In honor of the recent release of the 50th Anniversary of Stompin’ Tom Connors, Sarah had a chance to chat with Duncan Fremlin of Whiskey Jack. Whiskey Jack are a featured group on the compilation who are actually on their Stories of Stompin Tom tour right now! Here is what Duncan had to say!
SM: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today and most important – Congratulations to you and the group for getting to be a part of the compilation for Stompin’ Tom. What does it mean to you to be a part of this?
DF: Anytime we get a pat on the back from anything to to do with Stompin’ Tom, Ltd. we’re absolutely grateful. Tom Junior and Lena, Tom’s widow have been very supportive, Lena even comes and sings with us sometimes. They really authenticate everything and help keep our enthusiasm alive. There were a lot of fans devastated when Tom died and they were concerned that his message would get lost but we’re determined to keep the message current and vibrant. Having a song on the new CD and record label is huge and it just takes us to a whole different level. So we’re very excited about it.
SM: You’ve (Whiskey Jack) also worked with Tom on several occasions in the past, haven’t you?
DF: Yes! It started in 1990. I had been recording and touring with him off and on for years. Even at his home he’s often had birthday parties where he’d ask us to come and play and of course he would get up and play with us as well. So I’ve had a long history with Tom.
SM: Skinner’s Pond here on Prince Edward Island is actually getting ready to unveil a center devoted to his life and music. It’s actually going to be unveiled on Canada Day this year. Are there any hopes in the near future of the group coming down to play the center?
DF: We’ve been hearing about this for two or three years now from Tom Junior. The band is rather large and they did invite us. We tried to get some sponsorship lined up to get us down there because we knew it was going to be a big celebration but sadly we just couldn’t pull it together. We’re determined to get there!
SM: On the compilation which song will you be performing?
DF: We’re going to be performing Algoma Central #69, which is one of Stompin Tom’s first hits. We started singing it many years ago. I love telling this story. Tom always wanted us to do his material when we toured with him so we came on and we did an opening set which included Tom’s material. The first time we played the song for Tom, I wasn’t sure how we was going to react to our rendition of it but I looked over at the end of the song and he had big, lovely smile on his face. That’s why we chose it. It’s a lovely medley with a playful lyric. It’s a topic of country music – it’s about trains, love, cheating, fighting. It’s really the perfect country song.
SM: You’re also in the midst of a tour devoted to Tom!
DF: Yes- The Canada 150 Tour! We have about 20 dates throughout Ontario. We’re in the early stages of the tour now. It’s just fantastic. We’re playing theaters, as well as some fairs and festivals. The audience has been large and loud and we’re very excited.
SM: What are your plans after the tour is completed?
DF: Well every year we host a very special birthday celebration in Downtown Toronto with very special guests. One year we had Gordon Lightfoot, JP Cormier, as well as members of the Tragically Hip. This year will be our 5th celebration. I am not entirely sure who our guests will be this year but with the new record label involved I am sure it will be our biggest celebration yet. We’re also looking into 2018 and trying to lineup and East Coast tour for the fall. We’re also hoping to head West as well.
SM: You’d have immense success with shows here, I am fairly confident to say. Not only being born here (PEI) but his following is quite large even still after his passing.
DF: I don’t believe he ever did a tour that didn’t include the East. He did many tours where he couldn’t get West of the Ontario border. He has a national connection of course, but it was always special and very important to him when he got to play East.
SM: Are you and the group doing some more recordings in the near future?
DF: We have a CD of Tom material released right now, listed on our website www.whiskeyjackmusic.com.
For a list of tour dates, or if you’d like to purchase their album of Stompin’ Tom Classics, please visit www.whiskeyjackmusic.com.
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