Johnny Reid backstage with Ron Sakamoto. Pic supplied.
Johnny Reid backstage with Ron Sakamoto. Pic supplied.

The Incomparable Ron Sakamoto Earns Walt Grealis Juno Honour

His friends call him “Sak” and his rep has earned him honours, distinction and respect from here to eternity, and next year the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences will present the Lethbridge-based impresario with the ultimate honour as the 2023 recipient of the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award.

His 60+ year career in showbiz, booking, managing and promoting acts began when Eight Days A Week hit the charts, starting off running his own nightclub in Medicine Hat. When that became too easy, he opened a second club in Lethbridge and his career just grew from there. At the core of the backstage superstar is an energetic man who’s known for sharp attention to detail, joyfulness and honour. Sakamoto’s word on a deal is as good as gold and better than any contract.

Today, against all advice, he continues to operate out of Lethbridge where he runs a small empire of businesses that involve booking, promoting, recording and managing acts. He’s just come off the road promoting over 100 shows by Johnny Reid that started in 2021. Live Nation toured Bryan Adams nationwide, except in Lethbridge where he alone had the show. He has an understanding with the events' promoter, and counts manager Bruce Allen and Adams as longstanding allies and perhaps even best of friends. These are friendships that go back to when Bruce was managing BTO; before Loverboy, and when Bryan was still a brat with a dream that started to realize itself when he replaced Nick Gilder on vocals in Sweeney Todd.

Sakamoto started booking concerts before Kiss was born, and he booked them before (and after) they became famous.

He also owns and operates an 18-hole golf course. And yes, of course, it's in Alberta–and within striking distance from the tee-off of Lethbridge’s city core.

The Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award recognizes individuals whose work has significantly impacted the growth and development of the Canadian music industry. The award is named after the RPM publisher and Juno Awards co-founder. It will be presented on March 11 at the 2023 Juno Opening Night awards which is annually presented by Music Canada.

In the CARAS press release, Sak is quoted as saying: “When you love what you do, you forget that you’re working. I am so fortunate to have had such a fulfilling career working with both international acts and homegrown Canadian talent for the last 50 years. Year-over-year, it’s incredible to watch Canada’s country music scene evolve and make waves globally.”

He's a guy everyone has good things to say about. He’s one of the last independent concert promoters in the country. One of a few still left in North America.

As a promoter (and his portfolio extends far beyond this), Sakamoto joins Michael Cohl and Donald Tarlton on the rarified honours list that was struck in 1984.

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