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Movin' On

© By Mike Keenan

That big eight-wheeler, rollin' down the track
Means your true-lovin' daddy ain't comin' back
'Cause I'm movin' on, I'll soon be gone
Hank Snow, I'm Movin' On

It's appropriate that The Hank Snow Country Music Centre in Liverpool, Nova Scotia is located inside an early CN Railway Station. As a troubled youth with an abusive father, Hank often slept there, forced to leave home at age 12. As I slowly work my way through this exceptional museum, I marvel at all of his record jackets, fixed to a wall. He sold over 70 million records in the form of 78's, 45's, extended 45's, LP's, 8-tracks, cassettes and finally compact discs. He recorded over 100 LPs from hit parade material to gospel, train songs, instrumentals, tributes to Jimmie Rodgers and the Sons of the Pioneers and even recitations of Robert Service poems.
     By the time Hank died in Nashville at age 85, he had helped transform country music from a largely rural musical style to an internationally popular form, influencing the likes of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.
     The museum includes Hank's 1947 Cadillac convertible as well as memorabilia from other Canadian country music stars, including Carroll Baker, Wilf Carter, Ronnie Prophet, George Hamilton IV, Lucille Starr and others. There are interactive displays, explaining the history of country music and its instruments, and you are invited to watch rare footage via video presentations.
     Both of his parents possessed musical talent, and Hank picked up his basic guitar-playing skills from his mother. In 1926, he went to sea at 12-year-old on fishing schooners based out of Lunenburg and never returned to school. He bought his first guitar, a T. Eaton Special for $5.95. Ernest Tubb invited Hank to the Grand Ole Opry on January 7, 1950 where he performed for 46 years. Hank took on Elvis Presley as an opening act and later invited Elvis to the Grand Ole Opry, introducing him to Colonel Parker who eventually became Elvis' Manager. Hank's lavish, colourful sequin-studded suits, several on view in the museum, probably inspired Elvis' eclectic wardrobe.
     Hank's tune, I've Been Everywhere, was adapted by The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, and many other songs were covered by hundreds of performers, including Ray Charles and the Rolling Stones.
     The gift shop posed a conundrum for me. What to purchase as a souvenir: country CDs and tapes, videos, pictures, books, instrument supplies and all of the usual little do-dads that one observes in most museums? I decided on the Robert Service poems with Hank narrating the likes of The Shooting of Dan McGrew, The Spell of the Yukon and other tall tales in his golden, energetic voice. Robert Service was my dad's favourite poet. People of my father's vintage ritually memorized myriad poems and other such material to recite them at social events. (Watch John Huston's 1987 movie, The Dead, an adaptation of a James Joyce novel for a great example.) I recall my father's lusty rendition of "Yukon Jake, the hopeless rake," and when I reached high school, he enjoyed my amateurish rendition of The Cremation of Sam McGee, required then by insistent grade ten English teachers. Students of my era actually memorized work. No cell phones with text messages, no MP3 players, no portable tape recorders. The oral tradition flourished and was assiduously practised. Now, kids talk to each other with their fingers via computers.
     Thanks largely to the The Hank Snow Country Music Centre, it's easy to assess Hank's remarkable effect on country music: Total Singles Charted - 85, Top 40 Chart Hits - 65, Top 10 Chart Hits - 43, No. 1 Chart Hits - 7, Total Number of Weeks on Charts - 876, Total Number of Weeks at #1 - 56, Total Albums Released - 120 (Est.) Not bad for a little guy who left his Nova Scotia home at the tender age of twelve. If you would like more details about Hank, visit The Hank Snow Country Music Centre at http://www.hanksnow.com/

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
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The Hank Snow Country Music Centre at http://www.hanksnow.com/
Queens County Tourism: http://www.queens.ca/
Nova Scotia Tourism: http://novascotia.com/en/home/default.aspx
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Liverpool_(Nova_Scotia)

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