Thirty years ago, King Ganam was awarded the first-ever Saskatchewan Country Music Association (SCMA) Legends and Legacy Award.
As he accepted the award, a young fiddler stood behind him, clad in white tennis shoes.
That fiddler was Donny Parenteau.
Since then, he’s travelled the world and appeared on stage with some of the biggest country music acts on the planet. He’s played the fiddle on albums that went multi-platinum and performed on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
He’s represented Saskatchewan musicians at the Olympics and performed for the country on Canada Day.
Now, his career has come full circle.
Saturday, during the first-ever virtual celebration of the SCMA awards, the Legends and Legacy Award was given to Donny Parenteau.
The SCMA was also the first organization to award Parenteau, honouring him as the best fiddler in 2003.
This award, though, celebrates a career of achievement. It honours a solo artist or group, organization or other individuals with roots in Saskatchewan who, during their lifetime, has made a significant contribution to the promotion of Saskatchewan country music.
Parenteau’s parents bought him his first guitar at age 12. He began playing the fiddle when he was 14. He told his parents that someday, he would play all over the world and perform at the Grand Ole Opry.
He joined the Tradewinds and played with them until he was 19, winning fiddle contests and talent shows.
He eventually met Brian Sklar, and then, Neal McCoy.
He was on stage at a show at Dallas Motor Speedway in front of 250,000 people.
But after years on the road, he decided to return home. In the city he was born and raised — Prince Albert Saskatchewan — he launched a music school. Prior to the pandemic, he was still a regular performer in Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“As I sit here today, I’m just booming with pride right now,” he said during the virtual presentation.
Speaking to the Herald Monday, Parenteau said the experience was “absolutely incredible.”
He issued a huge thank you to the people who nominated him.
“To receive that same award (as King Ganam), it’s like wow, it’s an incredible feeling.”
Since Saturday, congratulations have been pouring in.
“I couldn’t keep up with them on the first day,” Parenteau said with a laugh. “Very, very grateful for all of the congratulations and a big thank you to everybody.”
Two key figures in Parenteau’s career, Sean Carson and McCoy, shared video messages congratulating him on the win.
“My friend, you’ve worked so hard for this,” Carson said.
“I was there through the years, I watched you work hard and chase your dream.”
He quoted one of Parenteau’s quotes back to him.
“Anything is possible if you have a dream, you work hard and believe in yourself.”
McCoy told the SCMA that “y’all made the right decision there,” to give the award to Parenteau.
“Nobody deserves it more,” he said. “You have stuck with it, son, and done what you do best — loving people and playing fiddle.”
To have those two share messages of support, Parenteau said, was “really, a very cool feeling.
“When I first started to play music professionally, Sean Carson was there. When I took my career to the next level and toured the world, that was Neal McCoy.”
While the award celebrates a lifetime legacy, Parenteau has no plans to slow down.
Live performances may not be happening due to COVID-19, but Parenteau has kept himself busy with his music school, which he’s moved online. He even has a student in Illinois. He also released a single, Never Came Down Again. The song is receiving airplay across the country, and when the pandemic is over, Parenteau hopes to be able to travel to support the song’s popularity.
Still, Prince Albert remains his home.
“Prince Albert has always been home. Prince Albert is where I was born and raised and this is where I plan to continue to stay right through, as long as I‘m breathing,” he said.
“That’s why Prince Albert is so important to me. I love Prince Albert, I love Saskatchewan and I love the area.”
He also loves music.
“I’ll continue doing this until the day I die,” he said.
“Nothing is going to ever stop me from doing what I love to do — what I have a passion for doing. That’s why I keep doing it.”
Anyone interested in learning more about Parenteau or the Donny Parenteau School of Music can visit https://www.donnyparenteau.com/
Country at the Creek, CJNR Melfort and Janaya Trudel also winners
While Donny Parenteau may have taken home one of the biggest prizes at the digital SCMA awards Saturday, he wasn’t the only local act to come home victorious.
Country at the Creek, celebrated annually at the Ness Creek site near Big River, Sask, won music festival of the year.
This year’s festival was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Melfort’s Country CJNR won for best secondary market and its director Cal Gratton got the nod for music director of the year.
Janaya Trudel of the Trudel Family and the roots act Jay & Jo took home the award for fiddle player of the year — the same award Parenteau took home the first time he won an SCMA.
Jay & Jo also debuted their first music video during the online festival, for their single Youth.
While not from Prince Albert, one other act that came home big winners Saturday has a local connection.
The Hunter Brothers won Fans Choice Entertainer of the Year, Single of the Year for Lost, Album of the Year for State of Mind and Group of the Year.
One of the five brothers, JJ Hunter, briefly played for the Prince Albert Raiders during the 2000-01 season. He posted 28 goals and 45 points in 58 games before splitting his time between the ECHL and AHL.
The Hunter Brothers’ song Born and Raised was used prior to every Raiders game during their championship 2018-19 season.
The full list of winners is below:
Fans Choice Entertainer of the Year
Group Of The Year
Single Of The Year
Hunter Brothers – Lost
Songwriter Of the Year
Somebody Like That – Composers: Tenille Arts, Alex Kline & Allison Veltz (Performed by Tenille Arts)
Album Of the Year
Hunter Brothers – State of Mind
Video Of the Year
Some People – J.J. Voss (Director: Joel Stewart and Pre-Historic Productions)
Emerging Artist Of the Year
Interactive Artist or Group Of the Year
Roots Artist Of the Year
Music Festival Of the Year
Country at the Creek (Big River)
Music Venue Of the Year
The Happy Nun Cafe (Forget, SK)
Country Music Person Of the Year
TV, Radio or Online Show Of the Year
Pickin’ It Country – Reg Wilke (CJTR FM)
Radio Station Of the Year – Major Market
Saskatoon 92.9 The Bull (92.9 FM)
Radio Station Of the Year – Secondary Market
Melfort FM Country CJVR (105.1FM)
On Air Personality Of the Year – Major Market
Reg Wilke (CJTR FM)
On Air Personality Of the Year – Secondary Market
Matt Ryan (CJNS FM)
Music Director Of the Year – Major Market
Jason Lee (CJWW)
Music Director Of the Year – Secondary Market
Cal Gratton (CJVR-FM)
Guitar Player Of the Year
Bass Player Of the Year
Keyboard Player Of the Year
Drummer Of the Year
Fiddle Player Of the Year
Specialty Instrument Player of the Year
Record Producer Of the Year
Recording Studio Of the Year
Bart McKay Production
Legends and Legacy Award
SCMA Youth Bursary
SIGA Indigenous Artist Development Bursary
Yvonne St. Germaine