Canadian Legend, Stompin’ Tom Connors, passed away on March 6, 2013. That morning had a similar tone to the previous five. Petty arguing, frustrations and jealousy. In a long distance relationship, as the majority of them seemed to be in my life, I was the one that couldn’t trust. She was pretty and I was far away. She was social and was reclusive. If I wasn’t out all night on the road, I was in all night wondering why I hadn’t received a phone call, what she was doing. I could mentally string together the most wild prurient events with her as a character and a cast of booze-filled muscle-thugs. This was best dealt with by pouring a mug of rye, warm, and hanging by my window. The same window that inspired Del Barber’s “Farewell, God Bless You, Goodbye”: “There’s pigeons sitting on a windowsill, I think I’ve finally had my fill…”
I was in the last months of my twenties and figured it was high time I began to experiment with marijuana. Yet to have ever purchased, my buddy Trav would pitch me a bit of shake or the odd bud for “when the time was right”. Stemmy weed and warm rye-whiskey seemed to do the trick. Starring out at another apartment wall caked in pigeon shit.
The morning Stompin’ Tom died was the night after another numbing. It was late in the day when Trav let me know of the death – he was a newfound country fan but understood the cultural importance of the news as well as my connection. Stompin’ Tom was almost everyones first array into Canadiana. Connors sang of the localities, the people and their stories. Wilf Carter was changing his name to Montana Slim to have more commercial viability south of the border and Connors was singing about Tillsonburg, ON. Coincidently, the hometown of my heartache at the time. Both Trav and I were bummed so he came over with some better grass and we listened to Connors educate us on the landscape of our nation. We proceeded to transform into alter-egos and hit the town.
Regina’s Artful Dodger is a room that holds a talkative crowd on the left side by the bar and an attentive crowd to it’s right. Tables at the stage front, benches along the wall and bleacher-esqe sitting to the roof along the back, separating the performance space from the front entrance. The vibe is good if the bar crowd can appreciate someone is on stage.
As a Texan, Hayes Carll has toured Canada for years, a feat I’ve always respected. Introduced to his music through my buddy Jonas. Jonas’ wife and my current girlfriend at the time, growing up best friends. A couple prairie boys running to southern Ontario. Jonas was living in Winnipeg and Carll was making a hit out of Manitoban, Scott Nolan’s, “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”.
The night Stompin’ Tom died, Carll played The Artful Dodger. The night Carll played The Artful Dodger, Travis and I were on a tear. We were bouncing between Little Scrapper IPA’s and Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Beer. Hopping outside for “fresh air” prior to the openers set we came back in to sit halfway to the stage. I was wearing my felt hat, had a pocket full of booze-cash and taking it upon myself to tell the “talkers” to shut-up.
Carll dug into his “Trouble in Mind” track listing with swagger. He was loose. With just a lead guitarist they were playing everything I was hoping to hear. A new tongue-in-cheek tune about three bottles of wine, two girls and one bed had the besties ahead of me squirming. Now they’re loose. I’ma buy them a beer.
Trav’s girlfriend met us at the show and they left following the encore. I stayed to hang with the after crowd. More Little Scrapper IPA’s. I introduced myself to Carll at the merchandise table and fellow twangster, Corb Lund’s name came up. He asked if I know him and I mentioned we had crossed paths over the years. One good hang if you include heading back to his hotel room with our evening dancing partners after the 2012 CCMA’s in Saskatoon only to play Neil Diamond covers until 3 am and ignore the girls. I finished the night off with a Kristofferson cover and drove the red-eye back to Regina. Keeping the story to myself, Hayes and I decided to get a drink at the casino.
Felt hat on and jean collar cutting the wind, I made off on foot. I switched to Pilsners once getting to the casino. Conversation was casual. The night became morning. Carll hit a couple tables and I walked home. My apartment is freezing because Travis and I left the window open – snow on the inside of the kitchen. I swept it up and poured another warm rye. I put on Stompin’ Tom’s “At The Gumboot Cloggeroo” and proceeded to stay up for another couple hours.
Connors was one of our last Real Country Icons. He educated himself by hitchhiking across the country, he returned six Junos, he declined his induction into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. He self produced tv specials and stayed true to his style outside of the passing trends and fads. He told stories of our nation and worked the road right up to his death. Before passing Connor’s once again said it like it was.
“I’ve been looking for thirty years for a young guy who’s proud to write songs about our country. I’d like to pass the torch to Tim Hus.”