Country music legend and Métis icon Ray St. Germain has died

Singer-songwriter, TV host and Métis country music legend Ray St. Germain has died.

The 83-year-old died on Tuesday at Deer Lodge Centre, surrounded by family and dear friends, after several years of living with Parkinson’s disease, his wife, Glory, posted on Facebook.

“I was blessed to have 50 years with my amazing husband Ray St. Germain. Together, we spent our lives filled with music, love, and laughter with our five children,” the post stated.

“We are deeply grateful to all the musicians who have shared the stage with Ray, contributing to his unforgettable performances and his television series. Your collaboration has not only brought joy to our lives but has also been instrumental in recognizing his numerous awards throughout his illustrious career.”

A message on Facebook in memory of Ray St. Germain
Glory St. Germain’s Facebook post announced the death of her husband. (Glory St Germain/Facebook)

St. Germain died at 5:28 p.m., says a social media post by his daughter, Sherry.

“He was there when I came into the world and I was lucky enough to watch him go home,” she wrote.

“We will honour his legacy always. He was such an amazing father and husband to my mama.”

St. Germain was born July 29, 1940, in Winnipeg and emerged as a country and rockabilly musician in his mid-teens. He went on to perform alongside the likes of Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers and was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

The longtime promoter of Métis and Indigenous culture, affectionately dubbed by many as Winnipeg’s Elvis, was inducted into the Order of Manitoba, the province’s highest honour, in 2013.

St. Germain has also been inducted into the Aboriginal Order of Canada (1985), Order of the Sash — Saskatoon and Prince Albert (1986) and Manitoba Aboriginal Music Hall of Fame (2005). In 2018, he was presented with an honorary diploma by Red River College (now known as RRC Polytech), the highest honour given by the institution.

He performed three weeks ago, belting out a rendition of Elvis Presley’s song, It’s Now or Never, from his wheelchair at an honorary street renaming, to the applause of family, friends and fans.

St. Michael Road, in Winnipeg’s St. Vital neighbourhood, was given the honorary name Big Sky Country Way, in tribute to St. Germain and his nationally syndicated TV show that aired for 13 years.

St. Michael Road is where St. Germain grew up and where his childhood home still stands.

Up to a couple of years ago, St. Germain was still hosting Métis Hour X2, a two-hour radio show on Saturday mornings on NCI-FM Radio. He was behind the mic on that call-in program for 23 years.

During his early years in the music business, St. Germain teamed up with guitar virtuoso Lenny Breau, who also lived in Winnipeg at the time. They toured as the Mississippi Gamblers.

St. Germain eventually moved to Toronto but found little work, said a post on the Facebook page for the Manitoba Music Museum, written by Winnipeg music historian John Einarson.

St. Germain returned to Winnipeg and spent the next three years hosting CBC’s Music Hop, from 1964 through 1966. His backing band included Breau.

Side-by-side black-and-white photos of a young man singing
Photos of Ray St. Germain from the 1960s and 1970s showcase his longevity as a country music singer. (Submitted by David McLeod)

“We were stars back then, because there were only a couple of channels to choose from, and CBC was the channel to be on. I did guest appearances on shows like Juliette. That’s how I met Anne Murray, and we later did some TV specials together,” St. Germain said in the 2019 Manitoba Music Museum post by Einarson.

St. Germain went on to be host or an entertainer, often both, on more than 600 episodes across TV and radio programs, including My Kind of Country and then Ray St. Germain Country, for which he was writer, producer and host. The show, which also featured family members as regular performers, was later renamed Big Sky Country.

A funeral and celebration of life for St. Germain is set for July 6, with more details to come, Glory St. Germain posted in her Facebook tribute to her husband.