Tommy Chong Welcomed Back to Calgary with White Hat

Grammy Award-winning comedian Tommy Chong began his entertainment career as a musician. He will be returning to his hometown to reunite his former band for a charity performance in Calgary, Alberta.

Irony is a death row pardon two minutes too late. Supreme irony is that Tommy Chong will be welcomed to Calgary with a white cowboy hat, a symbol of the city that is given to visiting dignitaries and special guests.

Mayor Don MacKay, who started the time-honoured White Hat tradition in 1950, kicked Chong out of Calgary in 1958.

The Calgary Shades, a bi-racial band formed nearly four decades ago by Tommy Chong and Tommie Melton achieved serious clout, raucous crowds at their performances and, of course, a lot of trouble. Calgary’s mayor with the help of then Police Chief Lawrence Partridge suggested the Shades leave town.

The band decamped to Vancouver, British Columbia creating music under the moniker Little Daddy & The Bachelors. They later reorganized as Bobby Taylor & The Vancouver’s who after being discovered by legendary Motown girl group, The Supremes – signed to Motown Records in the late 1960s.

Shades drummer Floyd Sneed is undeniably best known for his 16-year tenure in the hard rock band of Three Dog Night. The group’s greatest-hits boast Sneed’s explosive drumming pyrotechnics, and wind through the fabric of popular culture in TV, radio, movies, advertisements and trends. The percussionist was the pioneer of a revolutionary drumming technique known as ghost beats. The connection to his first band has always remained playing a role in Chong’s Nineties film comedy Far Out Man.

The White Hat Ceremony will be held Friday, December 4, 2009. Pope John Paul II, The Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey, AC/DC, Prince Philip, Bill Cosby, Vladimir Putin, KISS, and even David Letterman have all been honoured with Calgary’s iconic White Stetson.

Sunday December 6th, 2009 Tommy Chong, Tommie Melton, Dick Byrd, Stan Chong, Wes Henderson and Floyd Sneed will play a one-night only reunion show at Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall. The band’s one-off reunion gig will be filmed for a new documentary covering the group’s storied past.

Guest musicians include Kelly Jay, former frontman for legendary Hamilton rock band Crowbar, best known for their 1971 hit “Oh, What a Feeling”.

The White Hat Ceremony has solid roots within Calgary’s community. It is a tradition that originated in the 1950’s when Alderman Don MacKay welcomed visiting dignitaries with white hats. Today the White Hat Ceremony has come to symbolize the warmth of western hospitality.


A young alderman, D.H. (Don) Mackay, who understood the publicity value of a gesture, initiated the white hat ceremony in the late 1940s.3 In November 1948, Mackay and a group of supporters went to Toronto to cheer on the Calgary Stampeders, who were playing in the Grey Cup. They wanted to see the game, and they wanted to put on a “show” of their version of the Old West (Mamini). One group of 250 traveled by train together with horses, livestock and a chuckwagon. Another group of 70, mostly oilmen and their wives, traveled by plane. Dressed in western outfits, including white Stetsons, these enthusiastic Calgarians took Toronto by storm. They organized a parade to accompany the players to the stadium.

Acting as master of ceremonies, Mackay gave the mayor of Toronto, Hiram McCallum, a white hat and a red kerchief and invited him to ride on a Pinto with the Calgary contingent (Dempsey 133-36). After Calgary beat Ottawa 12-7, they organized a victory parade led by Chief David Crowchild and Chief George Runner of the Tsuu Tina Nation (Sarcee) riding on horseback in full regalia, followed by colourfully attired cowboys and cowgirls on horseback, a western band, livestock, the chuckwagon and 500 fans in cars and trucks. Hooting and hollering, they put on a western show outside the Royal York Hotel, which included playing music, serving flapjacks from the chuckwagon and square dancing. Many Torontonians thought that the Calgary Stampede had moved to the shores of Lake Ontario (“More Boosters”). While making a vivid impression on the people of Toronto, these fans created a key part of Calgary lore.