Thursday, July 19, 2001
Mayor Bill Smith declares special day for stompin' troubadour
My seventysomething neighbour John is excited that Stompin' Tom Connors is coming to town.
By gum, so am I.
I am inspired to sing Bud the Spud in the middle of the street: "Well! It's Bud the Spud! From the bright red mud, rollin' down the highway smilin'. The spuds are big in the back of that rig, and they're from Prince Edward Island!"
John snaps me out of it, "You ever been to P.E.I.?"
He says he was stationed there during the Second World War.
Yes, he confirms, the mud there is bright red. His boots were caked with the stuff for years.
"I love Stompin' Tom," John says. "He's a true Canadian."
Mayor Bill Smith loves Stompin' Tom, too. He has declared tomorrow "Stompin' Tom Connors Day" in Edmonton - in honour of the 65-year-old Canadian hero playing Skyreach Centre tomorrow night. Only Winnipeg and Peterborough, Ont., have honoured him so.
Tom is the coolest of the cool, more Canadian than a six-pack of Molson Dry and an evening of fine CBC programming, more prolific than the late Mordecai Richler and easier to understand, to boot.
Here it comes again: "Oh, you might think it's goofy, but the man in the moon is a Newfie." Here's another favourite: "Well, the girls are out to bingo, and the boys are getting stinko, and no one thinks of INCO, on a Sudbury Saturday night."
Stompin' Tom songs tend to begin with either "oh" or "well," but never "oh, well."
He's genuine, not polished, a man of simple tastes, as in, "ketchup loves potatoes."
Connors has written a song for almost every place in Canada - from She Called From Montreal to The Peterborough Postman to Roll On, Saskatchewan to Sasquatch Song, a musical travelogue of Canadiana. He transforms tales and people into Canadian folklore - most recently in the song Canada's Miracle Child, inspired by Edmonton's own Erika Nordby, who survived being nearly frozen solid.
Sample lyric: "After some gradual heating/And much to their learned surprise/Her faint little heart started beating/While doctors had tears in their eyes."
Write what you know, they say, and Tom knows Canada.
He's been everywhere - born in St. John, N.B., adopted and moved to Skinner's Pond, P.E.I., before setting out at the age of 15 with nothing but a guitar and his hitchhiking thumb. Legend has it Tom's big break came after he agreed to play tunes for beer at a bar in Timmins, Ont. The stompin' board originated because he would damage stages with his stompin' boot, hence the expression, "Just a stage I'm going through."
The rest is history.
The ornery Dr. Connors - an honorary doctor of laws is just one of his many laurels - actually quit music completely in the late '70s to protest how Canadian country music was being subverted by American interests. He returned his six Juno awards and told them where to put them.
More recently, he told the Canadian Country Music Association to go to hell after he was given a lifetime CCMA membership. Said Tom, "What the hell are they trying to do to me now - make me out to be a hypocrite or something?" The CCMA withdrew its offer.
Connors was in Jasper this week and not available for an interview, but according to his promoter, Brian Edwards, the black-hatted troubadour reacted to the news of Mayor Bill's proclamation with, "No kidding? That's fabulous."
Tom is a man of few yet well-chosen words.
You might think it's goofy, but Mayor Bill Smith is a Newfie. No, he's not - but at least he's keeping busy.
Text of a press release issued yesterday:
"WHEREAS, with his trademark black cowboy hat and stompin' board, Stompin' Tom Connors has travelled from coast to coast singing about what he loves - Canada;
"AND WHEREAS, from songs like Sudbury Saturday Night, The Hockey Song, Bud the Spud and Baby Erika, Stompin' Tom has spread his home-grown patriotism through all his compositions;
"AND WHEREAS, 'ketchup loves potatoes,' and Edmonton loves our Canadian cowboy, Stompin' Tom Connors;
"THEREFORE I, MAYOR BILL SMITH, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM JULY 20, 2001, 'STOMPIN' TOM CONNORS DAY' IN EDMONTON."