Ronnie Prophet, dubbed "the entertainer's entertainer" had a nearly lifelong career in country music as a guitar player, singer and television host. Mr. Prophet, who died on March 2 at the age of 80, performed with some of the biggest names in country music – Chet Atkins, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, the Oak Ridge Boys – and deftly held his own.
"He could do it all," says country musician Jim Stafford, a long-time friend, of Mr. Prophet's numerous skills.
He was a prolific recording artist with numerous hits in Canada and the United States, including Sanctuary, No Holiday in L.A. and The Phantom of the Opry. He also collaborated on several duets, including If This is Love and I'm Glad We're Bad at Something, with Glory-Anne Carriere, whom he later married.
He received four Juno nominations for Country Male Vocalist of the Year, winning the prize in 1978 and 1979. The Canadian Country Music Association named him both Entertainer of the Year and Country Music Duo of the year (with Ms. Prophet) in 1984, and he was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
He hosted various country-music variety shows on television in Canada in the 1970s and 80s. Even when he wasn't performing on stage, he was performing.
"When Ronnie walked into a room, he made everybody laugh," long-time friend Dave Bancroft says. "He made sure everybody was okay." That approach earned him the nickname "the country Don Rickles."
He was so devoted to performing that in 2010, on one of his last tours in Canada, he had not been feeling well for days, with chest pain and shortness of breath. A doctor with him on tour suggested Mr. Prophet may have had a heart attack and should go to the hospital.
This was before Mr. Prophet was to go onstage in Peterborough, Ont. "I feel fine," he announced to his crew. "I'm going to do the show."
While his team wrung their hands backstage, Mr. Prophet delivered what his wife recalls as "the best show he did on the whole tour."
After he left the stage, he got into an ambulance and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was diagnosed as having had a major heart attack. He was then sent by ambulance to Toronto for further treatment.
Mr. Prophet's dynamic performances were legendary. For many years, he did daily shows with his wife in Branson, Mo., a hub of country-music live shows.
He'd do silly things like dress up with a mask and cape for The Phantom of the Opry. He even made himself a horse costume out of wire (a crew member helped with the sewing) and he'd get right inside it for the song Horses Scare the Hell Out of Me. He'd use a crutch and put a boot on it to dress up like a three-legged man for another song.
While he had a basic show and set list, he'd often ad lib and come up with something new – which catered to the many fans who would see multiple shows.
"There was always room for him to be silly," Ms. Prophet recalls. Frequently, a crew member would go backstage in the middle of the show, laughing his head off. "What did he do this time?" the rest of the crew would ask.
Ronald Lawrence Vincent Prophet was born on Dec. 26, 1937, in Hawkesbury, Ont., as there was no hospital nearer to the Prophet family farm in Calumet, Que. Parents Victor and Elsie (née Gauley) had two much older children, eldest Elvin and daughter Joy. (Ronnie was the second cousin of country musician Orval Prophet, who also grew up in Calumet.)
Ronnie apparently was a skinny little thing who ate mainly oatmeal. He started singing at the age of 7 – his father died when he was that age as well – and picked up the guitar at 10. By 15, he was playing on the country-music show The Happy Wanderers on Ottawa radio station CRFA. Two years later, he moved to Montreal to play in clubs.
While still building his career, he married young, in 1958. He and his wife, Jeanne (née Lalonde), had a son named Tony that same year – he also went on to be a professional musician – and another son, Jimmy, was born in 1964.
He also began releasing albums, including an instrumental record in 1963. By the seventies, he had charting hits in Canada and the United States, including San Diego, Sanctuary and It Ain't Easy Loving Me.
Mr. Prophet spent a lot of time in the United States in those years and in 1969 set up a home in Nashville. He later bought a club and renamed it Ronnie Prophet's Carousel Club. He played there frequently.
In 1973, he hosted CBC-TVs Country Roads, a short-lived variety show that had Mr. Prophet, among other tasks, doing the voices for a puppet frog and duck. The Ronnie Prophet Show then had a stint in 1974, also on CBC.
He got a record deal with RCA in 1975 and moved over to CTV to host Grand Old Country, which had a long and successful run. In its final season in 1980-81, it was renamed The Ronnie Prophet Show. In the later eighties, he hosted Rocky Mountain Inn and Ronnie 'n The Browns.
The early eighties proved a difficult time for Mr. Prophet. His first marriage ended and, in January, 1981, his long-time collaborator Cecil (Cy) True, a TV producer and director, died in a fire at Toronto's Inn on the Park hotel.
Mr. Prophet had visited Mr. True at the office he'd set up in the hotel, and said: "It's lovely, but if there's a fire, you're dead." Glory-Anne Prophet says her husband remembered saying that and "it haunted him for many years."
She met her future husband that same year, when she joined one of his tours. He was friendly, but also quite focused. When they ran into each other backstage the night before she joined the tour, he gave her a hug and welcomed her. "And if you're not ready by 8 a.m. you have to find your way to the next city."
A year later, the two recorded their first song together, and released several more before their marriage in 1986.
In 1997, the couple moved to Branson. For a time, they did daily shows there from 9:30 a.m. to noon. They performed live regularly in Branson for 10 years.
In 2015, they retired and moved to Tavares, Fla.
Although he lived most of his adult life in the United States, Mr. Prophet always stayed connected to Canada. He and his wife would often spend their limited vacation time near Calumet. "He loved the Laurentians," Ms. Prophet says. He is buried at a cemetery near the family farm.
Mr. Prophet was a high-energy person who once jumped off his tour bus in Quebec to hunt for four-leaf clovers with his nieces and nephews. One of his hobbies in later adult life was lawn care: He adored his riding mower.
Ms. Prophet says the best description of her husband of 37 years came from Mr. Stafford in a recent phone call: "Ronnie was so full of mischief mixed with a little bit of fairy dust. He could get away with anything."
Before his death, Mr. Prophet was suffering from numerous health concerns, including heart problems, and had also contracted a serious flu. He leaves his wife, two sons, three step-children and 12 grandchildren.