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Talking about Stompin’ Tom Connors

Charlie Rhindress stands with a copy of his biography of Stompin’ Tom Connors: The Myth and The Man. He is hosting a series of streaming interviews with people who worked with or knew Stompin’ Tom.
Charlie Rhindress stands with a copy of his biography of Stompin’ Tom Connors: The Myth and The Man. He is hosting a series of streaming interviews with people who worked with or knew Stompin’ Tom. - Contributed

Amherst biographer hosting series of streaming interviews

AMHERST - Last June, author Charlie Rhindress was supposed to be in Ontario on his first book tour, promoting his latest biography, Stompin’ Tom Connors: The Myth and the Man.

Then COVID-19 hit and his plans changed.

“I was very excited about the tour,” Rhindress said recently. “My publisher, Formac Publishing, had secured funding from Arts Nova Scotia and I had a full itinerary of eight Ontario communities I planned to visit.”

With his background in theatre, Rhindress decided instead of just doing readings at each of the locations he would invite someone who knew and worked with Tom to tell stories about the legendary Canadian singer/songwriter and to perform some of his music.

Duncan Fremlin, a friend and former bandmate of Tom’s, as well as the leader of the band, Whiskey Jack, had agreed to tour with Rhindress.

Initially the tour was postponed, but when it became clear it couldn’t happen anytime soon his publisher suggested they take the project online.

Rhindress has now created a Facebook page where he shares some of the research he gathered in the two years he worked on the book. He posts pictures, rare interviews, bits from the book and performance videos of Tom. In just over a week the page has gained almost 700 followers.

However, the part of the project that has gained the most attention is a six-part series of streaming interviews with people who knew and/or worked with Tom. Every Thursday night at 8 p.m. Atlantic time, Rhindress hosts the show from his kitchen in Amherst.

“Tom always said his performances weren’t a concert so much as a party and people who worked with him said that no matter what kind of venue he was in it always had the feel of a kitchen party,” Rhindress said. “So I thought it appropriate that I broadcast from my kitchen.”

Each show features an interview, readings from Rhindress’s book, and some Stompin’ Tom music. Appropriately, Fremlin was Rhindress’s first guest on Oct. 15. The video has been viewed more than 12,000 times in less than a week.

“Although I was initially disappointed that I couldn’t do the tour I’ve come to realize that I can reach a lot more people with this online series,” Rhindress said. “We’ve had people watching from all over Canada and even the United States, despite the fact that he didn’t have much of a presence there.”

Rhindress’s book was released in late 2019 and was well-received, appearing on Amazon’s Best Seller list a number of times. The Miramachi Reader said, “Rhindress takes his reader on a Canadian coast-to-coast journey as we travel with this drifter man, Stompin’ Tom Connors. Give this book a read. It is informative, engaging, and thoroughly researched.”

Nova Scotia singer/songwriter Dave Gunning, who was a friend and former bandmate of Stompin’ Tom’s, said, “Charlie digs deeper than anyone to date into the life of the man who was Stompin’ Tom. Reading it brought some quality memories and a few tears.” Gunning will be the guest on Rhindress’s Oct. 29 show.

Rhindress, who also wrote a biography of Rita MacNeil, said one of the most interesting parts of researching a biography is the people he gets to interview.

“In doing my research I got to talk to so many fascinating people who had such great stories. I’m so happy that I now get to share those interviews with the public.”

Rhindress’s guest on Thursday, Oct. 22 will be DJ and musicologist, Steve Fruitman. Tom had a strained relationship with radio throughout much of his career, but Fruitman was one of the few DJs he actually liked and trusted.

Fruitman conducted Tom’s last interview in December of 2012, just three months before the country star passed away.

You can find Rhindress’s Stompin’ Tom project on Facebook at the page “Stompin’ Tom Connors: The Myth and the Man.”

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