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Whiskey Jack is bringing Stompin’ Tom to Orangeville’s Opera House

September 7, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Duncan Fremlin said this first-off about Stompin’ Tom: “He was a very principled man, which cost him [potentially] millions of dollars for withdrawing from the [music] industry because American acts were getting awards and gigs over Canadian artists. He quit for 13 years.

“My generation’s guess is he helped my career. He changed attitudes and this made an impression on the industry.” By which comment, Mr. Fremlin was giving the deeply Canadian star some credit for the legislation compelling radio stations in Canada to make at least 50 per cent of their popular music content Canadian.

In 1990, Stompin’ Tom and Whiskey Jack began a 75-city tour across Canada. They played Flin Flon, all the smaller places and Regina and all the bigger places.

“We went right to the Rock,” Mr. Fremlin related. “That’s really where I learned to appreciate the genius of the man. We were coming into towns that had been disseminated by free trade. That was his first tour and we went again in 1993. I was his banjo player, song arranger and singer. I only did two tours. My fiddle player did 13 years with him.”

Stompin’ Tom died in 2013, and Duncan Fremlin wanted to be clear about the show they are bringing. “We’re not Tom. We [don’t] get on in costumes. We paint a picture in the show of what playing with Tom was really like – he was an itinerate walking across the country. He had a passion for that.”

Whiskey Jack’s show shares his humour and offers a personalized presentation of him. Duncan Fremlin and his fiddler, Billy MacInnis, have spent more time on stage and with Tom than anyone else. This is “an incredibly respectful salute. There’s way more to the picture than just country.”

According to Mr. Fremlin, Stompin’ Tom had an incredible memory, he reckoned, of a thousand songs. The singer created memory lessons for himself. He and his wife Lena lived in Georgetown, and from time to time, they were invited to the house with the band and “we’d play music into the night. Lena would get up and sing a French song with Tom.”

Nine years touring with this show, in the spring and fall, they travel to the Maritimes, and this year, they plan to be in Northern Ontario in September and October.

“We’re doing a brand new show,” he told us. “In 1993 we recorded an album with Tom and he made a video of one song, Blue Beret, at a time when Canadians were trotting the world as peace keepers. It’s included in this show to try and increase the Legion membership somewhat.”

Mr. Fremlin wrote a book in 2018, My Good Life with Stompin’ Tom. Lots of books have sold, thrilling as a first-time author, about this eccentric character that people don’t know what he was all about.

Stompin’ Tom also had one of the biggest record companies in the country, Boot Records, at the time of his quitting the industry. It helped Mr. Fremlin and other musicians immensely. Boot Records was able to give them national recognition. 

In answer to why we should fill the Opera House for this concert, Mr. Fremlin replied,

“That’s the question I ask myself – I’m always trying to communicate -to get crowds all these years, most of the people that lived during his years; there is an appeal whatever because his legacy still holds a lot of magic, a positive drive. Everybody comes from a different angle; they see genius in these lyrics.

“Where does he fit in the mosaic in Canadian music and culture? He approached [his songs] from the Canadian respective – he did not go to the States. When was the last time you saw anybody take a stand on principle? I can’t even tell you how committed the fans are who come and thank us. This has me bouncing up in the morning.”

Whiskey Jack offers any Legion member who attends the show and shows his up-to-date membership card a free CD or book.

CBC executives don’t even know who he is, as Mr. Fremlin remarked. Stompin’ Tom was not internationally famous, yet, nationally, there was nobody like him.

Those singers all find their audience, is how he sees them, like a laser beam. Stompin’ Tom knew who his audience was, and that is the key to success.

“We love to play – these are some of the best theatres in Canada,” but for Duncan Fremlin, Theatre Orangeville is special.

“I started talking to David [Nairn] seven years ago about bringing this show to Orangeville. That’s the theatre gold standard. Very few theatres have David Nairn, his vision and the drive and the tremendous support of the community.” 

Whiskey Jack Presents Stories and Songs of Stompin’ Tom is on at Theatre Orangeville from Sept. 15 to 17. For details and to purchase tickets, go to or call the charming folk at the Box Office at 519-942-3423.

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