Saturday, March 09, 2013


One of the legends of Canadian folk music, Tom Connors (February 9, 1936 – March 6, 2013) released over 20 albums of original material, and wrote over 250 songs. I know: "name one of them." Well, if you ask such a question, you're obviously not Canadian.

Otherwise, you'd instantly say "The Hockey Song," or "The Consumer" (the theme song for the CBC series "Marketplace). He had #1 hits with "The Ketchup Song," "Big Joe Mufferaw" and "Moon Man Newfie." He was also known for "Sudbury Saturday Night" and for his breakthrough tune, the Top 30 "Bud the Spud" in 1969. His last significant hit single was "Canada Day Up Canada Way" in 1989, his first one to crack the Top 30 since 1973.

He was a prolific bastard, this son of unwed teen Isabel Connors and her boyfriend Tom Sullivan. Isabel couldn't take care of the boy, and his adoptive parents didn't do much better, so the wild roaming lad took off at age 15 to become a traveling troubadour. He learned Canada's folk songs and performed them with rousing enthusiasm. His nickname came from the old folkie habit of keeping time with a powerful foot…which led him to say "It's just a stage I'm going through!" He eventually brought a "stompin' board" with him to protect the venue's flooring.

Connors was not well known outside Canada, and liked it that way. First off, his material was steeped in the country's jargon, and secondly, his brand of very ethnic folk was not too commercial beyond his country's borders. This will be obvious when you download "Bud the Spud," which is not only aggressively "folkie" in melody and performance, but requires an interpreter who can explain the slang. Slightly more accessible is the traditional "Farewell to Nova Scotia." Elsewhere on the blog you'll find an entire essay about that song.

One of the only times Tom appeared on American TV was in 2004, only because Conan O'Brien had brought his show to Canada for a week and was eager to book crowd-pleasers his live audience would enjoy. He was lucky Connors didn't find any reason to object, because the feisty folky often warred with any figures of authority. He feuded with the CBC, who ultimately turned down a TV special the beloved singer-songwriter had financed. He also had a running feud with the Juno Awards (Canada's version of the Grammy) and returned the six statues he won: "You can give them to the border jumpers…maybe you can have them presented by Charley Pride. I feel that the Junos should be for people who are living in Canada…." Connors deliberately went on a nearly decade-long hiatus from recording. He also snubbed the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame when they attempted to honor him. He liked to control his work and release it his way…a reason why he ultimately recorded for the label he helped create, Boot (what you Stomp with, get it…) Among his albums through the years:

"The Northlands' Own Tom Connors" (1967), "Stompin' Tom Meets Big Joe Mufferaw" (1970), "Stompin' Tom and the Hockey Song" (1972), "Stompin' Tom Meets Muk Tuk Annie" (1974), "The Unpopular Tom Connors" (1976), "Stompin' Tom is Back to Assist Canadian Talent" (1986), "More of the Stompin' Tom Phenomenon" "(1991), "Dr. Stompin' Tom Eh?" (1993), "Stompin' Tom and the Hockey Mom" (2004), and "The Ballad of Stompin' Tom" (2008).

Connors' health was fading toward the end, a fact he noted on his website: "I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin' Tom," he wrote in his farewell. "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 help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.''

Stompin' Tom Farewell to Nova Scotia

Recorded live BUD the SPUD

1 comment:

vilstef said...

I'm not Canadian and you didn't tell me anything I didn't know about Stompin' Tom. To me, he's the most Canadian artist of all, with Stan Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot or Ian Tyson fighting it out for second. They broke the mold with Stompin' Tom!