On Wednesday, a tribute to the late Stompin' Tom Connors goes down at the Horseshoe Tavern – a beer-soaked country-music bar when the concert documentary Across This Land with Stompin' Tom Connors was shot there in 1973. The charity show is hosted by Dave Bidini, with guest performers to include Daniel Romano and Tom Wilson and the roots-rock trio Elliott Brood. We spoke to rockabilly drummer and longtime Horseshoe bartender Teddy Fury about the Bud the Spud singer and the legendary venue.
You've been at the Horseshoe for a longtime, but I imagine you weren't there in 1973 when the concert documentary on Stompin' Tom was shot?
No. But my mother was on the CBC production crew. You know, a lot of people look at that film and try to figure out the room. But where the stage was then was where the bar in the music room is now. To the left, as you walk in.
We see that big wagon wheel at the back of the stage, and a sign that says "country and western entertainment." That was its specialty for years, right?
People associate it with country music, but it was other things, too. In the 1950s, it was a jazz room. Oscar Peterson used to play there. Everybody has played there. There are a lot of good notes in the drywall.
What are your feelings on Stompin' Tom's music?
Well, he had that Johnny Cash thing or Ramones thing, where everything sounds the same but it isn't. It's a big exercise in simplicity and subtlety. I think he was awesome.
You're not playing the tribute show on Wednesday, but you are celebrating a country act next week. Tell me about the Rizdales, who are being feted Friday at the Dakota Tavern.
Those guys are great. They're a husband-and-wife duo, with the Loretta Lynn cheatin' songs thing. They've got a real honky-tonk feel.
Is there much of is country scene here now?
Absolutely. Are you familiar with Ronnie Hayward?
The rockabilly bassist? Yes, I've seen him play at the Dominion on Queen.
That's him I play with him sometimes. He's got three regular gigs, Saturdays at the Dominion, Fridays at Castro's, in the Beaches, and Thursdays at the Inter Steer, in Roncesvalles. To me he's an amalgam of Hank Williams and Charles Bukowski. His songs are like the best stories in the world, the ones you can't believe you're hearing. But he's the real deal. He's a hard-drinking wild man, and he's a poet.
At the Stompin' Tom memorial concert in Peterborough, Tom's son spoke. His message was that the legacy of the storytelling songwriter lives on, and that we shouldn't think of his father as the last of his kind. Do you feel that way too?
Yes. The torch gets passed on. And it gets relit, if you know what I mean. The wheel gets reinvented.
Tribute to Stompin Tom Connors, April 10, 9 p.m. $5. (available at door; advance tickets sold out). 370 Queen St. W., 416-598-4753.
The Rizdales' 10 Year Anniversary Show, April 12, 10 p.m. $10. Dakota Tavern, 249 Ossington Ave., 416-850-4579.
This conversation has been condensed and edited.