Hunter embarks on final tour of country

Canada’s ‘Travelin’ man Tommy Hunter will soon be heading out on his last cross-Canada tour.

He plays the Memorial Centre April 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The tour will take place in two parts – the first leg covers B.C. to Ontario, beginning in the Ottawa wrapping up in Edmonton.

The second leg, planned for early 2012, begins in Newfoundland and finishes in Ontario. This last tour will be a celebration of Hunter and the last opportunity to share the music and memories.

“To be honest, I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” explains Hunter during a recent chat. Even though he’s still gets solid feedback from fans regarding his shows, he doesn’t want to be one of those artists who stays in the limelight too long.

“If you are going to say goodbye, then go out while you are still on your game plan. I also wanted to go out while I’m still in reasonably good health, except for a bad back.”

Hunter, 75, is still as warm and engaging as always during the course of the conversation. As to what fans can expect for the farewell show, Hunter wants to keep things pretty much as they’ve always been. Feature the old favourites, perform a few newer tunes and just maintain that comfortable, homespun feeling atmosphere fans have come to cherish.

The tour will give fans an opportunity to enjoy such favourites as You Are My Sunshine, I’ll Fly Away, Amazing Grace, Man of 87, King of The Road, Daisy A Day and his signature song Travelin’ Man.

“One thing I didn’t count on was the emotional side of it,” he says about prepping for his last touring trek. “It’s going to be emotional during the show. I want to make sure I can bring back the memories people have of when they used to sit down and watch the show in their living rooms.”

Altogether, Hunter came into Canadian living rooms for 36 years – first on Country Hoedown and later on The Tommy Hunter Show.

His stage presence brings back a simpler time and place – when families gathered around the television Friday nights to watch The Tommy Hunter Show – a ritual that was well-established regardless of what pocket of the country a person lived in.

As to the music, it all started back in 1946 when a nine-year-old Tommy, received a dollar week from his folks for guitar lessons (on a rented guitar).

Just a month after seeing Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys on stage, Hunter was already learning to play his first guitar chords.

What he had seen on stage that night was to become not only his motivation for being a guitar-strumming performer, but the basis for his onstage career as well as the format that he would one day use on his own television show.

A typical job in that earliest stage might have had Hunter catching a bus to showcase his skills for a fee of a dollar or two at a garden party, a strawberry social or perhaps peddling his bicycle across town to perform for a group of war veterans at a legion dinner.

His love for country music would also impel him down to the local record shops, with their listening booths, where he’d play the latest record by Eddie Arnold or Hank Snow. But during those early, tough times there was rarely enough money for such frivolities as records, so he’d sit in a booth with a pencil and paper, writing down all the lyrics.

In 1956, his career took a major spurt forward when he cracked into network TV as a regular on Country Hoedown which had a nine-year life span. And at 28, Hunter got his own TV show, and in 1965 he debuted The Tommy Hunter Show.

Reigning for 27 years as a major force in Canadian television, before leaving the air in June of 1992 the production would make history as the longest-running weekly show of its kind around the world.

“When I look back over my career, I feel very blessed,” he says. “God has been watching over me, and guiding this whole thing. I still really enjoy meeting people and I’m flattered when people come up and say thank you for all the years of entertainment you brought into our house.”

For tickets, phone 403-755-6626 or visit www.blackknightinn.ca.

mweber@reddeerexpress.com

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