Stompin' Tom Connors

Stompin' Tom Connors (CBC Image Library)

Stompin' Tom Connors (CBC Image Library)

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An hour of Stompin' Tom Connors. The beloved troubadour died last March. Rewind presents songs and stories. 

You can listen to the show right here.

And tune in next Thursday, September 5 with Michael Enright when we launch the first show of our new season! Rewind goes back to school. We will celebrate teachers and students, chalkboards and laptops, shiny new pencils and smart phones. You can listen to the anticipation of a five year old about to set foot in a classroom for the first time, to a teacher who describes the staff room. You'll hear about back to basics and free schools, recess and the latest fashions, middle school cliques and school songs.

Hope you will join us!

Rewind had a dilemma last spring. One day after another two Canadian icons died. Max Ferguson was a beloved CBC host- a presence on these airwaves for more than 50 years between 1946 and 1998. He created a host of characters on his program Rawhide and his voice is fondly remembered by many, many Canadians.
Stompin' Tom Connors entertained Canadians across the country with his quirky and foot stomping songs.
We'd like to celebrate both of them, but we also think that each one of them deserve a full hour. So here's what we'll do- Stompin' Tom on this show, and Max Ferguson next week. Okay?
Today the toe tapping, all Canadian, down home sounds of Stompin' Tom Connors.  

He was fiercely patriotic, with songs that celebrated quintessentially Canadian themes like hockey, potatoes, tobacco and mining. His trademarks were his big black cowboy hat and his stomping board that accompanied every song.   
In this hour we celebrate Stompin' Tom through his words and his music.

There were a lot of stories told yesterday at the memorial service in Peterborough, but let me just briefly give you a review of his story.  
Connors had a bit of a rough start in life. He was born in New Brunswick to an unwed teenage mother, was adopted at age nine by a couple from Prince Edward Island, and spent years as a young man crisscrossing the country writing songs and trying to make a living. It was in Timmins in 1964 that he first found a steady gig that led to success. The story goes that at the Maple Leaf Tavern one night he was a nickel short for a beer. The bartender suggested he play a song or two to earn his beer. Those couple of songs translated into a fourteen month contract, then three years later his first album and in 1970 his first hit- Bud the Spud.     


Our first piece is from 1969 and the program This is Robert Fulford. It's the first listing from our CBC archives for Stompin' Tom. But at the time, he was known simply as Tom Connors.

By the time Stompin' Tom appeared on Cross Country Checkup  four years later in 1973, he was a certified phenomenon. People across the country were convinced that his songs were about them and their neighbours. Host Pierre Pascau talked to him about his early years.

It's obvious that the man was driven to write Canadian songs for Canadians to be played on Canadian radio. It was a theme that he returned to again and again. It was the place names and the stories, but it was more than that. Stompin' Tom had a way with words. Is there a simpler, and yet more sublime set of lyrics than "the girls are out to bingo and the boys are getting stinko, they think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday Night?"

In 1973 Connors was the guest on an hour and a half of Cross Country Checkup with Pierre Pascau. One of the people who called in was country legend Wilf Carter.  
 As he became more popular, his fans worried that Connors might lose his common touch. One listener to Checkup that day in 1973 asked him about that.
A few months after that appearance on Cross Country Checkup, Tom Connors decided to get married to Lena Walsh. On TV. It was the Elwood Glover show, a popular CBC Television program that aired midday. Here's just a bit of the ceremony followed by an interview with the bride and groom.
In 1978, Connor's heartfelt Canadian patriotism brought him to loggerheads with the recording industry. He felt that Canadian artists weren't getting a fair shake in this country, and that American musicians were inevitably favoured by the industry. And he called artists who moved to the United States "border jumpers."
To protest, he returned his Juno awards and declared that he would stop performing. This led to 10 years of virtual exile from the Canadian music scene. But Canadians didn't forget him and when he was coaxed back into the spotlight in 1988, he had an enthusiastic reception. He appeared on Peter Gzowski's Morningside that fall to talk about his decision to bow out, as well as the song writing process.  

That same year he released a new album called Fiddle and Song. It featured a new fiddle style and a lot more great songs. In 1990 Connors toured the country to great acclaim.

But in 1993 he declined induction into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 2010 when Connnors appeared on Q with Jian Ghomeshi, he was the beloved elder statesman of Canadian country music.

Connors died of kidney failure in March 2013 at his home in Ballinafad, Ontario.

Songs played on this program included:
- The Hockey Song
- Bud the Spud
- Sudbury Saturday Night
- Tillsonburg
- Canada