Country From the Hart by Bill Hart

Message from the President
March 19, 2013
The Country Music Association Of Ontario Announces Performers And Final Nominees For Inaugural Awards
April 30, 2013

Country From the Hart by Bill Hart

I will not sugar-coat this!

I never owned a Stompin’ Tom Connors album; I never saw him in concert; but I have sung along to ‘The Hockey Song’ at a Maple Leafs game.

I can’t sit here claiming to be a fan knowing that real Canadians are out there, facing the scorn of their young ones as the needle reaches the end of the record and they have to put their phone down to put it back to the beginning of side 2 or else Grandpa will lose his mind.

No, I’m not die-hard fan, but when I heard he passed away, a part of me went with him.

You see, growing up in a small town got boring for a teenager hell-bent on looking for love in all the wrong places. Luckily, everybody had a friend whose family had no problem with a bunch of hormone-raging boys who wished they were men. For me, that friend was Andy. His parents lived in a mini home that had two things you could always count on, coffee in the cupboard and Stompin’ Tom on the record player! His step dad Brent would be on the couch when we came through the door, never knocking, with a bottle on the table and if he saw you, an expletive or two would be sprinkled in with the greeting you got!

At the time, the music on his player was painfully uncool. It wasn’t rocking, nothing you’d play at a party, and definitely nothing you’d ask a girl to dance to! We’d just turn towards the hall and hang out in Andy’s bedroom trying to ignore what was happening around the wood stove. However, when we went into the kitchen for coffee, Brent would invite us over for a drink. He would try to get us to sing along, stomping his foot while doing so.

“…The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are gettin’ stinko…”

He’d tell us stories, make fun of us, laughing behind a face full of grey facial hair and Stompin’ Tom provided us with the soundtrack of the good times that we didn’t realize we were having.

If anything else was playing, it felt wrong. Thanks to Brent, I have heard EVERY song Stompin’ Tom ever recorded. It was Brent that taught us that a there’s always a party in Sudbury on a Saturday night, and that the man in the moon is actually from Newfoundland.

Whether we liked it or not, Brent made fans out of all of us.

Eventually the visits were less frequent as we grew up, moved out on our own, got jobs, and started our own families.

As fate would have it, a very close family friend started dating a guy who just happened to be Stompin’ Tom’s brother-in-law. It was no problem getting a personalized autographed picture for Brent. I wasn’t there when he got it, but as legend has it, he immediately took down his wedding picture and filled the empty spot on the living room wall with Tom’s photo. I confirmed this during a later visit.

Brent passed away about 10 years ago, and I’d like to think he’d be happy knowing he helped bring Tom’s music to another generation.

Cheers Brent, tell Tom we said ‘Hi’.

I got the chance to emcee the album launch party for The Western Swing Authority’s latest project ‘All Dolled Up’ at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill, Ontario.

The group consists of well established musicians who have jobs in bands fronted by the likes of George Canyon & Jason Blaine, and after extensive tours that took them across the country, instead of sitting on their butts and catching their breath, they went back to work.

Stacey Lee Guse (vocal), Shane Guse (fiddle/vocal), Dan Howlett (fiddle/vocal), Paul Chapman (guitar/vocal), Ed Ringwald (steel guitar), Matthew Lima (bass) and Craig Bignell (drums).

Recognized by the CCMA on numerous occasions, these individuals know what they’re doing but it was something else that caught my eye during the performance I witnessed.

They love what they’re doing! I mean, REALLY love what they’re doing.

The smiles on their faces while they were performing on that very tiny stage, were infectious. You couldn’t help but feel excited for them and their new disc.

I feel a little extra excitement for Ed Ringwald because he made a name for himself with Gordon Lightfoot’s band as Pee Wee Charles. He ended up in Radio Sales, and was working here when I joined the team. However, you can tell when he told some of his stories that he missed the music biz, so seeing him on stage again still gives his pals at KIX 106 a pretty warm feeling.

Visit their website and give them the attention they deserve.

Got to jump on the soapbox and say how happy I am to hear that Charlie Major is hosting the upcoming CMAO Awards, which will be happening on May 27th, at Markham Theatre in Markham, Ontario.

I personally feel Charlie is one of Canada’s most underrated song writing talents.

Did you know he wrote “Backroads”, recorded by Ricky Van Shelton in 1991 on his Backroads album, and was awarded as the “Most Performed Song in America”?

I bought his Greatest Hits CD because it’s nothing but great songs! I may question some artists’ decisions to release packages like this, but not Charlie’s.

He’s a proven talent, he’s a funny guy, and he’s going to bring a level of fun to this event that would make James Franco envious!