competition to those who lived and conducted business in Canada.

His protest caught national attention when he sent back his six Junos accompanied by a letter to the board of Directors.

"Gentlemen:I am returning herewith the six Juno awards that I once felt honored to have received and which, I am no longer proud to have in my possession. As far as I am concerned you can give them to the border jumpers who didn't receive an award this year and maybe you can have them presented by Charley Pride. I feel that the Junos should be for people who are living in Canada, whose main base of business operations is in Canada, who are working toward the recognition of Canadian talent in this country and who are trying to further the export of such talent from this country to the world with a view to proudly showing off what this country can contribute to the world market. Until the academy appears to comply more closely with aspirations of this kind, I will no longer stand for any nominations, nor will I accept any award given. Yours very truly, Stompin' Tom Connors[citation needed]

He remained in retirement for 12 years before persistent love from young roots revivalists drew him back into the studio and on to the stage. To this day, Stompin' Tom's performances remain popular, and he remains one of Canada's more prolific recording artists. His songs often pay tribute to Canadian newsmakers or personalities, and can be topical, referring to news events of the day.

Autobiography

An autobiography detailing his childhood years in a female prison, in an orphanage, and as an indentured farm labourer became a bestseller in 1997. It details his life "Before the Fame", and in 2000 he did his second autobiography "The Connors Tone". Recent years have seen the re-release of 25 of his record albums.

Guest of honour on "Late Night"

Connors' music is rarely heard outside Canada, with the possible exception of his anthemic "The Hockey Song" which has been recorded by many artists. It has been suggested that Connors refuses to allow foreign release of his material, although a more likely reason is that the very Canadian-specific subject matter of many of his folk songs has resulted in limited demand in foreign markets. When Late Night with Conan O'Brien taped a week's worth of shows in Canada in 2004, Connors was one of the guests of honour, leading the Toronto audience in a rendition of "The Hockey Song"; this was one of the few times Connors performed on American television. Another Canadian-taped installment of Late Night featured a segment in which Triumph the Insult Comic Dog visited Quebec; a parody of Connors' "Canada Day, Up Canada Way" is heard during the segment.

Favourite guitar

Tom's favourite guitar was a Gibson Southern Jumbo acoustic that he purchased in 1956 while on his way through Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee and Mexico. He discovered it in a furniture store, hidden in a case on the top of some shelf, and after some haggling, purchased it for $80 (all he had was $90 on him). The guitar was used to audition in 1964 at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, as well as for writing Bud the Spud four years later. Although retired in 1972, it remains in his possession. It has subsequently been refurbished (a birthday gift from his wife, Lena).[3]

Dispute with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

After years of requests from CBC for Connors to do a Stompin' Tom music special he did just that. At a cost of over $200,000.00 of his own money, a live concert presentation at Hamilton Place was shot and edited on HD in September 2005 and according to Connors' longtime promoter, Rocklands Entertainment CEO Brian Edwards, a copy was presented to the CBC's head of TV variety. He received a reply the next day telling him that a decision would be reached within a few weeks. After 10 weeks another email was then sent to the newly appointed programming VP, and a prompt reply came back saying that the broadcaster was moving away from music and variety programming and that the Connors special didn't fit with its strategy.

Edwards says he received another letter from the CBC that reinforced its lack of interest in the concert special, but saying that Connors would have been a great guest to perform a song on the network's Hockeyville series or an excellent subject for a Life and Times project.

"As far as I'm concerned, if the CBC, our own public network, will not reconsider their refusal to air a Stompin' Tom special, they can take their wonderful offer of letting me sing a song as a guest on some other program and shove it," said Connors.[4]

Honours

He received a Doctor of Laws degree honoris causa from St. Thomas University in 1993, which was the inspiration for his album titled Dr. Stompin' Tom Connors, eh?, released the same year. In 1996, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and four years later was awarded an honorary LL.D. by the University of Toronto.

In The Greatest Canadian list, he ranked thirteenth, the highest placing for any artist on the list. Connors will be one of the four musicians who will be pictured on the second series of the Canadian Recording Artist Series to be issued by ‎Canada Post stamps on July 2, 2009.[5]

Cultural and historical references

In the film Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led the UNAMIR peacekeeping force in Rwanda during that country's 1994 genocide reported that he played a recording of Tom's song "The Blue Berets" (about United Nations peacekeeping forces) to keep up his troops' morale while their headquarters was under bombardment.

Col Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade mentions Stompin' Tom in the song "Long in the Tooth"

Releases

Connors has released music on no fewer than seven different labels. His earliest foray into recording was on the CKGB Timmins radio station label. These 45 RPM singles were pressed by Quality Records in Toronto, and distributed (and paid for) primarily by Tom. His first two albums (and two subsequent 45 RPM singles) were released on the Rebel Records bluegrass label, under the name "Tom Connors". These two albums were subsequently re-released on Dominion Records under the Stompin' Tom moniker and had to be totally re-recorded due to a dispute with Rebel Records owner John Irvine.

Most of Connors' well-known albums were released on Dominion Records (1969 - 70), and after 1971 on the Boot Records label that he co-founded with Jury Krytiuk and Mark Altman. His releases on Dominion (and all subsequent releases) were done under the name "Stompin' Tom Connors". Most of the Rebel and Dominion albums would be reissued (and in some cases, re-recorded) under the Boot label, and would represent the bulk of his recorded material. It was released on 33 1/3 RPM record albums, 45 RPM record singles, 8-tracks, and cassette tapes.

After his retreat from the music business in the late 70's, he started the A-C-T (Assisting Canadian Talent) label in 1986, and released two albums: "Stompin' Tom is Back to Assist Canadian Talent" and his comeback album, "Fiddle and Songs" in 1988. A-C-T also re-released Tom's back catalog on cassette tapes only.

All of his subsequent releases (and re-releases) have been through Capitol Records / EMI. Most of this work is now available on Compact Disc. In recent years, many of his album releases have included at least one re-recording of one of his earlier songs.

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Songs referencing Canadian historical events

The following is a list of events in the history of Canada which have been the subject of a song by Connors, who is widely renowned for singing about both well-known and little-known episodes in the country's past.

  • Tillsonburg, about when Stompin Tom worked in the tobacco fields of Tillsonburg, Ontario.
  • The Curse of the Marc Guylaine, 1973 song about the fishing trawler Marc Guylaine which saw two sister-ships and two identical ships all sink under inexplicable circumstances
  • The Martin Hartwell Story, about the bush pilot Martin Hartwell who survived 31 days in the North-West Terrorities, after resorting to cannibalism
  • ''The Black Donnellys' Massacre and Jenny Donnelly, both about the Black Donnellys

Discography

Albums

Year Album Chart Positions CRIA
CAN Country CAN
1967 The Northlands' Own Tom ConnorsA
1968 On Tragedy Trail
1969 Bud the Spud and Other Favourites Gold
1970 Stompin' Tom Meets Big Joe Mufferaw
Merry Christmas Everybody
1971 Live at the Horseshoe
My Stompin' Grounds 71
Love & LaughterB
1972 Stompin' Tom and the Hockey Song
1973 To It and at It
1974 Stompin' Tom Meets Muk Tuk Annie
1975 The North Atlantic Squadron
1976 The Unpopular Stompin' Tom Connors
1977 Stompin' Tom at the Gumboot Cloggeroo
1986 Stompin' Tom Is Back to Assist Canadian TalentC
1988 Fiddle and Song
1991 More of the Stompin' Tom Phenomenon
1992 Believe in Your Country 9
1993 Dr. Stompin' Tom Eh? 28
1995 Long Gone to the Yukon 5
1999 Move Along with Stompin' Tom
2000 The Confederation BridgeD
2002 An Ode for the Road
2004 Stompin' Tom and the Hockey Mom Tribute
2008 The Ballad of Stompin Tom
Notes
  • ARe-released on A-C-T Records in the mid-80s as "Northland Zone" due to a printing error
  • BLater released as "Stompin' Tom and the Moon-Man Newfie" in 1973
  • CContains four Stompin' Tom songs plus an intro and final message to support Canadian talent. Otherwise, this is an album which also features other Canadian country musicians: Wayne Chapman, Cliff Evans, Donna Lambert, Bruce Caves, Art Hawes, Kent Brockwell
  • DA five song EP_containing The Confederation Bridge, My Home Cradled Out In The Waves,Bud the Spud, Skinner's Pond Teapot, J.R.'s Bar - basically PEI songs.

Compilations

Year Album CAN Country CRIA
1970 Stompin' Tom Connors Sings 60 Old Time FavouritesA
1971 Stompin' Tom Sings 60 More Old Time FavouritesB
The Best of Stompin' Tom Connors
Pistol Packin' Mama
Bringing Them Back
1973 Across This LandC
1990 A Proud Canadian Platinum
1991 Once Upon a Stompin' Tom
1993 K.I.C. Along with Stompin' Tom 26
1998 25 of the Best Stompin' Tom Souvenirs 12 Platinum
2001 Sings Canadian History
2006 Live Concert (DVD) 2× Platinum
Notes
  • AThis is a Five Record box set that has never been re-released
  • BThis is another Five Record box set that has never been re-released
  • COriginal Soundtrack recording (at the Horseshoe Tavern) for "Across This Land with Stompin' Tom". Also features Bobby Lalonde, Joey Tardif, Chris Scott, Kent Brockwell, Sharon Lowness and The Rovin' Cowboys plus a separately recorded "Tribute To Stompin' Tom" by Fred Dixon. This 'double-album' has never been re-released.

Singles

Year Single Chart Positions Album
CAN Country CAN AC
1969 "Bud the Spud" 26 Bud the Spud and Other Favorites
1970 "Big Joe Mufferaw" 1 Stompin' Tom Meets Big Joe Mufferaw
"Ketchup Song" 1 Bud the Spud and Other Favorites
"Luke's Guitar" 2
1971 "Snowmobile Song" 40 My Stompin' Grounds
"The Bridge Came Tumbling Down" 2
"Tillsonburg" 12
"Name the Capital" 34
1972 "Moon-Man Newfie" 1 Love & Laughter
"The Bug Song" 9 18
"Fire in the Mine" 24
1973 "The Consumer" 59 Stompin' Tom and the Hockey Song
"Martin Hartwell Story" 30 To It and at It
"Poor Poor Farmer" 68 Stompin' Tom Meets Big Joe Mufferaw
"Algoma Central No. 69" 67
"Don Messer Story" 40 To It and at It
1974 "To It and at It" 42
"Streaker's Dream" 34 Stompin' Tom Meets Muk Tuk Annie
1975 "Jack of Many Trades" 24 The North Atlantic Squadron
1989 "Canada Day, Up Canada Way" 29 Fiddle and Song

Footnotes

  1. ^ Connors, Stompin' Tom (1995). Stompin' Tom - Before the Fame. Toronto: Viking Penguin. pp. 490. ISBN 0-670-86487-0. 
  2. ^ Connors, Stompin' Tom (1995). Stompin' Tom - Before the Fame. Toronto: Viking Penguin. pp. 509. ISBN 0-670-86487-0. 
  3. ^ Connors, Stompin' Tom (1995). Stompin' Tom - Before the Fame. Toronto: Viking Penguin. pp. 356–379. ISBN 0-670-86487-0. 
  4. ^ "Stompin’ Tom Snubbed by CBC TV" (press release by Brian Edwards, Rocklands Entertainment Inc., Peterborough Ontario), 2006
  5. ^ Canada Post Stamp Details, July to September 2009, Volune XVIII, No. 3, p. 6

External links


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