Learn all about this famous pro-cannabis celebrity…
Many of those who are involved in the world of marijuana are familiar with Tommy Chong – a comedian, actor, and entertainer primarily known for his pro-cannabis mentality and his humorous view on life and all that is beyond it. If you have not heard of Tommy Chong directly, you are likely familiar with ‘Cheech & Chong’, the laugh-brining duo that became widely recognized in the ‘70s. Beyond ‘Cheech & Chong’, Tommy Chong’s life is actually rather fascinating; it is worth learning about how this simple man worked his way up to recognition doing what he loved and enjoyed most.
Keep reading to discover everything there is to know about Tommy Chong in our complete bio…
Who is Tommy Chong?
As mentioned in the introduction, Tommy Chong is most notoriously a pro-cannabis entertainer, primarily contributing to the sectors of acting and comedy. But believe it or not, this man of many is also a musician, and this is actually how he entered into the industry.
All About His Early Life:
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at the University of Alberta Hospital on May 24th, 1938, Tommy Chong had his beginnings with a simple, regular life, born to a Scottish-Irish waitress named Lorna Jean and a Chinese truck driver known as Stanley Chong. He did not grow up with much, but his parents worked hard to provide him with the best life they could. They purchased a home for around $500 in a rather conservative part of Calgary, usually surviving off of just $50 a week.
He was not the best student, for his passions were located elsewhere, and when he was 16 years old he dropped out of Crescent Heights High School and decided to focus on playing guitar. Although this may not have appeared to be the wisest decision at that time, this big choice to dropout of high school in many ways is what fueled the start of his career.
How He Got Started in the Industry:
After dropping out of Crescent Heights High School at 16 years old, Chong put the majority of his attention into building a career in music, specifically by playing guitar. He joined the Calgary-based soul group known as The Shades in the early 1960s, and they were performing regularly in the area until they decided to relocate to Vancouver, British Columbia.
With the move also came a renaming of the band, as they started labeling themselves as Little Daddy & the Bachelors, releasing a single titled “Too Much Monkey Business”. By 1963, Chong and his fellow bandmate, Bobby Taylor, decided to open up a nightclub in Vancouver as a further business venture. Hilariously enough, they named this nightclub Blue Balls and were able to bring in somewhat recognizable acts, including Ike & Tina Turner.
Little Daddy & the Bachelors had been doing okay as a group, but decided to once again rebrand themselves and changed their name to Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. This final rebranding was a real success, because in 1965 Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers officially signed with Gordy Records, which was a branch of the famous Detroit-based Motown Records. Tommy Chong actually co-composed their hit release called “Does Your Mama Know About Me”, which rose to reach number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100, shooting the group up to notoriety, and they even got to follow up for Michael Jackson’s Jackson 5 while on a tour in Chicago.
Unfortunately, the group did not last long, for shortly after Motown producer Johnny Bristol fired Chong when he failed to show up for his appointment to apply for a Green card so he could reside and work in the United States. Soon after this firing took place, the band broke up officially, and Tommy Chong went his own separate way. As with everything in life, it all happens for a reason, and if it were not for this firing and separation from the band, Chong would likely not have begun his comedy and acting career which he is probably the most famous for.
Tommy Chong’s Career History:
Fast-forward to 1971, and Chong had already moved on to a new project, which debuted in this year. Beginning a collaboration with Richard “Cheech” Marin, the two coordinated a comedy group known as ‘Cheech & Chong’, which became widely recognized all over the world. The two of them later released their own comedy album, also titled ‘Cheech & Chong’, and it became one of the all time greatest hits in this genre.
Audiences adored live performances by ‘Cheech & Chong’ because their stage presence was simply incredible and they were capable of making even the most serious crowds laugh hysterically. 1973 to 1976 were very productive years for the hilarious duo, they went on to release many more comedy albums, including ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Cheech & Chong’s Wedding Album’ and ‘Los Cochinos’. Four of their albums were actually nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album, and the duo shared this win in 1973 when ‘Los Cochinos’ was selected as the recipient for this prestigious prize.
Not only was Chong a fabulous performer, he also often acted as a director for the films that Cheech & Chong would make together, directing four movies and acting in all seven of their cinematic releases. From 1981 to 1985, Chong had mostly moved on to film, pulling away from the previous album releases, and he starred in many movies including ‘Things Are Tough All Over’, ‘Get Out of My Room’, ‘It Came from Hollywood’, ‘Still Smokin’ ’, ‘Yellowbeard’ and many others.
In 1985, the famous duo decided to call it quits. After their final release ‘Get Out of My Room’, the two ended things citing creative differences as their reason for splitting. Marin – also known as Cheech – wanted to take a more mainstream approach to acting, which Chong did not agree with completely.
Chong was without steady work for a while, aside from some appearances in a few shows and movies, which was a challenging period in his career, but after the waiting and frustration, in 1998 he ended up with the recurring role on That ‘70s Show as the always stoned, loving and joyous hippie known as “Leo”. This role was not a difficult one for Chong to play, because the character was simply an extreme version of Chong’s actual personality.
Chong’s Impact on the World of Cannabis:
Chong has been a long time advocate for marijuana legalization, as well as a supporter and sponsor for the open usage of cannabis, often speaking honestly about this healing plant and all it is capable of. In 2003 he was caught up in a legal battle against the United States in US vs. Chong case, when two American investigations focused on tracing drug traffic and its partakers by examining and investigating the businesses that were selling paraphernalia to these individuals; in this case, bongs and other marijuana-related devices were the primary focus.
Chong’s son Paris was the owner of one of the charged companies, with his company known as “Nice Dreams Enterprises”. Chong promoted the company and was indicted, along with Paris and Chong’s wife Shelby. Chong agreed to plead guilty as long as the charges were dropped for both his wife and son, and in 2003 he ended up serving a one-year prison sentence at the Taft Correctional Facility. In addition to the year spent behind bars, he also paid a $120,000 fine.
This entire case gained a lot of media attention, and it upset many individuals that were pro-cannabis legalization at the time, for there were so many other serious drug trafficking incidents and yet the US government chose to focus upon a plant that had actually been helping many individuals, especially medically.
Tommy Chong has been married twice, with the first time in 1960 to Maxine Sneed. They were married for about 10 years, later divorcing in 1970. They had two children together, Rae Dawn and Robbi Chong. In 1975, Chong remarried, this time choosing actress and comedian Shelby Fiddis. They were wed in Los Angeles, and had three children together – two sons named Paris and Gilbran, as well as a daughter named Precious Chong. They adopted another son in 1978, named Marcus Wyatt. Shelby and Tommy are still married in 2018.
What is Tommy Chong Up to These Days?
Unfortunately, Chong was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June of 2012 and decided to primarily try and heal himself through the use of cannabis. In July of the same year he said he was 99% cancer-free, but in 2015 he said he was further diagnosed with colorectal cancer and was continuing to pursue a path to healing through marijuana, consuming it “like crazy”.
In 2016, he claimed to be almost cancer free, and said that hemp oil, cannabis and a special healthy diet are all responsible for his recovery, combined with the conventional treatments of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Tommy Chong’s ability to fight cancer using some natural methods, along with the help of cannabis, is an inspiration to us all, especially those who are enduring a similar battle.
Chong contributes to Cannabis Culture Magazine extremely often, and he even holds a seat on the advisory board for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Tommy Chong – The Roundup
Although this talented entertainer, musician, comedian, entrepreneur and activist may have had a tumultuous past, ultimately Tommy Chong has acted as a massive influence on the world of cannabis, always standing up for his beliefs and support of legalization and open marijuana use for all. He is an inspiration for many involved in the herb scene, primarily for his hard work and determination to follow his dreams and produce a whole lot of laughs along the way. We hope you not only found this article to be entertaining, but also educational and informative. It is important to remember that the consumption of cannabis is the sole responsibility of the user, and discretion should always be taken.