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This article was published 28/9/2019 (522 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canada has lost its best-known Metis radio personality — Winnipeg’s William (Wild Bill) Flamond.
The deep-voiced announcer who came from humble Manitoba beginnings interviewed prime ministers, acted alongside legends such as Tantoo Cardinal and Chief Dan George and shared the stage with country stars like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Winnipeg’s own Ray St. Germain.
"We worked together and knew each other and respected each other," St. Germain said Thursday. He remembered Flamond "travelling around with Grand Ole Opry shows."
Flamond, 74, who died Tuesday, was remembered by a legion of loyal listeners at NCI-FM where he hosted the afternoon show for years and worked as its news director. They were sharing their condolences this week on social media and recalling his "amazing" timbre and being a "long time voice for the North."
"It’s like he lived several lives," said David McLeod, chief executive officer of Native Communications Inc., who got to know Flamond when he started at NCI 25 years ago.
"He’s had such a varied career," McLeod marvelled. In addition to announcing, performing, emceeing and acting, Flamond took on leadership roles when he was called to serve, he said. "He was very motivated, and very well spoken with a deep, authoritative voice. A lot of people recognized that and he was called upon to chair a lot of committees and lead the way."
NCI-FM compiled a list of Flamond’s roles as an elected or appointed official, including serving as president of the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre in Winnipeg, Indian and Métis tenants association, a strategist with the National Indian Brotherhood, regional vice-president of the Manitoba Metis Federation for Thompson, and as a director of federal-province relations with the Manitoba Métis Senate.
"He was the right man at the right time when a lot of development was being done with Métis rights," said McLeod.
Flamond was born Nov. 14, 1944, in The Pas and began his radio career in 1962 in Dauphin. He worked at stations in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Arizona, and Texas as program director, news director, sports director, music director and public relations director.
During that time, he interviewed two prime ministers (John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau) and covered the Royal Family on the Manitoba leg of their Centennial Tour of Canada in 1967.
Flamond was an announcer and a showman with a deep voice and a deep knowledge of classic country music who befriended many of its superstars, said McLeod. "You can’t underestimate how many connections he had."
He toured with George Jones and was nominated in 2003 for the Golden Voice Award in the Radio Personality of the Year category in Nashville, said McLeod. Flamond interviewed legends like (Tall Texan) Billy Walker and wife Bettie, (Whisperin’) Bill Anderson, Stonewall Jackson and Porter Wagoner. He had a voice for radio and a face for film, appearing in Guns For Life with George, and starring alongside Cardinal as her husband in 1982’s New Day — New Horizon.
"She dropped by the station one time when Bill was here," said McLeod, who remembers listening to them joke around on the air. "He said ‘Oh, my wife is visiting.’"
Flamond was just as welcoming with listeners who came for tours of the radio station, recalled McLeod, "particularly students from the North. Literally busloads of kids from the North would come through."
This week, many of them took to social media to remember Flamond, who left NCI in 2008 after suffering a heart attack.
The larger-than-life personality influenced them and left his mark on the industry, said McLeod.
"In terms of Indigenous broadcasters and as a Métis broadcaster, he led the way. He was showcasing to a lot of younger announcers that there’s a lot of possibilities if you work hard and develop your skills."
Flamond died in Winnipeg, where he lived by himself in an apartment downtown, said McLeod.
A family member said there will be no funeral, which was in keeping with his wishes.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.