Hamilton musician Tom Wilson donates his personal archives to McMaster University

Being an artist involves many responsibilities. For Tom Wilson, the most important thing is to open the door wide to those who will come after him.

“Creating art is a rewarding experience – not just for the person creating it, but hopefully for the people who witness it,” he told CBC Hamilton on Thursday, as the McMaster University officially announced that the Hamilton musician, artist and storyteller is donating his archives to the McMaster Library.

The collection includes items from his life such as his notebooks, where he often recorded his thoughts, wrote songs and penned lyrics.

Other items in the collection are paintings, the Florida Razors’ 1986 Beat Music vinyl recording, and notes and annotated proofs of Wilson’s memoir. beautiful scars.

Wilson said he hopes the donation will pave the way for other Hamilton artists who feel they are not worthy of breaking into the art scene.

“Artists are the only ones on the planet who want to create something that didn’t exist yesterday,” he said. “I always thought it was a worthwhile profession.”

Tom Wilson recorded over 18 albums during his career. (Submitted by Jose Crespo/McMaster University)

Wilson, who built his career in Hamilton and credits the city with much of his musical inspiration, has been in several bands over the past four decades.

These include The Florida Razors, for several years in the 1980s. He joined Junkhouse from 1989 to 1997.

In 1996 Wilson and his bandmates formed Blackie and the Rodeo Kings which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. He is also part of Lee Harvey Osmond, which formed in 2009 and continues to make music.

Collectively, the bands received several Juno Awards, including Best Traditional and Traditional Album Band, as well as Record Package of the Year. With his bands, Wilson has recorded over 18 albums.

A proud Hamiltonian

Donating his archive means a lot to Wilson, who was born and raised in Hamilton, not least because of the importance of its place.

“There’s definitely that familiarity and breath in your face that Hamilton gives me. It still inspires me, there’s still a lot of depth to this city that hasn’t been explored for me.”

Although he has remained in the city his entire life, Wilson has found growth and passion through the projects he has created here.

“I am 62 years old and I only see myself moving forward and I have already evolved in my ideas with my way of creating,” he said. “I still live here in Hamilton and I still walk the same streets I have for almost 62 years.

“I don’t find it as much of a destination as it is a home,” he said. “Hamilton is still a part of me.”

Donating Wilson’s archives is one of the many ways he gives back to the community. He also organizes two evenings music at McMaster University this weekend in support of a bursary for indigenous students which he launched.

His house is also explored in his memoirs beautiful scars, who struggles with the secrets of her identity and reclaims her indigenous roots.

“The blood memory that runs through me from my reservation…and my Mohawk world is a big part of that,” he said.

“It means a lot to my community back home… I don’t know how many of my ancestors had their records kept at a university.”

A growing collection for McMaster

The McMaster University Library is no stranger to the archives of musicians.

According to McMaster librarian Vivian Lewis, the library collects “quite extensively” in the area of ​​Canadian music. Ottawa songwriter Bruce Cockburn donated his notebooks, musical arrangements, gold records, letters, albums, approximately 1,000 recordings and guitars in 2013.

The 2014 collection donated by Ian Thomas of Dundas, Ontario includes personal writings, sheet music, photos, clippings and contracts.

With the library’s acquisition of the Wilson Archive, Lewis said it would add depth to the university’s collection, particularly through beautiful scars.

“It’s a must-have book for anyone in Hamilton, even if you’re not naturally a music fan. It’s an important piece,” she said.

McMaster University librarian Vivian Lewis says Wilson’s memoir is “a must-read for anyone in Hamilton, even if you’re not naturally a music fan.” (Submitted by Ron Scheffler/McMaster University)

Collections like these are important to libraries, Lewis said.

“It’s a decision they make. They want to share their materials and license their use. Not just sitting in their basement and hoping maybe a grandchild will be interested,” she said. .

“They know their material has value for a wider audience.”

Library goers and Wilson fans can stop by the library and request the material and the archivist will bring it to view in the meeting room.

At some point, the library hopes its work will be digitized for people who cannot visit in person.

“We’ve had an interest in Tom for some time,” Lewis added. “We’ve been in conversation with him for years.”

One aspect of the archives that Lewis says might be most interesting are Wilson’s notebooks.

She said people looking for archival music might turn to these kinds of pieces first. She pointed out that it brings people closer to the thought process of the musician.

“They want to follow the development of a piece and know where it went,” she said. “I’m really excited for this.”

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