Stony Plain Records released his fifth album, Hockeytown, on June 15, 2010.
For six weeks during that summer he was on tour with the legendary Stompin’ Tom Connors. For Canadian Interviews Tim wrote a chronicle of his travels with Stompin’ Tom to reveal what happens behind-the-scenes at
‘The most Canadian show in the country’.
ON TOUR WITH STOMPIN TOM
Letters from the road
This is Tim Hus writing to you from Dryden, Ontario. Tonight we will be performing our second concert of the Stompin' Tom tour at the Dryden Cultural Centre.
It has been a really busy year for my band, The Rocky Mountain Two. We started things off by being honoured to perform at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Right after that we were off to the Caribbean island of Martinique where we performed as part of a cultural exchange - we were told that we were the first Canadian band to perform in Martinique. Next I was singing my songs in Korea for university students. We toured western Canada and the Northwest states and recorded a new album, Hockeytown, which came out on Stony Plain Records on June 15th. After a series of CD release concerts throughout the province of Alberta we performed 2 and 3 shows daily at the Calgary stampede before flying to the Northwest Territories to perform at the 'Folk on the Rocks' music festival in Yellowknife.
After picking up a rental truck at the Calgary airport it was down the highway again on the long lonely road to Thunder Bay to meet up with The Stomper and the other members of the Stompin' Tom band.
This is my second tour where I am sharing the stage with Canada's legendary ‘Man of the Land’ with the big black cowboy hat and the stompin' board. The first tour was last summer in 2009 where I opened his tour from Ontario to the Maritimes and Newfoundland. We got along very well and became friends and enjoyed working together, and so I was very pleased that Tom invited me to tour with him again - this time western Canada all the way to Vancouver.
Most nights I open the show with about a 20-minute set with the band backing me up. After that we bring Tom out on stage where the band and I back him up for 40 minutes or so. After an intermission we do the same thing again for a second set.
For a young singer/songwriter who is working hard at building a career in music and a name for myself it is almost ideal as I am able to introduce the songs that I have written to Tom's many fans night after night. Tom has such a strong following in this country and the people really do adore him. Some nights the crowds are in excess of 6000 people. There isn't a Canadian who hasn't heard of Stompin' Tom or ‘The Hockey Song’ and know how proud he is of this land and all that he stands for. I don't think that there has ever been a country performer in Canada who has won over the hearts of the people the way that Tom has.
This year the members of the Stompin' Tom band are Billy MacInnis, Al Widmeyer, Tim Hadley, and Rick Preston.
Billy has been playing with Tom for a number of tours. He is from Prince Edward Island and comes from a long line of fiddle players. He is a great musician and plays guitar, mandolin, and piano in addition to his outstanding ability on the fiddle. Tom is very fond of Billy as they are both from PEI and his style is ideal for Tom's music.
Al Widmeyer is from Kitchener, Ontario and plays everything with strings on it: guitar, banjo, mandolin, steel, dobro, and fiddle (he doesn't play fiddle on this tour). He has a great ear for music and of course, with his wide range of talents, is a welcome addition to any country band. He drives the city bus in Kitchener when he is not working the road as a traveling musician.
Tim Hadley plays the upright bass. His doghouse bass has a carved cedar top (as opposed to a plywood top) and is about 100 years old - a truly beautiful instrument. He has performed with many bands over the years and has toured with Tom for about 9 years now. He is a schoolteacher and lives in Plainfield, Ontario.
The guitar player on this tour is Rick Preston who I brought with me from Alberta. Rick and I played together for three or four years with my first band in Alberta. His guitar work can be heard on my 2004 'Alberta Crude' album and my 2006 'Huskies & Husqvarnas' album. I am very excited to have him on this tour as he has a great feel for my songs and we used to play a lot of Tom's songs for fun when we played together. I guess we never dreamed that we would be playing those same famous songs with the man who wrote them a few years later! Rick has been a professional guitar player for more than 40 years. He has performed with Dave Dudley (Six Days on the Road) and Lucille Star (The French Song) and is an excellent country lead guitar player.
We had a couple days of rehearsals in Thunder Bay before our first concert. Everybody is getting along well and I have a feeling it is going to be a really great tour. I can hardly wait to play the western provinces with the one and only Stompin' Tom!
Westbound out of Winnipeg
We're rollin' west on the Trans-Canada highway and across the great plains of North America. There is no place in the world like the Canadian prairies. Although I have crossed the prairies many times I don't believe that I have ever seen them as green as they seem to be this August. Usually by this time of year the grasslands and fields are starting to look quite brown but it must be a banner year for rain around these parts.
We are a few shows into the Stompin' Tom tour by now so everybody in the band is getting a feel for playing together and the shows are getting more comfortable and settling in. I think that all of the musicians in the band have as much fun as the audience on most nights as the show is never the same from night to night. Tom doesn't use a set list so we just try to listen to his stories and try to anticipate what song he is going to sing next and then do our best to back him up.
Tom generally starts every show with ‘Bud the Spud’ and finishes with ‘Sudbury Saturday Night’. You can be quite sure that he will sing the ‘Hockey Song’ somewhere in the show, but other than that it is as much a mystery to us as it is to the audience what songs he will sing. I think Tom himself doesn't really have planned what program he is going to do until he is actually on the stage and into the show.
Tom is a first-rate showman and a very charismatic entertainer so he really feeds off the energy of the audience and is able to pick up on what it is they have come to hear. It gets really funny when everybody starts yelling out requests. In Thunder Bay somebody called out ‘Movin’ on to Rouyn’ - a song that Tom wrote many years ago while singin' in the hotel bars in Northern Ontario in the mid-1960s. The song is recorded on Tom's very first album with only his old Gibson flat-top guitar as accompaniment. Even though I'm sure he hasn't sung that song on a stage in 40 years he just started singing it and we did our best to join him. You just never know what to expect at a Stompin' Tom show!
On Wednesday, August 4th our entourage rolled into Winnipeg for a concert at the Centennial Music Hall. This was to be our only show in the province of Manitoba for this time around.
Most people would think that when traveling down the road from concert to concert a famous band like the legendary Stompin' Tom surely must be riding in a big fancy tour bus. That is the way that most country music stars travel, isn't it? Most would expect there to be more than one bus - perhaps the star of the show has his own personal bus and the musicians ride in a separate bus? It is plain to see from Tom's music that he is a down-home kind of guy with simple, honest values, so what kind of a tour bus does he travel in? Quite a few people have asked me what Stompin' Tom's tour bus is like, and does it have his name or a big boot painted on the side? Is it red or white or both? Does it have a Canada flag on the front or a Prince Edward Island license plate on the back? It might surprise you to hear that we don't have a bus on the Stompin' tour at all. We travel in a convoy of trucks and vans and use CB radios to keep in touch. That is how Tom toured in the 1970s and we still travel that way today. "Breaker, breaker, you got a copy on me Back Door?" Pretty cool, eh?
The very first vehicle carries our security, manager-promoter, and merchandise guy. They travel on ahead of the convoy and check in at the venues and the motels, etc.
The lead vehicle is driven by our road manager, Tom Jr. (he is the Stomper’s son), and he has our security man and one more with him. The second vehicle is Tom himself and he does all of his own driving. He doesn’t travel with the radio on or have any distractions. He just likes to take the travel time to look out at the country, think of new song ideas, and focus on the upcoming show (all while smoking a steady stream of cigarettes, of course).
The ‘Back Door’ of the convoy is the band van where all we musicians ride. Last year we used my own touring rig - the ‘Hus Bus’ - for the tour, but this year we are using a rental vehicle that has a satellite radio. None of us have satellite radio at home or in our own vehicles so we are all very much enjoying listening to it on this tour. Most of the time we are listening to ‘Outlaw Country’ on Sirius or Willie Nelson’s channel or the Bluegrass channel. It is great to hear the songs of Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Tom Russell, Hayes Carll, Dave Dudley, and so many other artists that play truck-drivin’ and honky-tonk music that you never get to hear on commercial radio these days. There are no commercials either. Definitely an improvement in radio in my opinion. The only thing is that we haven't heard any Stompin' Tom or Tim Hus songs yet. That would sure be great. I was told that they played my song ‘Beer Hauler’ (a song I wrote about a guy driving a beer truck from coast to coast) on one of the truckin' shows, and also the song ‘Hurtin' Albertan’ that I wrote with my friend Corb Lund, but I haven't heard them yet so far.
The last truck is a rig that carries all of the sound and lighting equipment as well as all the merchandise (CDs, T-shirts, books, etc.) that we have for sale at all of the concerts.
We had a big crowd in Winnipeg and they were really into it so the show was great. My friend Andrew Neville and his band ‘The Poor Choices’ were sitting right in front and you could tell that they were enjoying themselves to the fullest. John Scoles was there as well, wearing a big cowboy hat. He is the proprietor of a great live music venue in Winnipeg where I have performed several times called ‘The Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club’. I would recommend that you check it out if you are ever in town and want to take in some original roots, country or blues music. Andrew and his band perform there all the time and they play great prairie truckin’ honkytonkin’ music.
I sang a couple of the songs that I wrote about Manitoba at the show. ‘Red River Flood’ is off of my latest album and tells the story of Manitoba’s ongoing struggle with the big river. It is a bluegrass type of song and we play it quite fast. It went over really well as did ‘Flin Flon’ - a hard rock mining song about the sulphide mines that I recorded on my 2006 Huskies & Husqvarnas album.
Tom of course was in good shape and served up songs for the Ukrainians and prairie folks and poor, poor farmers. When he sang ‘Red River Jane’ one guy yelled out "That is the best song in the whole world!"
We loaded up the trucks and were westbound out of Winnipeg ... past the 100th meridian where the great plains begin.