Tag Archives: music

Stompin’ Tom Revisited

Thank you CBC Radio!  Just when I think I’ll never hear anything that I haven’t heard at least once already in any given day or week, you give me a wonderful treat.

Stompin’ Tom Connors – his songs and his conversation in radio interviews and call-in stompin tom album cover My Stompin' Groundsshows from the CBC archives.  Last Sunday on Radio One on Inside the Music (listen here).  If you know him and love his music, you will truly enjoy this.  If you know him and think ho hum, take a listen to him talking about his life and where the songs came from.  If you have no idea who he is, listen so that you may learn about someone central to Canadian music and Canadian pride.

My mother was a fan of Stompin’ Tom so I grew up with his music.  I don’t know if ‘Tillsonburg’ was the first song of his she heard, but it was her favourite.  She’s from Aug 1986 priming tobacco West Lorne Fodor farm from elgin.caTillsonburg and she worked in tobacco – one season.  She understood, and connected with, every word.  That’s what Stompin’ Tom songs do for Canadians and Canada.  He is the quintessential Canadian; born in New Brunswick, raised in PEI and has worked out west, in Ontario and pretty much every part of the country.

In the doc, he talks about meeting people who had recently returned from visiting Germany.  The Germans they were with one evening sang their country’s folksongs then asked to hear some songs about Canada.  They couldn’t think of one except for Oh Canada.  So Tom, over the Stompin' Tom accepts 1973 Junoyears, set about writing those songs.  He created the folk songs about our country.

There are strong regional music traditions in Canada.  Certainly Newfoundland, the Maritimes and Quebec are rich in traditional songs that tell the history of their places, events and people.  The west is the homeland of country and western.  But songs about Canada as a whole or regional songs known outside those regions?  Like Woody Guthrie, Stompin’ Tom both created and popularized the music of a land.

‘Stompin’ from St. John’s to Tillsonburg

me with Stompin' Tom in St. John'sThe first time I saw Stompin’ Tom perform was in St. John’s at the old Memorial arena.  He was on a small dais and the audience was seated in front, all of us on the covered ice surface.  It was close and personal.  He didn’t mind you getting out in the aisle taking his picture and he stayed after the performance for a long time signing autographs and talking to fans.

Years later I saw him in Tillsonburg.  The sound system was atrocious.  It was almost impossible to make out his words when he was singing or talking.  But it was worth every cent and more when he started Tillsonburg (My back still aches).  The place went up!  You couldn’t hear him over everyone singing along.  (You can listen to him singing it in Hamilton by clicking the title, also below for Sudbury Saturday Night.)

In his songs, Stompin’ Tom gets at the heart of the people and landscape of every one of stompin tom autograph on cigarette packour regions.  And by focusing on the particular, he speaks to the whole of this large and sometimes fragmented nation.  Thank you, CBC, for the chance to hear him talk about how and why he made the music and to tap my foot and sing along with Sudbury Saturday Night.  You don’t have to have ever been in Sudbury to ‘get it’.

Going to Graceland

Thirty-four years ago, Graceland became a memorial shrine. The day before, August 16th 1977, the King of Rock and Roll had died in it, his home.

Andrea-and-Memphis-Caddy-(photo-H.-Edison)Despite liking Elvis, Graceland had never been on my ‘must-see’ list. But passing through Memphis once, it seemed wrong not to see Elvis’ house.

Even pulling into the parking lot, though, I had quibbles. “Our money will be going straight to Priscilla and Lisa Marie’s pockets,” I said, “there’s starving children who need this money.” Still, we bought our tickets and went in.

Oh, I hope the starving children can understand the cultural value of Graceland. It is wonderful. Not just the place itself but those touring it and those working in it. It is Graceland media-roomMecca for American culture in the latter half of the 20th century.

Our tour group shuffled through the house, oohing and aahing over the opulence, the excess, the fact that Elvis the King sat in these rooms. The tour guide was informative and clearly enjoyed her job. She was a child when Elvis died but she “got” him – the house, the magic.

Las Vegas jumpsuit Graceland museum Next the outbuildings, the museums of Elvis stuff. His collections of firearms and police badges are laid out in glass cases. There are rooms of display cases filled with gifts he was given. His costumes, his gold records. There’s every award and honourable mention he received from anyone anywhere. Presumably there’s museum curators working behind these public rooms, sorting, preserving, cataloguing a life of a man.

You can tour the grounds. A paddock near the house had about six horses in it. A couple of them would remember Elvis. The others were Lisa Marie’s and Priscilla’s. They came charging over to the fence, Graceland horse paddocklooking for treats. I pulled handfuls of grass, fearful I was going to be yelled at. But no one said anything. The horses happily munched the grass I gave them.

Quite close by is Elvis’ grave. The true believers circle around it, taking pictures, looking down misty-eyed. They stay there a long time.

Beside the parking lot, near the entrance, Elvis’ planes are parked. The smaller one is called the Lisa Marie. Both have TCB with a lightning bolt painted on them.

Edmund

Elvis' dog Edmund-and-sitter-GracelandMy favourite moment happened while standing in line for the Elvis memorabilia museum. Over on the lawn by the house, a small elderly dog was tottering around with an elderly woman. I asked a young man checking tickets about the dog. “That’s Edmund, Elvis’ dog,” he said, “he lives with Elvis’ aunt.” I asked who the lady was. “She’s a maid and her job is looking after Edmund.” When I asked if I could go closer, he said no. “It’s really for your safety. He’s a nasty little dog.” I liked his candor but wondered if that was why he was doing crowd control in the blazing sun rather than leading tours inside.

Andrea-at-Graceland-(photo-H-Edison)Edmund has left the building, and probably Elvis’ horses have too. But I’m sure the magic of them and Elvis are still there in Graceland. Taking care of business.

The pictures of Edmund and the horse paddock are mine from 1990. My cousin Andrea Hutchison very kindly let me use photos from her 2011 trip to Memphis.

Car Music

I once had an old Chevy Monza hatchback, a ’75.  It came with a banged-in fender that didn’t seem worth fixing.  The rest of the body was so rusted that, well, what would be the point?

1975 Chevy MonzaThe car was bought as an immediate and probably short-term solution to my previous car dying at a time I had very little money.  But I quickly grew to love it.  It was my baby muscle car.

I realized that car needed rock and roll.  Until then, and since, my radio dial just stays on CBC.  It might flip from Radio One to Radio Two but that’s it.  But not for a Chevy Monza.  I had to search for a rock station that I could tolerate listening to.  It’s what the car wanted.

The car got something else in its life with me.  It was the exact same shade of orange as the City vehicles.  One day I came out to find very large City decals on both doors, the same as City dump trucks, pickups and cars had.  As I told the City workers that came to my door a couple weeks later to remove the decals, I don’t know where they came from.  The City workers used a blowtorch to take them off, which didn’t do a lot for the car’s paint job.

But for the time the decals were on the car, it was fun.  I could park anywhere.  I got very odd looks from City employees who saw it.  The condition of the car really was a disgrace.  I avoided driving it anywhere near City Hall, but the City officials still tracked me down and sent men to take my decals.  The car died forever not long after that.

I went back to CBC with my next cars.  There’s only been one car since then that my 2002 MINIdemanded its own music.  That’s my Mini Cooper S, and it’s only sporadic.  On sunny summer days, it wants old rock and roll.  The car and I welcome the first warm, sunny day with the Beach Boys.  I crank the volume and roll down the windows.  “Daddy took the T-bird away” and “Little Deuce Coupe” speak directly to my foot and gear-shifting hand.  I got six gears and I want to go through them as fast as possible.

Other than the Beach Boys, girl groups and Jerry Lee Lewis, the Mini is happy to listen to CBC Radio One and Two.  But hot summer days need summer music. And summer music makes me think fondly of a poor, battered up old Chevy Monza.

St. Thomas now has its own radio station – 94.1 FM on the dial.  I’ve got it in the presets, just in case. And, just in case you should want them, here are some classic songs to drive to.