The Singing Ranger
In 1933 nineteen year old Clarence Ugene Snow hitch-hiked out of the tiny fishing village of Blue Rocks with a guitar slung on his back. As he passed through Mahone Bay he told his fiddling friend Jim Hamm he was on his way to CHNS Halifax. The short, slight built boy had already been served an ugly slice of life. Emotionally and physically abused with scars he would carry all his life, he had dropped out of the fifth grade at school and found escape as a flunky on fishing schooners out of Lunenburg………a tough life for a twelve year old boy. But at sea he found a payday and a warm audience for his first feeble performing attempts. He played the harmonica, did a step dance and started pickin’ the guitar. His fishing companions rewarded him with candy and encouragement. After four years pounding around the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and one very close call at Sable Island where a number of vessels were lost with all hands, he made up his mind to abandon the sea and make his mark with music. Working ashore for a couple of years he tended horses, shoveled salt ,coal, worked in the woods, and clerked at a number of shops, all the while honing his musical skills. His first booking was at a minstrel show in nearby Bridgewater. Buoyed by a good reception he screwed up his courage and headed for Halifax sixty miles away. He had written CHNS radio asking for an audition. They answered with a @Y don=t call us we’ll call you@ Encouraged by the fact they answered the letter at all he was soon at their door.
As Clarence trudged along he was carry three aces. To earn a living in country music during the depression in this backwater was a daunting challenge, but he had been blessed with a voice that in time would blossom into a unique rich masculine baritone. At age nineteen he also knew exactly what he wanted to beYYYa country music star following in the footsteps of the happy-go-lucky singer he idolized Jimmy Rodgers. And he had the determination to succeed. After the CHNS audition he was told him to come back that night and deliver a fifteen minute program. In the days that followed the station received ninety letters of appreciationYYan unheard of response. He soon changed his name to Hank and was on his way. In 1979 he marched into the CMA Hall of Fame. Honoured by presidents and prime ministers he has received every accolade possible and is recognized as classic country’s most versatile performer. For a review of Hank’s outstanding accomplishments read my History of Golden Age of Honky Tonk Country Music 1949-1955.
I first became aware of Hank in the late forties camped in front of the radio in the days before TV. CHNS had a noontime show called Western Airs. I remember flying home from school on my bike hoping to catch a Snow song. In 1953 I joined the RCAF and was posted to Portage La Prairie. Country music was big in Manitoba. Hank had once made a stand in Winnipeg and later raised money for the Red River flood victims. Every jukebox offered his hits……you couldn’t go into a cafe or bowling alley without hearing the “Snow” sound. For me and many homesick Maritimers, he was a touch of home. In 1955 I joined my three sisters in Stamford Connecticut. Many Atlantic Canadians lived in this region and most loved country music. Unfortunately there was precious little in Connecticut. A country station in New Jersey could sometimes be picked up but we had to rely on WWVA Wheeling late at night. My sister Von was devoted to Hank and bought every record released. On our way to the dance on Saturday night we would stop by her place in Byram Connecticut and get in the mood with a few libations and Hanks latest. We played the 45 of Conscience I=m Guilty so often we wore out the record. More than one night we never made it to the dance.
Through the years I attended a number of Hank’s stage shows……….in Halifax at the Forum, the Metro Centre, the Dartmouth Sportsplex, and at the Cohn. I happen to be in Toronto applying for a job at the CBC when he was playing the Casino and took in a matinee. Hank was part of a big New York show at Madison Square Gardens while I was living in Connecticut and I was living in Florida when he appeared at the Miami Dade County Auditorium. This was in 63 and I’ve Been Everywhere had just hit the charts. The place was packed. And I managed a show in Old Greenwich Connecticut when he had Hello Love at the top of the charts, but it was not until 1984 when the Irvings put him on his first of three Atlantic Canada Tours that I met him in person, thanks to Bob Sutherland. He arranged to have us photographed together in Kentville, NS.