COCHRANE, ALTA — Cochrane-area native and country music crooner George Fox will be inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame this September in Calgary.
Fox has hosted country music awards shows a few times, but this time he will be on the receiving end of the honours.
He has shared the stage with legends like Randy Travis and Loretta Lynn, and he even has a street in Cochrane named after him.
Fox grew up with his parents on a ranch north of Cochrane, alongside Bruce Stewart-Smith, who was surprised to hear of the upcoming induction of his childhood buddy.
The two farm boys hung out around the time they were 12 to 17 years old – the fun years.
But they didn’t get into anything too rambunctious.
“We spent a lot of time goofing around together. We did all kinds of stuff, “ he said. “George’s parents were beautiful people but they were pretty straight-laced, so we didn’t get into too much trouble.”
They grew up on ranches about two miles apart, between Horse Creek and Grand Valley. Fox’s parents have passed away.
Stewart-Smith remembers the Fox farm fondly.
“We did an annual thing where we had a hay ride, everybody would come over to George’s place and we’d have a bonfire and cook some hot dogs and stuff. That was always a big thing,” he said.
He doesn’t remember having much of an inkling that his friend would become a big deal some day, but as a teenager, Fox started to perform music at dances in places like Weedon and Dogpound – two communities mentioned in his popular rendition of the country classic ‘I’ve been everywhere, man.’
One thing Stewart-Smith remembers clearly and dearly was when Fox came over to play a cassette tape for him.
“We were working in the shop and George brought a demo tape of his first album, so that was pretty interesting hearing George in a formal, produced way,” he said.
“Everybody was pretty excited, it was a pretty big deal for us – friends family, everybody around here.
“We were kind of isolated, in a rural setting. We didn’t have a big social circle. Not like today, where kids are all connected with social media and everything.”
Stewart-Smith remembers the Fox family as quiet, solid folks. Their son was quiet too.
Fox lives on his farm in Ontario now, and Stewart-Smith has a hint of melancholy in his voice when he says that, like most childhood friends, they have drifted apart.
He listens to Fox’s records from time to time, and enjoys his version of the classic ‘I’ve been everywhere, man’ that has been covered by artists from Johnny Cash to Stompin’ Tom Connors.
“Yeah, that’s cool,” he said. “He used to play that at those dances and it was pretty popular.”
He last connected with Fox via a video birthday message he sent a couple of years ago.
The fondness Stewart-Smith has for his old buddy comes through loud and clear.
“For someone to come from such a humble background and be able to develop his skills and do really quite well for himself, it was a pretty remarkable transformation, so good on him,” he said.
“I am proud of him.”