Michael T. Wall, in His Own Words: The Life and Times of the Singing Newfoundlander
Now 80 years-old, Newfoundland’s native son Michael T. Wall is still hitting the road and playing shows all over the world.
“After hearing Johnny Cash on our radio…”
My name is Michael T. Wall (the T stands for Thomas). I am from a family of nine children. Dad and Mom made 11. I was born on Country Road, Corner Brook. We moved to the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville when I was a kid. I went to school there until we moved to Lakeview/Habour Main in Conception Bay, where I resumed my schooling. I was always interested in singing and sang in many concerts at the little one-room Shamrock School. You could say that’s where I got my start in singing. I worked at odd jobs during the summer holidays, and I saved enough money to buy my first guitar. After hearing Johnny Cash on our radio, I knew right then that’s what I wanted to do. So I went to St. John’s and bought a ticket on Air Canada and headed for Toronto.
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“From that moment on, I was hooked on country music.”
Upon arriving in the Big City, I found out Johnny Cash was doing a live concert at Massey Hall. So I decided to go and meet my hero. When I arrived at Massey Hall, I met Johnny’s personal guitar player, Luther Perkins, who introduced me to the “Man in Black,” who is my all-time hero to this day. From that moment on, I was hooked on country music. I called myself “The Singing Newfoundlander” and had special tailor-made stage costumes created with a big, Irish-green map of Newfoundland on the back of all of them. I sang at clubs throughout Toronto, including the famous Horseshoe Tavern and the Caribou Club.
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“I toured Australia four times and sang in Japan, Poland, China, Israel and at the Grand Ole Opry.”
One day, I happened to walk into a club named Molly “N” M. I introduced myself to the owners and talked them into opening up the Michael T. Wall NFLD Friendship Club on the second floor (disco downstairs). It was so successful that I was held over for eight and a half years. The weekends were jam-packed with Newfoundlanders, Maritimers and curious people from across the province of Ontario. By then, I was a household name in Toronto and sang Newfoundland country-style songs—the kind of music people from the East Coast of Canada wanted to hear. Then came TV, radio and lots of records! During my career, I have sold a truckload of vinyl albums, cassette tapes, 45 rpm records, eight-track tapes and CDs. I toured Australia four times and sang in Japan, Poland, China, Israel and at the Grand Ole Opry in “Music City USA”—Nashville, Tenn.
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“Fay and I have co-written more than 300 songs.”
Getting back to my story, when I sang at clubs across Ontario, and other cities and towns across Canada, I gave out souvenir road maps and brochures of Newfoundland from the stage and the trunk of my car. Those road maps of Newfoundland and Labrador were supplied and sent to me by the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Development, Tourism Division, in St. John’s. Mr. J.R. Smallwood, the first premier of Newfoundland, was so impressed with the way I promoted our beloved island that he named me Newfoundland’s official Musical Ambassador and put my photo in his book, The Face of Newfoundland, featuring “VIPs” of his choosing.
Over the years, I’ve been honoured to work with many talented people, including my two lovely daughters, Sarah and Sabrina. I must also mention my co-writer and fellow Newfoundlander Fay Herridge, whom I first met at the Cabot 500 celebrations, marking John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland in 1497. The event took place in June 1997 and since that time Fay and I have co-written more than 300 songs.
“I’m not ready for the rocking chair yet!”
Recently, I received a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Living Legend Award from Mr. Bob Everhart, President of America’s Old-Time Country Music Hall of Fame in Anita, Iowa. This spring, I will be inducted into the National Musical Centre in Calgary and will present them with one of my guitars and stage costumes to keep on display. I’m in five Halls of Fame around the world but consider myself just a humble Newfoundlander who likes what he is doing. (But if this keeps up, I’ll be running out of guitars!) I am the first Newfoundlander and Canadian to be inducted into The Australia Country Music Hall of Fame in Tamworth, Australia, where one of my guitars and stage costumes is also on display. I just turned 80, but I’m not ready for the rocking chair yet! I plan on being around for many more years, picking guitar, singing songs and making recordings about Newfoundland and Labrador as well as other parts of our beautiful country, Canada.
Next, check out the story behind the distinct language of Newfoundland.
To find our more about Canada’s Singing Newfoundlander, write to [email protected]