FREDERICTON — Decked out in his trademark Stetson and plywood-pounding cowboy boots, it’s exhausting to think about country-folk legend Stompin’ Tom Connors as a male mannequin.
And but, a not too long ago acquired artist’s drawing from the Nineteen Fifties — obtained by the Beaverbrook Artwork Gallery in Fredericton — gives a revealing glimpse of the troubadour as a lanky, squared-jawed teen carrying nothing however tight athletic shorts and high-topped sneakers.
“It was an innocuous sketch,” John Leroux, the gallery’s supervisor of collections and exhibitions, mentioned in an interview Wednesday.
“It wasn’t completed. It wasn’t colored. However as quickly as you hyperlink it with the origin story, it turns into this incredible artifact with this actually deep resonance …. This might have been simply earlier than he hit the highway.”
The drawing was amongst a set of artworks by New Brunswick artist Fred Ross, not too long ago donated to the gallery.
“I obtained to decide on,” mentioned Leroux. “I used to be like a child in a sweet retailer…. (Ross) was a famous figurative painter within the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.” The museum is at present closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however Leroux says the sketch can be on public show after it reopens.
A scholar of Ross’s work, Leroux acknowledged the drawing as a preparatory sketch for a big mural that Ross would later paint inside the previous Saint John Vocational Faculty within the early Nineteen Fifties, when Connors was a scholar there.
A tribute to increased studying, the mural outdoors the auditorium options photographs of three bare-chested younger males — all of them primarily based on Ross’s research of Connors.
“I double-checked with some pictures and, sure, this was Stompin’ Tom,” Leroux mentioned, including that Connors, who died in 2013, wrote about posing for Ross in his 1995 autobiography, “Earlier than the Fame.” In his ebook, Connors famous that the painted figures’ faces “had all been mercifully modified to offer every character a semblance of excellent appears to be like.”
Born in Saint John, N.B., on Feb. 9, 1936 to an unwed teenage mom, Connors’ youth was marked by poverty. He recalled hitchhiking together with his mom and begging on the streets earlier than he was positioned within the care of Kids’s Assist on the age of eight. He was adopted a yr later by a household in Skinner’s Pond, P.E.I., however ran away 4 years later.
Whereas there are many tales about how Connors then hitchhiked throughout the nation, that didn’t occur till after he spent two years on the vocational faculty in Saint John. He posed for the mural when he was about 15 or 16 years previous, Leroux mentioned.
The mural that options Connors’ chiselled determine is juxtaposed with one other mural that depicts the tough lives of these residing in Saint John’s slums. The work have been the topic of Leroux’s 2002 thesis for his grasp’s diploma from Concordia College in Montreal.
Leroux says the murals resonate with Connors’ larger-than-life mission to inform enduring tales about one of many world’s largest nations.
“It suits with Tom,” he says. “He was about storytelling, giving a message …. These work are supposed to have a story, too.”
And the flattering depictions of Stompin’ Tom’s youthful self additionally communicate to his confidence and can to succeed, Leroux mentioned. “You needed to be assured to put on these tight Nineteen Fifties fitness center shorts.”
Legend has it that after Connors left the varsity, he wandered from city to city, at occasions engaged on fishing boats, as a grave digger, tobacco picker and fry cook dinner.
Because the story goes, he started his musical profession when he discovered himself wanting money on the Maple Leaf Resort in Timmins, Ont., in 1964 at age 28. In alternate for a beer, Connors performed a number of songs, then signed on for a 14-month contract to play on the lodge. Three years later, Connors made his first album, which included his first hit in 1970 with “Bud The Spud.”
His distinctly Canadian ditties, together with “The Hockey Track,” “Sudbury Saturday Night time,” and “Canada Day, Up Canada Manner,” earned him a loyal following throughout the nation.
“I’m a person of the land, I’m going out into the nation and I discuss to individuals and I do know the roles they do and the way they really feel about their jobs,” Connors as soon as mentioned.
“And I’ve been doing that each one my life, so I do know Canada just like the palm of my hand. I don’t want a map to go anyplace in Canada. I do know all of it.”
— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax.
This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Feb. 10, 2021.
The Canadian Press