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An Old Country Boy Who Still Loves To Sing

The School Bus Driver By Stew Clayton

Five hundred thousand miles of dusty country road Winter, summer, rain or snow Picking up my load.

I’ve been a school bus driver now for over 30 years and when I make that final run I know I’ll shed a tear.

Now some folks don’t like youngsters, they say they’re hard on nerves

but as for me I don’t agree My respect they’ve earned. I look forward every morning, to see them get on board and watch them change from year to year on their journey down life’s road.

Now you may think it boring driving that same old road each day but there’s always somthing different in the scenes along the way. Now it sometimes makes me wonder, many names are still the same but they’re the sons and daughters of my kids of yesterday.

Five hundred thousand miles of dusty country road Winter, summer, rain or snow Picking up my load.

I’ve been a school bus driver now for over 30 years and when I make that final run I know I’ll shed a tear.

Stew Clayton made his final run in 1998, retiring after driving school bus for 33 years. Yes, he says, he shed a tear that day. He composed this tune while driving the bus. It was released on cassette tape, Favorite Ballads, in 1995.

Below -GETTING READY: Dwayne Morrow, mechanic at Prairie Rose School Division’s bus garage was doing all the last-minute work to get the

fleet ready to haul the students back to school this week.

Stew Clayton has delighted audiences around the world since the early 1950s playing music inspired by his own farm background.

Stew Clayton was just a little farm kid twisting the dial on the family radio when he first heard Wilf Carter sing.

Canada’s first country music star’s voice was crackling over the airwaves from New York City but had found another fan on a Kaleida farm in the 1930s.

After that, the young Clayton would always be singing and yodelling around the farm. Little did he know, one day he’d sing in Carter’s hometown of Canning, Nova Scotia and where fans would tell him no one else sounded more like him.

“From that first time I heard him, that was the kind of music I just immediately wanted to do,” says the now 80-year-old Clayton, who farmed his whole life at Kaleida, but now resides in Manitou.

Clayton also remembers a day when he was 18, when the $9.95 Lone Ranger guitar – the first guitar he’d own – arrived in the mail from Eaton’s. It was the beginning of a musical career that would span and enrich the rest of his life. Clayton taught himself to play, not only guitar, but banjo, musical saw and mouth organ and begin to write songs, performing in the halls and fairs in the small towns around him.

You hit a lot of high notes in 60 years spent this way.

He’d eventually become known as the “Canadian Balladeer,” gaining countless fans all over the world. In all, he’s composed more than 300 songs, won numerous awards, and performed at variety shows and dances, concerts and tributes across Canada and the U. S., and even in the U. K. He’s released 44 musical recordings, which span the days of long-play albums right through to CDs. His first album was released in 1964. His most recent release, “Me and Old Martin,” was in 2007.

Fan mail has poured in. A highlight of his career was closing the Canadian Country Music Week Award show in the early 1980s. He brought Canada’s country music industry elite to their feet singing “The Red River Valley.”

He’s had camera crews at his farm and appearances on shows such as “Midday,” “Coleman and Company” and “On the Road Again.” He performed on the “Tommy Hunter Show” in the late 1980s. The show put him up in a nice hotel, and limo’d him back and forth to the recording studio, he recalls. It was a glimpse into the big-time country music business.

“I thought, well, for one weekend, I was a star,” he says, and smiles at the notion. He met many “big names” in the business over the years. But he never set out to be one himself.

“I got a lot further than I ever expected to, or even really wanted to,” he says. “I never wanted to be a star. I was just doing what I loved to do.”

Promoters urged him to branch out and try some new stuff over the years, but Clayton says he never liked the “new” country western music.

“I figured it wouldn’t work because I’d lose all the fans that I had and I wouldn’t gain any new ones because I couldn’t sing that kind of music and I didn’t want to,” he says. “I stayed with the kind of music I loved doing.”

He stayed home too. He and his wife Marge, an accomplished musician herself and heard on many of Clayton’s recordings, ran their farm at Kaleida until 1996 before retiring to Manitou. Marge passed away in 2000.

They also raised five children who all are musicially inclined, including daughter Juanita who has cut several CDs, and loves to sing and yodel in harmony with her dad.

At age 80, Clayton is fitter and healthier than most half his age, enjoying a quiet life lived in a community of which he is an integral part. He remains, as the lyrics in one of his songs say, “just an old country boy who still loves to sing.”

Stew Clayton will be honoured at a special ceremony this weekend (September 12) during the Honey, Garlic and Maple Syrup Festival at Manitou.

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About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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