BHF remix of "The Hockey Song" by Stompin' Tom Connors.
February 9, 1936 - March 6, 2013
Charles Thomas "Stompin' Tom" Connors, OC was one of Canada's most prolific and well-known folk singers.
He was born in Saint John, New Brunswick to the teenaged Isabel Connors and her boyfriend Thomas Sullivan. He spent a short time living with his mother in a low-security women's penitentiary before he was seized by Children's Aid Society and was later adopted by a family in Skinners Pond, Prince Edward Island. At the age of 15 he left his adoptive family to hitchhike across Canada, a journey that consumed the next 13 years of his life as he traveled between various part-time jobs while writing songs on his guitar. At his last stop in Timmins, Ontario, he worked in one of the local gold mines and was offered a year-long contract to sing on stage at the Maple Leaf Hotel, which earned him the attention of a local radio station and the start of his recording career.
Connors' habit of stomping the heel of his left boot to keep rhythm earned him the nickname Stompin' Tom . Various stories have circulated about the origin of the foot stomping, but it's generally accepted that he did this to keep a strong tempo for his guitar playing — especially in the noisy bars and beer joints where he frequently performed. After numerous complaints about damaged stage floors, Tom began to carry a piece of plywood that he stomped even more vigorously than before. The "stompin' " board has since become one of his trademarks. After stomping a hole in the wood, he would pick it up and show it to the audience (accompanied by a joke about the quality of the local lumber) before calling for a new one. It was reported that when asked about his "stompin' board", Tom replied, "it's just a stage I'm going through". Connors periodically auctions off his "stompin' boards" for charity.
Typically writing about Canadian lore and history, some of Connors' better-known songs include "Bud the Spud", "Big Joe Mufferaw", "The Black Donnellys", "Reesor Crossing Tragedy", "Sudbury Saturday Night" and "The Hockey Song" (aka "The Good Old Hockey Game"); the last is frequently played over sound systems at National Hockey League games. Connors' music is rarely heard outside Canada, with the possible exception of his anthemic "The Hockey Song" which has been covered by many artists. It has been suggested that Connors refuses to allow foreign release of his material (e.g. his music is not available through the US version of Apple's iTunes store, but is in the Canadian version), although a more likely reason is that the very Canadian-specific subject matter of many of his folk songs has resulted in limited demand in foreign markets.
In 1974, Connors had a mini-series running on CBC Television in which, he met and exchanged with folks from all across Canada. The series called "Stompin Tom's Canada" was co-produced with the help of CBC and ran for 26 episodes of 30 minutes each.
As the 1970s progressed, he retired to protest the lack of support given to Canadian stories by the policies of the Federal government, particularly the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). He also boycotted the Juno Awards in protest of the qualification guidelines set by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) for possible nominees who were being consistently nominated and awarded outside of their musical genre. He strongly opposed artists who conducted most of their business in the United States being nominated for Junos in Canada. Connors, who referred to these particular artists as "turncoat Canadians", felt that in view of the fact that they had chosen to live and work in the U.S., it was only fair that they competed with Americans for Grammy Awards, and left the Juno competition to those who lived and conducted business in Canada. His protest caught national attention in 1979 when he sent back his six Junos accompanied by a letter to the board of Directors.
He remained in retirement for nearly a decade before persistent love from young roots revivalists drew him back into the studio and on to the stage. To this day, Stompin' Tom's performances remain popular, and he remains one of Canada's more prolific recording artists. His songs often pay tribute to Canadian newsmakers or personalities, and can be topical, referring to news events of the day.
An autobiography detailing his childhood years in a female prison, in an orphanage, and as an indentured farm labourer became a bestseller in 1997. It details his life "Before the Fame", and in 2000 he did his second autobiography "The Connors Tone". Recent years have seen the re-release of 25 of his record albums.
Connors was involved in a controversy in 2005 with the CBC. After years of requests from CBC for Connors to do a music special, he produced, at a reported cost of $200,000 a live concert video shot and edited on HD, and presented a copy was presented to the CBC's head of TV variety programming. He received a reply the next day telling him that a decision would be reached within a few weeks. After 10 weeks another e-mail was then sent to the newly appointed programming VP, and a prompt reply came back saying that the broadcaster was moving away from music and variety programming and that the Connors special didn't fit with its strategy, and was invited to be a guest on another program. Connors responded, "(a)s far as I'm concerned, if the CBC, our own public network, will not reconsider their refusal to air a Stompin' Tom special, they can take their wonderful offer of letting me sing a song as a guest on some other program and shove it," said Connors.
He received a Doctor of Laws degree honoris causa from St. Thomas University in 1993, which was the inspiration for his album titled Dr. Stompin' Tom Connors, eh?, released the same year. In 1996, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and four years later was awarded an honorary LL.D. by the University of Toronto.
In CBC's 2004 Greatest Canadian list, he ranked thirteenth, the highest placing for any artist on the list, ahead of such Canadian icons as Neil Young, Celine Dion, Bobby Orr, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, John Diefenbaker, Gordie Howe, Tim Horton, Dr. James Naismith, John Moulson and Joni Mitchell.