Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Orval Prophet

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Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Orval Prophet

Born: August 31, 1922 – Edwards, Ontario
Died: January 4, 1984 – Ottawa, Ontario

(by Larry Delaney)

Orval Prophet was affectionately dubbed “The Canadian Plowboy”, reflecting his Ottawa Valley farm-life upbringing and his musical roots. Orval originally performed as part of the Ottawa Valley groups Fiddler’s Fling and Mac Beattie & His Melodiers. Following his early success with his Decca recordings, Orval “Rex” Prophet toured across Canada with both Wilf Carter and Johnny Cash.

During his heyday, Orval Prophet’s live performances were typically filled with a touch of showmanship rarely seen with country music performers of the day… Orval would work a room using a 50-foot microphone cord, throwing one arm in the air, and shaking hands with patrons as he walked among his audience, never missing a beat in the song he was singing.

As a recording artist, Orval Prophet released albums on the Point, Caledon, Cascade, Columbia/Harmony, Birchmount, Broadland and Acclaim labels. Early career hit recordings from his Decca sessions included such memorable radio hits as: The Judgement Day Express, The Travellin’ Kind and I’m Going To Birmingham. His 1957 recording of Mademoiselle, released under the pseudonym Johnny Six, created international exposure and rivaled similarly styled hits of the day such as Hank Locklin’s Geisha Girl and the Bobby Helms classic, Fraulein. Orval charted 16 singles on Canada’s RPM Country charts, including his signature song, Mile After Mile, which was a #1 hit on Canadian radio in 1972. Orval Prophet was honoured with RPM’s Big Country Award for Outstanding Male Performer of the Year in 1978.

After recovering from heart surgeries in the early 1970’s, Orval resumed his recording career in projects orchestrated by producer Gary Buck and songwriter Dallas Harms, resulting in the release of several albums on Broadland Records and a series of nationally-charted singles including: Lisa Mae, Where Have All The Cowboys Gone and Ol’ Amos. The return to the Canadian country spotlight also resulted in guest appearances on numerous Canadian country TV shows.

In 1981, Orval Prophet recorded his final album, True Blue, produced in Nashville studios by Stan Campbell and released on Acclaim Records. Sadly, on January 4, 1984, Orval Prophet fell victim to a fatal heart attack at his home in Edwards, Ontario.

In 1999, Bear Family Records – a label based in Germany – recognized the international impact of Orval Prophet’s recording career, releasing the CD The Travellin’ Kind, which featured Prophet’s early recordings on the Decca Records label, including tracks recorded under the Johnny Six name.

Orval was the cousin of fellow Canadian Hall of Famer, Ronnie Prophet.

Orval Prophet was inducted into the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1985 and the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1989.