Métis musician and TV host Ray St. Germain, dubbed 'Winnipeg's Elvis,' dies at 83 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Métis musician and TV host Ray St. Germain, dubbed 'Winnipeg's Elvis,' dies at 83

Musician Ray St.Germain is shown in a handout photo. St. Germain, the singer-songwriter and television personality nicknamed "Winnipeg's Elvis" for his uncanny vocal likeness to the King, has died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Manitoba Metis Federation **MANDATORY CREDIT**
Original Publication Date June 26, 2024 - 10:11 AM

TORONTO - Ray St. Germain, the singer-songwriter and television personality nicknamed "Winnipeg's Elvis" for his uncanny vocal likeness to the king of rock 'n' roll, has died.

The Manitoba Métis Federation confirmed his death and his family said on social media that the 83-year-old died of Parkinson's disease at a local care centre on Tuesday.

St. Germain built a name for himself in several corners of Canadian entertainment and while he was perhaps best known as host of the nationally syndicated music program "Big Sky Country," his legacy as an advocate for Métis culture also resonates.

"I've made many recordings but no big hits," he wrote in his 2005 memoir titled "I Wanted to Be Elvis, So What Was I Doing in Moose Jaw?"

"I've played pubs, clubs, lounges, fairs, rodeos, festivals and wherever they needed entertainment, including countless charity gigs.... I have a lot of mugs."

St. Germain started his music career at age 14 in the country band the Rhythm Ranch Boys, first playing the accordion and singing, and later adopting the guitar with a little inspiration from Elvis.

His first television appearance was on the cross-Canada singing competition "Talent Caravan" in 1958, where he won the local series by singing Billy Grammer's "Gotta Travel On."

As he grew into adulthood, St. Germain hit the road with shows across Canada, later joining guitar virtuoso Lenny Breau in the Mississippi Gamblers.

Some of his earliest singles instantly drew comparisons to Elvis, particularly his debut "She's a Square," where he imitates the U.S. singer's famous growl.

After a stint in Toronto, St. Germain returned to Winnipeg to host CBC's "Music Hop Hootenanny" from 1964 to 1966.

When that show was cancelled, CBC continued to hire him as a guest host on programs that included "Show of the Week" and "In Person," where he welcomed rising stars Sylvia Tyson, Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot.

St. Germain found his groove hosting music programs on various TV and radio networks in the decades that followed, including the two-hour radio show "Métis Hour x2" which he helmed for two decades until his retirement in 2022.

He was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

St. Germain also put significant effort into boosting Métis culture. The Manitoba Métis Federation credits his song "The Métis" with helping him earn an Aboriginal Order of Canada in 1985 and before then, his 1973 release "I'm Mighty Proud I'm Métis" became an anthem for the Red River Métis Nation.

"Not many people were proud to be Métis then," MMF president David Chartrand recalled Wednesday at a press conference to reflect on St. Germain's influence.

"They were hiding their identity and the nation was not yet united as it is today. Ray, who he was, wanted to express his feelings and pride of being who he truly was — a proud Métis man."

But his Métis roots were not always known to him, his wife Glory said at the press conference.

"When he grew up it was hidden, his parents didn't tell him because it was hard for Métis people to express themselves and who they were," she said.

When he learned of his ties to the community, he "wanted to make a difference," she added. One of those efforts involved encouraging fellow Métis musicians to appear on the programs he hosted.

Earlier this month, a road in Winnipeg's St. Vital neighbourhood was honorarily named Big Sky Country Way to recognize the show that ran for 13 years, and St. Germain's cultural impact.

At the event, St. Germain performed publicly for the final time, delivering a rendition of Presley's "It's Now or Never" from his wheelchair.

"Yeah, I wanted to be Elvis when I was younger but I wouldn't trade my life for his," he wrote in the epilogue of his memoir.

"Besides, he never got to stay at the Harwood Hotel in Moose Jaw."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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