Wednesday, May 30, 2012

King of Swing

On January 5, 1918 was an auspicous day for Vancouver and big band music. For that was the day that the legendary Dallas (Dal) Murray Richards was born - a future Canadian big band leader who became known as the King of Swing.
Richards' saxophone and clarinet was first heard in the Sandy DeSantis and Stan Paton bands but it was with his own 11-piece band and the unknown young Juliette that Richards first became known. As I have written before, Richards' band was booked to play a six-week engagement to replace Matt Kenney and his Western Gentlemen - who happened to be the leading dance band at the time. The gig was at the Hotel Vancouver. That temporary gig turned into a twenty-five year appearance and a musical legend. (He has also played the Orpheum more times than he can remember)

Dal formed his first band as a kid after hearing Benny Goodman on the radio. At the age of 15 he played clarinet in the Kitsilano Boys Band, which was led by Arthur Delamont. After graduating Magee High School, Richards went to work as musician in clubs. He worked part time at the White Rock's Blue Moon Room playing saxophone. It was while working as a sideman at the Palomar Ballroom for Sandy DeSantis that Dal Richards' career was set. He was asked one day if he could lead the band and he did.

But by 1965 the music industry was changing and the big band style was no longer drawing in the audiences it once was. So Richards changed his career path and studied hospitality management at BCIT.

Fortunately in the mid-80s interest in the big band sound was revived and Richards was able to return to his love of being a working musician.

Dal Richards and his bands played at the opening of the Vogue Theatre in 1941; the opening of Empire Stadium in 1954;the played at the ceremonies that ushered the BC Lions into the CFL; they opened the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on July 5, 1959, in 1983 Dal's band played at the opening of the Vancouver Art Gallery at its present location as well as opening the Vancouver's Trade and Convention Centre in 1987.

And Dal is still going strong. He hosts an hour long radio show that features music from the 1930s, 40s and 50s on 650 AM. He still leads his band, in fact he has gigs set up for today, tomorrow and Saturday. (I look at the calendar at I also see him on TV in a commercial. He may be 94 years old but he is showing no signs of slowing down.

There is so  much information on this great entertainer and I don't have the room to tell all of it. I have also gleaned the information from many different sites.

If you are interested in seeing Dal Richards perform, visit his website and check the calender or book him for an event.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you! That was inspiring. As a displaced Vancouverite I look so forward to your posts, as a reminder of the city I love and the many treasures it holds. After living there for 47 years I got to know almost every inch of it, but I truly regret that I never got to see Dal Richards in performance, and probably never will. Keep up the fascinating work!