Cornwall Ontario — The recent passing of Stompin’ Tom Connors will solidify his place in Canadian history as a true patriot and music legend. Connors sang about all things Canadiana, and was a national treasure, whose songs have made him a Canadian icon.
However, few people are aware of his connection to local Cornwall resident, Smokey Leger. Smokey, whose born name is Lucien Leger, has used the stage name “Smokey Martin” throughout his musical career which spans back to the 1940s.
Around 1947, at the young age of eighteen, Leger wrote a song titled “Waltz of the Bride” which Connors went on to record in the early 1970s, and included on his Pistol Packin’ Mama LP, released in 1971. He also included the song on the Stompin’ Tom Connors Sings 60 More Old Time Favourites LP in 1976.
Connors was an early fan of Smokey’s band and used to watch them perform live shows as a youngster, when Leger was part of the Hal Lone Pine group in Eastern Canada. Connors was a mere eight or nine years old when he used to see them play.
Leger’s band at the time, Hal Lone Pine, was signed to RCA Victor Records and released numerous 78 rpm and LPs throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. Leger, a prolific songwriter, wrote many of the songs for the group for which he is accredited. The Lone Pine group was fronted by husband-wife singing team, Harold and Betty Breau – parents of the late guitar sensation, Lenny Breau, who is disputedly one of Canada’s, and the world’s greatest guitarists of all-time. Coincidentally, Leger showed Lenny some of his first chords on the guitar.
It was not till the early seventies when Leger and Connors actually met, when Leger knocked on Connors’ dressing room door, during a stop at the Water Street Arena while touring with Wilf Carter. Leger remembers the bass player opening the door, and then asking if he could speak with Connors. The bass player invited him in and told Connors there was someone here to see him. Leger told Connors he wanted to thank him for recently recording his song, “Waltz of the Bride.” Connors offered Leger a seat and the two chatted for awhile over a beer. Connors explained that as a child, he used to go watch Leger perform with the Hal Lone Pine group in Prince Edward Island. At the time, Connors was living in Skinners Pond, and Leger’s group would do a live, weekly radio show for CJRW in nearby Summerside, PEI. Leger remembers Connors as “a good songwriter, a good businessman, and a heck of a nice guy.” In fact, he claims that it was no secret that Connors was known to cover the mortgage payments of some of his fishermen friends when times got tough. “He was a very good-hearted man,” recalls Leger.
After returning to Cornwall in the early 1950s, Leger went on to release a solo record, titled Love at First Sight, also under the RCA Victor label. Leger received a card from Connors a few years ago for his 80th birthday, which he keeps in his archive of personal musical memorabilia.
Stompin’ Tom Connors is survived by his wife Lena, four children, several grand children, and generations of fans.