The nephew of Emma Albani, Lionel Parent's father was a choir master in the town of Labelle in the Laurentians. It was in this small town, that Lionel was born in 1905. Around 1910, the family moved to Nicolet, near Trois-Rivières, where the young Lionel sang in the church choir. His parish priest, Georges Désilets, broadcast experimental radio programs on a small, homemade transmitter and Lionel sang for these broadcasts on several occasions. As a result, Lionel became one of the first Canadian singers to be heard on radio. Around 1914, the Parent family immigrated to New England, where they stayed some fifteen years. At nineteen, Parent performed in a presentation of the operetta Les Cloches de Corneville in Springfield, Massachusetts. Returning to Montréal in 1929, the young singer played the roles of the young lead in vaudeville theatre with his sister, the actress Manda Parent (1907-1992). He then became a member of the Troupe du bon vieux temps, directed by Mary Bolduc and Jean Grimaldi, and later worked as a master of ceremonies in cabarets in Québec City, Trois-Rivières and Montréal.
Parent's recording career started on October 20,1935 when he recorded a Tino Rossi hit, "Notre nid d'amour", for Herbert Berliner's Starr company. For the next four years, he performed other Tino Rossi hits and those of French stars of the period. But the occupation of France by the Germans made the French songs less accessible and Parent turned to an American repertoire. He wrote most of the French versions that he recorded, including "Je ne sourirai plus" ("I'll Never Smile Again"), "Ta photo" ("You Are My Sunshine"), "Je rêve à toi" ("I Dream of You"), "Toujours" ("Always") and "Symphonie" ("Symphony"). He also aired a daily, quarter-hour show on Montréal radio called "Lionel Parent chante" (CKAC, 1941-1944), where he sang some of his own compositions to support the war effort ("Nous sommes Canadiens", "La Mort du soldat canadien", "Braves Petits Marins"). He recorded some thirty "war songs", more, in fact, than the famous soldier Roland Lebrun. As westerns were in vogue at the time, some of the songs were adaptations of Gene Autry and other Hollywood cowboy's hits: "Goodbye, Little Darling, Goodbye" ("Adieu"), "Beautiful Girl of the Prairie" ("Courage") and "Cowboy Serenade" ("Rêve de soldat").
Between September 1942 and October 1944, Parent recorded under the pseudonyms Georges Sauvé and José Lasalle, likely because of the conflict between record companies and the American Musicians' Guild. During the same period, he also recorded a children's song series on Compo's Mignon label. Parent's recording career then continued under his own name until the end of 1946. With more than 190 recorded songs, Lionel Parent is the Québécois artist with the most recordings between 1935 and 1950.
Throughout the 1940s, Parent worked as real estate agent. At the end of the decade, he opened a restaurant and continued to give occasional radio performances. He died as a result of a traffic accident close to his home in Repentigny, on April 8, 1980.
For more information on Lionel Parent's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.
Robert Thérien, music researcher, Montréal