Iconic singer Stompin’ Tom Connors leaves behind unheard songs

Mar 7, 2013 | Arts, News

By Jesse Thomas

Stomping Ton

The iconic Canadian troubadour Stompin’ Tom Connors died of natural causes Wednesday at his home north of Toronto, said a spokesperson. He was 77.

Stompin’ Tom found his calling touring across the country writing songs about the places and people he’d meet. He recorded more than 60 albums, ten of which have yet to be released, his official website said.

He also penned two memoirs, including his first book, Before the Fame, and volume two of his autobiography, The Connors Tone.

A funeral service is planned for Stompin’ Tom next Wednesday in Peterborough.

Andrea Fama remembers spending time at the home of her grandfather, Boyd MacDonald listening to him play songs with Stompin’ Tom, who was a frequent visitor whenever he was stopped in Peterborough, Ont.

In fact, she said it was her grandfather who gave the iconic singer the name Stompin’ Tom.

“He and my papa were both into music and they would play together whenever he was in town,” said Fama, whose grandparents were in a band called The All Nighters. Sometimes Stompin’ Tom would sing with them, she said.

“They sang Bud the Spud a lot,” she said. It was her favourite and she remembers he was always smiling and happy.  “He was tall and had to duck when he came into the kitchen and he’d always pat my mom on her head.”

Washboard Hank, is a songwriter in Peterborough cut from the same cloth as Stompin’ Tom, said he remembers the first time he saw Stompin’ Tom on stage.

“He changed my life,” said Hank. “The audience was literally hanging on every word and I had never seen anything like it. I was not prepared for the absolute magic of his show it totally inspired me.”

Like Stompin’ Tom, Hank has also hitchhiked across this country numerous times and rode the freight trains, living the travelling poet lifestyle.

“I knew what he was singing about and I admired him for his blatant love of the country,” said Hank, who wrote a song for the singer called Stompin’ Tom for Prime Minister.

“Tom liked that song and so he had me play it when I was opening up for him at a show at the (Peterborough) Memorial Centre,” said Fisher. “So I went up there and played the song and everyone went crazy and then we played lots of songs together following the show,” he said.

“It was great to hang out with the boys and see what it was like to be on tour with Stompin’ Tom,” Hank said.

He remembers the tours and all the laughs and admits, “We had our very own Woody Guthrie,” who wrote lasting songs but also kicked back against the Canadians music system.

“It angered him that you had to become a star in the U.S. before you were recognized for your talent in Canada and this is pretty much true unfortunately,” said Hank.

Stompin’ Tom, in fact, gave back his Juno Awards and Hank said he has “great respect that he didn’t go to the States and they offered him lots of money to go at different times.

“His pride of being Canadian is a wonderful thing and we could always use more that.”

David Bidini came across Stompin’ Tom as a youngster and was a little terrified of him when he first listened.

“Tom didn’t sound like anyone else and his voice was very mature and strange,” said Bidini, who is himself a singer and author.

“He was this kind of unrelenting and singular character in many ways and he was preserved in his own ways…and because he refused to change and go against certain trends might seem kind of old or weary but because he sustained what he was doing made him so iconic.”

Bidini jokes that people see Stompin’ Tom as somewhat of a “cartoon character” but he sang about the country its landscape but also about death and tragedy.

“He was all about doing it his own way and on his own terms and there was very little support for something that was odd and strange, but he has showed, that you can do what you can if you stick it out,” said Bidini.

“We’ll miss him as a symbol of cultural difference but it’s also a different time and I think we learned a lot from him and, although it kind of sucks that he’s not going to be around anymore, what lives on, lives on for a reason.”