Stompin’ Tom: Rebel With A Cause

When asked who Canada's biggest punk stars are, many would say Billy Talent or Alexisonfire. They'd be wrong. Canada's top punk is a 72-year-old with a song called "Lady Slipper" on his new album: Stompin' Tom Connors.

- Dec 22, 2008

When asked who Canada's biggest punk stars are, many would say Billy Talent or Alexisonfire. They'd be wrong. Canada's top punk is a 72-year-old with a song called "Lady Slipper" on his new album: Stompin' Tom Connors.

Why? He's done things his own way over more than 40 years and 50 albums, and he still won't take any shit from those who don't like it. Connors is fiercely nationalistic, so much so that he returned his six Juno Awards and retired at the height of his popularity to protest the Americanization of the Canadian music industry. He was finally convinced to come back in 1988, but his patriotic views haven't wavered — and don't get him started on how much he hates anti-smoking bylaws. On top of that, he still parties harder than people a quarter of his age.

I get a cold beer for myself and a less cold brew for Connors (because that's the way he likes them) when I sit down to talk with the living legend at his kitchen table in early October. He tells me that every province but Manitoba and Saskatchewan are represented on his new EMI Music Canada album, The Ballad Of Stompin' Tom, and that he re-recorded fan favourite "The Hockey Song" for the LP because he thought that the original sounded too thin. But despite it being the most obvious choice to become the new Hockey Night In Canada theme, and the fact that he would have been honoured to have it used, Connors didn't enter it in the public contest held to find a successor to Dolores Claman's familiar anthem.

"I haven't had any overtures or fuck-all," he says of the silence from Canada's national broadcaster. "If the CBC doesn't know that Stompin' Tom has a song called 'The Hockey Song,' then what planet are we livin' on?

"I'm not a new guy startin' on the block. I'm not goin' to say, 'Oh, by the way, CBC, I have a song out here called "The Hockey Song," would you like to hear it?'"

A new version of "My Hockey Mom" also appears on The Ballad Of Stompin' Tom, but Connors doesn't want to entertain any thoughts about U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate and self-professed "hockey mom" Sarah Palin adopting it as her theme.

"I don't give a fuck about Sarah Palin or any of them down there," Connors says between sips of Moosehead and puffs of the cigarette that's never too far from his lips.

That "any of them" applies to American performers, and Canadians who've gone south of the border to find fame and fortune.

"I can't listen to radio anymore because they don't play any songs that are identifiably Canadian," explains Connors. "I'm interested in my country.

"So if I can hear somethin' in the media that relates to Canada, I'm interested. Why should I be interested in another country before I'm interested in Canada?"

Connors' music has struck the right note with Canadians of all ages. Despite getting rid of his Junos, his trophy room is full of plaques, awards, honorary degrees and other mementos from a remarkable career that includes such instantly recognizable songs as "Bud The Spud" and "Sudbury Saturday Night." Next year, Canada Post will issue a Stompin' Tom stamp.

Connors likes to keep his music simple so that his innate storytelling ability can shine through. It's almost impossible not to smile and stomp along when he works up a head of steam on "Big Joe Mufferaw" or "Red River Jane" and vivid images run through your brain. He wouldn't want it any other way.

"My music is all about the lyrics," Connors explains. "Let's face it, I'm no fuckin' Einstein in the music industry. I'm a three-chord man."

Stompin' Tom Connors Likes Beer

A lot.

When I told him I was friends with Bruce Eaton, who used to deliver kegs of Upper Canada to his house, he replied, "Bruce is a good guy. He'd bring several kegs, because he knew one wouldn't last too fuckin' long around here."

Connors' son, Tom Jr., explained his dad's brand loyalties over the past 20 years while I sat at the house's impressive bar.

Here's the chronology:

1. Molson Golden, before it seemed to slightly change its recipe and switched to green bottles, which often resulted in "skunky" product.

2. Labatt 50 in the early '90s.

3. Upper Canada after that, because he had an Upper Canada keg fridge in his house.

4. Moosehead today, even though it also comes in green bottles. He likes it so much that he'll even risk up to "six skunky beers" per 24, an effect he says comes from where light shines through at the handle holes, spoiling the beer.

The following feature is taken from the October 2008
issue of Chart Magazine. To purchase the issue, head on over to the
Chart Shop.

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