Harry Hibbs’s songs evoked recollections of N.L. Now his accordion is generating its way residence

Story Transcript

If you lived in Atlantic Canada in the 1960s or ’70s, you will very likely keep in mind the identify Harry Hibbs. 

Often referred to as Newfoundland’s favorite son, he was a star musician known for bringing the province’s classic audio to mainland Canada. His tunes also warmed the hearts of Newfoundlanders living absent from dwelling in Ontario at the time.

Now, much more than 30 several years following his dying, a St. John’s woman and Harry’s spouse and children are operating to return the musician’s accordion to its roots on Bell Island, N.L.

“I feel the music, you know, it truly is section of our lifestyle. It really is component of who we are. It really is component of what we grew up with. It really is memories of our household,” said Linda Hickey, a large supporter of Harry’s, who is primary the hard work to provide his instrument household.

“[In] my very own particular viewpoint, he is the ideal bellow bender on a button box that has ever been.”

Enjoy | Harry Hibbs performs on Television in the 1970s


Harry — also recognized as His Nibs — was born on Bell Island in 1942, but moved with his family members to Toronto at the age of 20, following his father died. When Harry became wounded in a factory accident in the late 1960s, he turned to tunes and commenced taking part in the accordion for are living audiences.

He was an right away strike. He went on to history far more than a dozen albums.

Harry died of cancer in Toronto in 1989.

The ‘holy grail of accordions’

For the final few decades, Hickey has been amassing things to generate an exhibit in the musician’s honour at the Bell Island Local community Museum. It has yet to open, thanks to the pandemic, but Hickey is hopeful it can transfer in advance next calendar year.

With the aid of Harry’s brothers, she snagged his accordion so it could grow to be section of the display.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God. Like, I have the holy grail of accordions below in my property,” she instructed The Current’s Matt Galloway.

Linda Hickey has been gathering objects for a museum show in honour of the late Newfoundland musician. Her hope is to convey his accordion, pictured in this article, to the area museum in Bell Island, N.L., where Harry was born. (Submitted by Linda Hickey)

It stayed in her closet for protected preserving for a while. But when the pandemic hit, Hickey made the decision to convey it out from hiding and share photographs of it on the internet for all to get pleasure from.

“All of a unexpected I began acquiring aficionados, I get in touch with them, getting in contact with me saying, ‘Can I get a picture with it? Can I see it? Can I contact it?'” Hickey recalled.

Even popular Newfoundland accordion gamers like Ryan Baker, Mark Hiscock and Paul Hamilton needed a convert, she mentioned.

So Hickey commenced letting musicians to play it, and posting movies of their performances on social media, in which she reported people today tuned in from as far as Sri Lanka, Australia, Ireland and Scotland.

Enjoy | Mark Hiscock performs the track Concerning Two Trees on Harry Hibbs’s accordion

“It was incredible, simply because persons had been indicating, ‘You just gave me a minimal piece of household,’ or, ‘I keep in mind that tune my mother … utilised to enjoy it,'” Hickey stated. 

“It evoked recollections in folks who ended up actually all around the entire world.”

For the time currently being, Harry’s accordion is now remaining held on screen at Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial museum, The Rooms, reported Hickey, in which a His Nibs tribute show was also held previously this 12 months.

Marty Hibbs, Harry’s young brother and previous manager, reported Hickey has been instrumental in the do the job to commemorate the musician back property in Newfoundland.

“We never have any loved ones, so to converse, up on the island,” he told Galloway. “So it can be truly fascinating to listen to … what’s occurring from Linda.”

He mentioned his brother’s new music intended so considerably to people today — particularly to expatriate Newfoundlanders who had moved to Toronto for operate as their province’s mining overall economy dwindled.

Marty Hibbs worked as his brother’s supervisor. He says Harry’s audio reminded folks of how a lot property meant to them. (Submitted by Marty Hibbs)

“There was this ‘Newfie, go home’ perspective. They weren’t very well appreciated for their hard perform,” Marty explained of how people have been dealt with in the city. 

“They felt out of put here…. and [Harry’s music] genuinely produced these people today comprehend how significantly they skipped and loved their roots.” 

Audiences ‘couldn’t get adequate,’ claims brother

Marty remembers his brother’s rocket to fame as an awesome roller coaster journey. 

Within just a year of Harry’s to start with effectiveness in 1968, “anything just was a blur,” Marty mentioned. By the pursuing yr, he has released his initial album, acquired a gold record, and had his own Tv set exhibit airing across Toronto and Hamilton.

And at Harry’s concerts, you could truly feel the floor rattle. 

“The true ground shook. You could come to feel it mainly because all people was accomplishing the Newfie stomp. It was wonderful,” mentioned Marty. 

“They just wished much more and additional. They couldn’t get sufficient of it.” 

Issues haven’t improved.

Harry, still left, with his brother and manager Marty. Harry attained many gold records, and even experienced his own Television exhibit. (Submitted by Marty Hibbs)

As COVID-19 proceeds to preserve people today aside, Hickey said she thinks Newfoundlanders are nevertheless acquiring pleasure in Harry’s audio.

“We just did these two shows at The Rooms in this article in St. John’s and … [people] had been rocking in their seats, and their ft ended up tapping, and they had been clapping their arms,” she claimed, explaining that COVID-19 limitations necessary people today to continue to be seated.

Hickey explained just one girl broke out in tears through the exhibit mainly because Harry’s tunes brought again so numerous recollections for her.

“I feel it was just fantastic [timing],” said Hickey, referring to how tough the pandemic has been for anyone.

“Ironically, I consider Harry’s up there stating, ‘I’m going to thrust out my own minor little bit of stuff from the heavens … during COVID situations.'”

Created by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Mary-Catherine McIntosh.

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