It's not often that Strathmore is visited by Hall of Fame musicians, but that's exactly what happened today at the Vault Cultural Collective! Donna and Leroy Anderson, who you may recognize from the Tommy Hunter show that was a staple of country music in the 1970s-90s, played some of their hits while they came to see Ramsey Kunkel's Alberta Portrait Project. Kunkel is Leroy's nephew, so they came by Strathmore to support his work and also meet our community.
"We heard Strathmore was a really exciting place to see and visit," Donna said.
"We were either going to go to Paris or Strathmore, but we decided Strathmore instead!" Leroy added with a chuckle.
Donna and Leroy just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and have been performing music together for 53 years together! They met in the spring of 1969 due to a mutual record producer, and once they started working together at events like the Calgary Stampede and Lethbridge Whoop-up Days they hit it off and never looked back! To this day not only are they still happily married, they still remain an amazing musical duo.
"We have to listen to each other, and when somebody doesn't agree with you, you have to see their point of view and still agree to disagree," Leroy said, about how they've stayed together both personally and professionally for so long.
"Basically, as long as Leroy does everything I say, things go smoothly," Donna added jokingly.
The Tommy Hunter Show
Prior to the Tommy Hunter Show, Donna and Leroy were already together and had a career, but the show really propelled them into the national spotlight; not only as talented musicians in their own right, but as a married duo! They spent 17 years on the show, from 1975 right up to the final days in 1992, and Donna and Leroy both say it was an incredibly special experience.
"Your life flashes before your eyes anytime anybody asks us that question (about the show). There's just so many memories, we all became like a family because we were regulars on the show along with the other performers. And we all became really close friends. We weathered it all, pretty much all the good and bad times, and saw a lot of producers and directors and things go. But Tommy was always really supportive," said Donna.
"Donna and I had 17 wonderful years on the show," said Leroy.
"So many memories and so many artists that were our heroes, that we aspired to be like, To be able to be in their presence and talk to them and work with them and sing with them, and the experience we gained from people that had been on the show for a long time," Donna continued.
Both Donna and Leroy listed just a couple of famous musicians they spent time with, including but not limited to: Roy Rogers, Glen Campbell, Kris Kristofferson, and even a young Garth Brooks!
"Tongue in cheek, but we actually almost gave Garth Brooks his first national appearance on TV when he did our show, he had just had out his first record. He was a very humble guy and became a huge star as everybody knows, but it was kind of neat to have him on when he was just kind of getting going," said Leroy.
Experiencing life and music outside of the show
Donna and Leroy both say the Tommy Hunter show holds a very special place in their hearts; not just for the 17 amazing years of performing, but all the other opportunities a national stage like that offers.
"I don't think there's a nook or cranny or city or town that we haven't been able to travel to in Canada. We've seen our whole beautiful country and that's because of the show and of course Tommy's reputation," said Donna.
These days, Donna and Leroy considers themselves semi-retired, but still enjoy performing wherever they can. With an incredibly long and successful career behind them, they now enjoy performing just for the love of music.
"It's the love of doing it. When you enjoy doing something and you're able to do it for a living, but it's also your passion... I don't think you ever lose the passion for it," said Leroy.
"It's just in the blood, that's all I can say. It's almost like it's more passion now because we're not doing it out there full time and it's not what we do to actually make a living anymore. It almost is that much more enjoyable," said Donna.
Donna added even now, Leroy will still pick up his guitar and banjo everyday, and sometimes he plays so much Donna has to get him to stop because it's making too much of a racket in the house!
Their love of music and each other is super clear in the way they talk, but even more evident when you hear them perform live. The smaller venue of the Vault and the acoustic instruments used really allowed the music and passion to resonate with each audience member. When you hear them perform, it's no surprise that they're both in the Hall of Fame!
Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org