HALIFAX — The East Coast Music Association will pay tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors at two major events here this weekend as part of the East Coast Music Awards.
A spokesman for the association said today they are piecing together tributes to Connors for both the industry awards brunch Saturday morning and the gala awards show Sunday night.
It’s most likely Saturday’s tribute will be incorporated into to the presentation of this year’s Stompin’ Tom Awards.
Four Stompin’ Tom Awards are due to be presented at the brunch, one of which will be presented to producer/musician Jon Matthews of P.E.I.
Details of the ECMA’s tributes to Connors will be announced as they are finalized.
That Connors’ death has touched many people here this weekend is obvious.
His passing Wednesday at the age of 77 has prompted many in the music community to reflect and offer their take on Connors’ music, his influence on other musicians and his love of this country.
Singer-songwriter David Myles said Connors worked himself into the fabric of Canadian culture.
“Now they’re kind of inseparable,” Myles said. “ Stompin’ Tom is so uniquely Canadian. That’s why so many people relate to him. I know he was a massive inspiration for me.”
Myles said Connors would be remembered as somebody who wrote about the everyday experiences of Canadians.
“He did that in tons of different ways, writing about things like working in Tillsonburg, partying in Sudbury or playing hockey. He’ll be remembered as someone who really cared about Canada and Canadians, someone who worked hard and truly appreciated his fans.”
Myles said upon hearing word of Connors’ death he thought back to the first time he met him and how special that was for him.
“He was getting a lifetime achievement award when I saw him,” Myles said. “I remember him saying he was just going to keep on working to the end and that’s exactly what he did. He was such a kind guy. That was a fond and magical moment for me.”
Roots/blues artist Thom Swift said when he received word of Connors’ death his thoughts turned to fellow musicians J.P. Cormier and Dave Gunning who toured with Connors and had become close friends with him.
“I was thinking of the tragic loss for our country and of how Dave and J.P. must be feeling.”
Swift described Connors as having had a huge influence on him.
“Early on my grandfather and I would sit and listen to Tom’s music. Gramp had all his albums and one of the things I remember my grandfather saying to me was what a national treasure Tom was. Tom didn’t just speak about the East Coast but about the whole country. When you’re a musician and you do what we do for a living and you’re traveling in and out of every community across this country you realize there is a definite common thread amongst us all as Canadians and I think Tom did a really great job of conveying that to everybody, that we’re all similar, that we all have this common thread.”
Swift said Connors spoke for the common man, the hardworking man who didn’t have a voice.
“It’s a tragic loss for us all.”
Asked if he had a favourite Stompin’ Tom song he said it would be hard to pick one but The Hockey Song has special meaning for him.
“I grew up in a hockey family so I love that song. Not only because it brings back memories but because when I hear that song I can smell my grandfather’s house and hear my grandfather’s voice because we would sit together and watch CBC’s Saturday night hockey games together.”
Swift said he’s watched two hours of Stompin’ Tom videos on YouTube since hearing of his death.
Artist manager Sheri Jones, who was chair of the ECMA board when the award that bears Connors’ name was first introduced, recalls that period in the event’s history clearly.
“We were amazed that he actually agreed to come to the event because that wasn’t his kind of scene at all,” Jones said. “He’d boycotted the Junos for years so we were all just pretty thrilled he was here. We were a bit surprised, but with Tom you always expected the unexpected. “
Jones said she remembers everyone taking to heart what Connors had to say and deciding they needed to honour him beyond the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award.
“We needed to honour him for what he was talking about that night and that still continues today. He left a legacy in this country from coast to coast.”
Jones said the moment word began to reach the public about Connors’ death her phone started to ring.
“I had a phone call immediately from Kim Stockwood who was in tears,” Jones said. “Then I got a couple of emails. It makes everyone very sad. I just a call from Gordie Sampson in Nashville about Tom. ”
Jones said Connors death signals the end of an era.
“He was so distinctly a pioneer.”
Jones said she feels very lucky that she got to meet Connors a number of years ago and spend some time with him.