We had the pleasure of attending a musical about Stompin' Tom Connors which is playing at the Harbourfront Theater in Summerside this summer. Whether you enjoy Tom's unique musical style or not, the realization of his unique place in Canadian music and how his style evolved is well worth the price of a ticket. The story of the neglected child then the youth who fled Prince Edward Island to make his way in the world is shocking but inspiring as well.
Born in 1936 in St. John, New Brunswick, Tom had a single mother who married his father thirty years later. His mother eventually lost custody of Tom and he was adopted by a family in Skinner's Pond, Prince Edward Island. He ran away at the age of thirteen and eventually travelled across Canada in boxcars or hitch hiked.
Tom wrote about the country he loved and the people he met along the way. The songs are sometimes funny, always real, sincere. Because he was playing alone, he kept rhythm by stomping his left foot on the floor initially and later a piece of board.
Listening to Tom's story, I was struck with the courage and determination of the young man who set out to explore the country and pursue the dream of a career singing and playing his music. He was a poet who put his words to music and thereby told stories of a country and its people, who helped form him.
Songs like Bud the Spud, Sudbury on a Saturday Night, The Ketchup Song and The Hockey Song, will live on in Canadian musical history. The abandoned boy, like so many of his time, rose above his circumstances.
It is a great story and the musical is well written and performed. Stompin' Tom is certainly a Canadian original and the musical, The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, is well worth a look and listen.