Last night I went to a show at the Horseshoe Tavern. It only cost $5 per ticket, with the money benefiting the homeless and the impoverished. It was a tribute to one of the great Canadian nationalists, Stompin’ Tom Connors, who sadly died at the age of 77 on March 6, 2013 in his hometown of Ballinafad, Ontario.
I didn’t even stay for all of last night’s show, but I felt so Canadian after the show I couldn’t believe it. Admittedly, the melody of pretty much every Stompin’ Tom song is exactly the same, only the stories in the songs change quite a bit. I didn’t know much of his work before yesterday (actually all I knew was the ubiquitous “The Hockey Song”) so I learned lots of tales, like that of Wop May, a Canadian fighter pilot during WWI, and of what happens when potatoes and tomatoes get together.
The band performing the music was made up of a set of players who were on the stage most of the time, including Dave Bidini of Rheostatics, and more currently CBC and Bidiniband. For the hour-and-a-half that I stayed, they brought out a slew of special guests, including Shawn Creamer from the Beauties, Peter Elkas, Kurt Swinghammer and Charlie Angus. I was most impressed by Tom Wilson, a fearsome-looking (but probably super-nice) dude originally from Junkhouse, later Blackie & the Rodeo Kings and LeE HARVeY OsMOND.
During the song about Wop May as I mentioned above, the band actually brought out Wop May’s granddaughter, who sang along with them in the rambling, epic song about Wop May’s career as a flying ace.
And naturally there were tons of anecdotes about Stompin’ Tom. Dave Bidini told a story about going over to Tom’s house once, and being told not to bring anything. Bidini ended up bringing a case of Moosehead, and when he got to the door he was greeted by Tom’s wife, who told him to drop the case in the garage. Bidini did so, and said “So I put my case of Moosehead on top of a stack of 18 cases of Moosehead. I don’t think he even knew it was there.”
And Tom’s drinking stories were funny too. Bidini said (though the members of Tom’s backing band, Whiskey Jack, denied this) that in order to be a part of Tom’s backing band, at least one had to stay up drinking with him. On one particular tour, none of the band members were feeling particularly good about going to drink with Tom. Eventually the responsibility fell on the new drummer, who was a teetotaler (or something close to it). But he decided to take one for the team.
He was in the hospital with alcohol poisoning for three days afterword.
Whatever you might think, Stompin’ Tom was a nationalist when it was not fashionable to do so. I quote (with perhaps a few words off) from Tom Wilson last night: “Back in the 70s, Canadians were worried about Canadian identity. Teachers asked students about Canadian culture, and academics were asking what it meant to be Canadian. But Stompin’ Tom had it all figured out!”
I leave you with Stompin’ Tom’s seminal classic. Enjoy your day.