Country music legend Ronnie Prophet, who had 26 hit singles in Canada, five charting in the U.S. on Billboard and hosted several television shows, died Friday (March 2) in Florida from cardiac and kidney failure.
“With a very heavy heart, but with so many fond memories, so very sad to hear the legendary Ronnie Prophet passed away this morning at the age of 80,” posted family spokesperson Dave Bancroft on Prophet’s Facebook page.
“The Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member was probably the most gifted Canadian country music entertainer to ever hit any stage. Chet Atkins once said Ronnie put on the greatest one-man show he had ever seen. My sincere and deepest condolences to Glory-Anne Prophet, the rest of his family, friends and fans. Godspeed, my friend, and thanks so much for the music, the laughs, the interviews and the lessons.”
Prophet’s wife, singer Glory-Anne Carriere, with whom he performed and recorded with as a duo and married in 1986, made her own post on her personal Facebook page:
“There are no words to express the heartache of losing my best friend and the love of my life. Ronnie’s sense of humor has sustained me through the years no matter the circumstances even to the very last. Chet Atkins music was playing softly in the background till he peacefully left us for his heavenly home this morning at 8:40,” she wrote.
“He loved life, + friends, family + his fans were so important to him. His passion for music was part of who he was and it was always his wish to keep people smiling wherever he went. Thank you for all the kind and encouraging words. I will continue to read them and they will help my grieving heart of losing him but knowing that he was loved and will be missed by others. God bless you all.”
Born Ronald Lawrence Victor Prophet the day after Christmas in Hawkesbury, Ontario, he was raised on the family’s farm near Calumet, Quebec, and followed in the footsteps of his second cousin, country singer-songwriter Orval Prophet, who became a million-selling artist.
Ronnie started singing at age 7 and playing guitar at age 10. He made his debut at age 15 in Ottawa on CFRA’s country music show, The Happy Wanderers. At 17, he moved to Montreal, where he sang at various clubs. In the early ’60s, he relocated to America, working in New York, Fort Lauderdale and eventually setting up in Nashville in 1969. There he performed at his eponymous nightclub, Ronnie Prophet’s Carousel Club, for more than 16 years, all the while touring worldwide with such names as Kenny Rogers, Perry Como, Mel Tillis, George Jones and Charley Pride.
In the ’70s, he became a household name when he hosted CBC’s Country Roads (1973), then CTV’s The Ronnie Prophet Show (1974) and Grand Old Country (1975-1980). He was known for his one-man shows, combining songs, comedy, impersonations and his guitar prowess. Guests on his shows included Dolly Parton, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr., Crystal Gayle and Don Everly. Prophet also appeared on other people’s shows, including Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Alan Thicke and David Frost.
From 1973 to 1992, Prophet had 26 charting country singles in Canada and a few AC hits. Five songs ranked on Billboard charts from 1975 to 1977, beginning with “Sanctuary” and followed by “Shine On,” “It’s Enough,” “Big Big World” and “It’s Ain’t Easy Lovin’ Me.” He also had a half-dozen hits with his wife.
Throughout his career, he put out more than two dozen albums for many different labels: RCA, Cachet, Vera Cruz, Audiograph, Prophet and, with Glory-Anne, Book Shop.
He earned two Juno Awards, both for country male vocalist in 1978 and 1979; Big Country Awards for outstanding performance, country male singer in 1976 and 1980; and the CCMA award for 1984’s entertainer of the year. Grand Old Country received the Big Country Award as top Canadian country TV show in 1976, 1977 and 1979. Prophet also co-hosted the CCMAs from 1987 to 1989 and in 1999 was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Upon learning of his death, the CCMA tweeted: “The country music community is mourning the loss of a true entertainer, Ronnie Prophet. Inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999, Ronnie will always be an icon for Canadian country music. Our thoughts are with his wife, Glory Anne, and family.”
The Juno Awards tweeted: “Sad to hear of Ronnie Prophet’s passing. He was the Country Male Vocalist of the Year JUNO Award winner in 1978 and 1979. Rest in Peace Ronnie.”
Country artists also paid their respects.
Michelle Wright tweeted: “Thank you Ronnie for all the years of entertainment. You’re a one of a kind. Rest In Peace. The Oak Ridge Boys said: “Rest In Peace old friends Don Storms and Ronnie Prophet…. Brand New Stars Up in Heaven Tonight.”