Thursday, December 16, 1999

Tom's doing the Millennium Stomp
By TYLER McLEOD: Calgary Sun

The venerable Canadian country troubadour is breaking his longstanding policy against playing gigs on New Year's Eve this year.

"Who the hell wants to work on New Year's Eve? On New Year's Eve you like to take the wife out dancing," Connors says.

"But this one is a special New Year's, you have to admit." It certainly will be for the crowd at Lulu's in Kitchener, Ont. Connors promises to play more than just the old Auld Lang Syne.

"Old-time, real good New Year's songs for that occasion and, of course, a lot of my own stuff. There'll be a lot I'll pull out of the bag." It's a mighty full bag o' tricks Connors sports, too. The 63-year-old singer claims to know more than 3,000 tunes by memory. The number continues to grow as he writes new songs and produces new CDs. His 20th original album, Move Along with Stompin' Tom, was released last month. It features additions to the Stompin' Tom karaoke library like Move Along (My Truckin' Song) and Songwriter's Wife, a few previously recorded tracks and a few covers, too.

"Sammy Morgan's Gin, I sang that at parties for years and years. People really liked it and, to my recollection, nobody's ever done a cover on it," Connors says of track 11. "I think it was recorded in the early '40s by Hank Snow, but a lot of the young fellas like it so I thought I'd throw it on." Passing the guitar around at house party is one way Connors test-drives material when he isn't on the road.

"In the course of an evening, singing for three or four hours, you're bound to come up with stuff that'll make someone say, 'Holy cow! Where'd you get that one from?' " When it comes to one of his own compositions, Connors himself doesn't always know where they come from. "I never know what I'm going to write until I sit down with my guitar and start strumming a few chords," Connors says.

"I'll hit a new tune and if some words hit me, a picture comes in from out of the imagination somewhere. Next thing you know, there's a song there."

Those songs. Bud the Spud. Sudbury Saturday Night. The Hockey Song. Connors has added many tunes to the collective memory of Canada. Even if they sometimes slip his. At the recent Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, Connors almost forgot the words to his own immortal tune The Hockey Song. (Hey, with 3,000 songs ...)

"I almost did. Once I was in the middle of the second verse, I couldn't think of the second line. So I repeated the verse over and when I got to that spot, the line came back," Connors says, admitting even stage vets get a case of the nerves.

"I don't think anyone ever gets over that. Don't worry -- I would've pulled it out one way or another." Along with flag-waving anthems, historical tales and lonesome memoirs, Connors is known to often toss in a few numbers just for fun.

Move Along features Sasquatch Song, which ranks up there with Margo's Cargo and The Ketchup Song for displaying his lighter side.

"I've been wanting to write the Sasquatch Song for 10 years but nothing ever came. I got all kinds of ideas but no songs to go with them," he says.

Sasquatch Song finally came, with such unexpected lyrics as: So I bet my wrist-watch that big old Sasquatch/Could never play hopscotch way up in a tree ... "It's not the easiest word in the world to rhyme, you know," he concludes.

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