The family of Newfoundland music icon Harry Hibbs carries on with a long-standing campaign to see ‘Uncle’ Harry inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame
There are few Newfoundland music icons quite like Harry Hibbs. The Bell Island native, who became a household name through his massive record sales and sold out engagements up-along at the Caribou Club and venues across Ontario, is seen as one of the pillars of our island sound. He’s loved and admired in our hearts and minds here at home, but hasn’t quite gotten his just due on a national or international stage. Well, the family of Harry Hibbs hopes to remedy that.
Spearheaded by his nephew Jay Tucker as far back as 2008 and revived by brother William Tucker and Harry’s brother and longtime manager Marty Hibbs, the Facebook group ‘Harry Hibbs Needs A Star on Canada’s Walk of Fame’ was designed to see their late, great family-member posthumously recognized with one of the nation’s greatest distinctions.
‘Always in our life’
“If I think about my childhood, Uncle Harry and that kind of lifestyle was always in our life,” Jay Tucker tells The Herald. “I remember many times as a child sitting on the edge of the stage and watching him and just being in awe. It was incredible just seeing that. I remember stories of riots because when he’d finished his set and walk off stage, they’d want an encore and they’d start throwing beer bottles at the stage going mad, because they wanted him back up on stage. It was quite a time for being a young child.”
In the relative fledgling stages of social media, Tucker launched a similar page to gain traction with the idea of having Uncle Harry recognized on Canada’s Walk of Fame. Through grassroots means, the group attracted over 14,000 followers, but sadly lost everything when Facebook migrated the members. How or why? Who knows.
It would take nearly a decade to get things back on track, but now the group has gained traction once again, attracting over 7,000 members in a number of months.
While the group is a hotbed to share thoughts, insights and memories about Harry Hibbs’ music and memories, members are also encouraged to vote early and often and submit Hibbs for a place on Canada’s Walk of Fame’s Legend category, a relatively new initiative that sees deserving candidates posthumously honoured.
“What they need to nominate for is called the Legend Award and it’s for deceased artists in Canada,” Tucker shared. “And I think that was another reason they were saying to my Uncle Marty why they never really looked at him before because he didn’t fall into a category. The legend category is new in the Walk of Fame.”
A sombre anniversary
2020 of all years would certainly be prophetic to have Hibbs receive his rightful call to the Walk of Fame. The dawn of the decade marks the 30th anniversary from his untimely death, as well as the opening of a new Harry Hibbs exhibit in Bell Island this summer.
“It seems like everything is coming to fruition and it’s coming full circle,” Tucker says proudly. It looks very promising. Uncle Marty has called the Walk of Fame and they say we actually know who he is now because there is a bit of noise he’s being created by. Everyone still needs to get on top of this and push to try and get it for him.”
For the family of Hibbs, the induction would serve as redemption for years of their famed Uncle’s relative obscurity on a national stage.
But the limelight for the family, much like for the man himself, hasn’t been easily embraced.
“It’s weird saying it because Uncle Harry was always just our uncle. And this is why we never really pushed because we weren’t brought up that way, and neither was he,” Tucker admits. “He was such a quiet man. And I mean, he didn’t like the limelight at all. He was treasured to us. We looked at Uncle Harry as the guy who played the accordion, get the family together and sing and we’d have a little party, stuff like that. We never looked at him as a big TV star who did all these accomplishments in the music industry. As much as we knew we really didn’t care because he was just our Uncle. We never really boasted or we’re not that way.”
Reflecting on the accomplishments of a man who is today regarded as a trailblazer in his genre, it’s hard to ignore the pedigree and merit for Hibbs for any and all potential inductions, regardless of how late they may be.
“Back then a 500,000 album seller was unheard of. Of course, that’s like four times platinum in today’s standards. Back then in the late 60s, early 70s, he sold more albums himself, a little guy from Bell Island in Newfoundland, sold more albums himself than the entire Canadian music industry combined. That’s unheard of. And for him to not be noticed…”
Vindication for harry
And while an induction would be vindicating for the family in Harry’s memory, just the thought that so many have taken it upon themselves to see the good name and memory of the man remember, whose music has impacted generations, is a win in and of itself.
“Just hearing people talk about Uncle Harry, it’s been humbling, and it’s beautiful to hear all the stories on this group,” Tucker says. “People are saying they’re taking an interest back in the accordion again, or playing the accordion after joining this group. People are talking about old times and how it used to be, people are sharing pictures of Uncle Harry and his tours. It’s a feel good group.
“It would mean the world,” he adds reflectively. “He went through so much in the short career that he had. He literally hardly made any money because the music industry was so lethal back then. There was no money to be made back then. He just loved doing it. Out of all the work that he did and all the touring and just doing it for the people and playing the music and love and loving each other, that’s just the way he was. He was such a lovable person that he loved to do it for the fact of doing it. It would be nice to give him that recognition and get an east coaster on the Walk of Fame.”
For more information visit Harry Hibbs Needs A Star on Canada’s Walk of Fame on Facebook or to nominate Hibbs directly visit canadaswalkoffame.com