d "One day, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a show that was coming to the London Arena: Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys and Girls. To this day, I don't know why I wanted to go so badly, but I remember pestering and begging and pleading with my dad until he agreed to take me.
"From the moment Roy Acuff and theother performers came onto that stage, I was completely and totally mesmerized.... Why, there couldn't be anything better in the whole world than that music, I thought; and suddenly, out of nowhere, it felt as if a green light had come on somewhere inside me....I don't know how, or why, but I suddenly knew; I just knew that what I wanted, more than anything else, was to make music like that for the rest of my life....I was nine years old, and I'd just found my best friend: country music."
Country music was a friend that never deserted Tommy Hunter, and he has serveed it well. Seeing Roy Acuff's performance led to guitar lessons, his first guitar, and performances at hometown parties, dances, festivals, and church socials. He listened avidly to country music on the radio, especially the "Grand Ole Opry," and was profoundly influenced by the greats of country music: Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Red Foley, Faron Young, George Jones, and many others. His performance in a play about the hillbilly folklore of the Carolinas at the Dominion Drama Festival in Victoria led to an invitation to do a radio show.
Wehn Tommy returned to hometown London, he was invited to appear on other radio shows in nearby communities. He joined the Golden Prairie Cowboys and played clubs in Toronto; but his permanent moved to Toronto came as a result of aa phone call from King Ganam, the most popular fiddle player in Canada, who had a TV show called "Holiday Ranch". Tommy's first couple of years in Toronto were tough, but his success was assured when "Holiday Ranch" was replaced by "Country Hoedown" with Hunter as a member of King Ganam's band and shortly thereafter, as a featured soloist. During the next few years, tommy got his own radio show, appeared on "Arthur Godfrey" and the "Grand Ole Opry", and married his childhood sweetheart, Shirley Brush. Then followed the birth of his three sons and a long, difficult period during which Tommy struggled to make "The Tommy Hunter Show" the kind of country and western program he wanted it to be. Throughout those difficult times he continued to be inspired by the music of Acuff and Williams and all the performers who represent the true spirit and style of country and western music.
Tommy Hunter: My Story concludes with a look at the recent years of "The Tommy Hunter Show", Tommy's success and achievements, and his involvement with people like Gordon Lightfoot and Prince Philip, apparently a big fan. It is a book filled with warmth, good humor, lively anecdotes, and solid, down-home wisdom. In spite of his success and long-term popularity, Tommy Hunter has never lost a sense of his roots and his connection with ordinary folk, which is at the heart of country music.
Liane Heller was born in Paris, France and grew up in New York City and Montreal. She began working as a journalist at the age of 19 and has been a reporter, reviewer, and feature writer in Montreal, owen Sound, Kitchener, and Toronto. She is currently on a year's leave of absence from the Toronto Star, where she writes general features with a particular focus on human interest. This is her first book-length project.
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