Born in Hawkesbury, Ontario on Boxing Day in 1937, Ronald Lawrence Victor Prophet grew up on the family farm across the Ottawa River in Calumet, Quebec in a musical family. His second cousin was Orval Prophet, an early pioneer in the formation of Canada’s country music industry. With music all around him, young Ronnie was soon adept at the guitar, as well as the piano and mandolin. He was performing in public at age 7, and made his radio debut at 15 on CBC Radio’s “The Happy Wanderers.”
From there he became a staple in and around the Ottawa Valley, and moved to Montreal by the early ’60s, and made his rounds on the region’s radio circuit (including a regular stint on “The Happy Wanderers”), as well as several appearances on CHLT TV Sherbrooke. With an established polished lounge act with a country flare, he toured cntral Canada and in the US, and signed with Globe Records (The Sptifires, The Beatlemen, Gene & The G-Notes, The Four Knights). Recorded in only a handful of takes, his first album, GUITAR INSTRUMENTALS was released in ’63.
By ’65 he was established enough in the US he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he further developed his stage act. Along with makeshift bands now and again in between his solo shows, he mixed music, comedy skits, and impersonations. His runs at Birk’s Hall, The Grand Bahama, and The Jolly Roger fuelled a string of live albums on the Trans World, Capri, and Art Records labels. Predominantly sold at the shows, they were predominantly covers of standards like “Ghost Riders In The Sky,” “King of the Road,” and “Jambalaya.” Occasionally they also showed a different element to his influences, with his interpretations on songs like The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “Bo Diddley,” and “Blueberry Hill.”
In ’67 he released the single “The Auctioneer” (a Leroy Van Dyke cover) b/w “Miracle of Springhill”, a song that would become a staple of his shows for the rest of his career on Apex Records. He moved to Nashville in late ’69, forming Prophet Records and releasing three albums in the early ’70s. With session players, they were mostly more covers. On FACES AND PHASES in 1973 the only track he wrote was co-penning “Love Love Love” with Stacey Jolie. The single “San Diego” became his first to make the top 40 in Canada, settling in at #36.
He bought The Carousel Club and made it his home away from home, literally – augmented with dates in the area – then later throughout the Vegas, Reno, and Tahoe circuit. He was still making regular trips back to Canada, and in ’74 CBC offered him his own variety show, following an appearance on The Tommy Hunter Show. Two years later he moved to CTV for seven seasons. That nearly a full decade made Prophet a staple on Canadian TV on “Country Roads,” “The Ronnie Prophet Show,” and “Grand Old Country,” which won several TV awards. His guest peformers on TV were a who’s who list of Nashville’s top stars – like George Jones, Dolly, Hank Jr, Mel Tillis, and Eddie Rabbitt, among others. It was also during this period Prophet introduced what would become his signature song to his act. Even though “Harold The Horny Toad” was never a single, the ballad of Harold and Gertrude became a trademark of his live shows, and showed up on his A NIGHT WITH RONNIE PROPHET album in ’75.
The added exposure helped lead to a deal with MCA, and he was teamed up with producer Harry Hinde for his self-titled major label debut in the spring of ’76. The lead-off “Sanctuary” immediately shot up the American country chart, peaking at #26. It turned out to be his highest charting single in the US, and was the first of five singles (all cracking the Canadian top 40), and the first of four throughout his career to make Billboard. He released a second album for MCA, RONNIE PROPHET COUNTRY. The lead single “It Ain’t Easy Lovin’ Me” was the only single to chart, peaking at #99.
It was during this period he also began playing Europe – a huge hit in England (including numerous appearances over the years at Wembley Festival of Country Music), Germany, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Along with appearances on BBC, several of his shows over the years also became TV specials. He also recorded a pair of US Air Force special EPs, taken from his appearances on the “Country Music Time” radio show with Rusty Adams and Jack Green & Jeannie Seally. In ’78 he also won the first of two consecutive Juno Awards, for Male Country Artist of the Year. Tee Vee Records kept him in the Canadian record stores, releasing the compilation, JUST FOR YOU in ’78, eventually selling 50,000 copies.
Following RCA’s ‘best of’ package THE HITS OF RONNIE PROPHET, he returned with THE PHANTOM in 1981. Recorded in Edmonton and released on Vera Cruz Records, it featured the singles, “The Phantom of the Opry” which peaked at #3 in Canada, and “Every Story In The Book” (#19), the album featured among the session players husband and wife team of One Horse Blue‘s Rocko Vaugeois and Mavis McCauley. He returned to the confines of Sundown Recorders in Edmonton for I NEED A LOVER a year later – which produced the two top 20 hits, the title track and “The Ex Superstar’s Waltz.”
Recorded in Nashville, Edmonton, and at Toronto’s Manta Sound with producers Mike Daniel and Jim Dowell, I’M GOING TO LOVE HIM OUT OF YOU before the end of the year. With songs totally from session writers, it featured the singles “Smooth Operator” and the title track, both which cracked Canada’s top 40. The live album, RONNIE PROPHET ALIVE was out next, just in time for the Christmas rush.
In ’82, his duet with wife Glory-Anne Carrierre (a native of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan), “Storybook Children” made the Canadian top 40, and they would record a string of albums together over the years. Collaborations with her over the years included several tracks to make the Canadian charts – including “If This Is Love” in ’84 and “I’m Glad We’re Bad At Something” a year later. He also walked out of the 1984 CCMA awards as Entertainer of the Year, and in ’85 was inducted into the Ottawa Country Music Hall of Fame.
He recorded a full album with Carrierre in ’84, and with four singles, SURE THING stayed on the radio for the next two years. After guesting on Ray Griff’s single, “Honest To Goodness Amigos” earlier in the year, he returned to RCA and the Nashville studios for a self-titled album in ’87. Six singles were released over the next year and a half, and five broke the top 30 in Canada. “Stealer of Hearts,” “Don’t Take To Heart,” “No Holiday in LA,” and “Fire In The Feeling” were points in critics’ argument it was some of his best material in years. He was rewarded with a CCMA nomination for Male Artist of the Year, and also released the Larry Coad novelty tune, “Gretzky The Great” on Shotgun Records that year.
The Eighties also secured Prophet as one of the most visible celebrities, lending his talents to a number of televised telethons across Canada. He was also back on the small screen hosting his own show for awhile, with “Rocky Mountain Inn” – shot out of Calgary.
His last album was PROPHET OF LOVE in 1991. Four singles were released, and although the title track, “The Feeling of Love,” and “Two Hearts” (a duet with Carrierre) made little headway, “I Won’t Be There” did make the top 40 in Canada. Now semi-retired by the mid ’90s, they packed up and moved to Wisonsin Dells, Wisconsin to work the showrooms in that area. By the end of the decade they were now living in Branson, Missouri, where they continued to perform individually, as well as a duo, at the Moe Bandy Theatre. Accolades continued to come Prophet’s way, including a special plaque of appreciation from a Korean War Veterans group, in light of his and Carrierre’s commitment to their annual benefit show.
Prophet passed away at the age of 80 on March 2, 2018 at his home in Tavares, Florida following cardiac and kidney failure.