Vancouver’s Dal Richards has died at 97

Dal_Richards_(March_2009)DALLAS “DAL” RICHARDS, 97, of prostate cancer on Dec. 31 in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. A popular bandleader whose career spanned eight decades from the 1930s to the present. Long known as “Vancouver’s King of Swing,” his band had a New Year’s Eve engagement for 79 consecutive years (1935-2014). He hosted national radio and television shows and helped launch the careers of many talented young musicians (including Bria Skonberg). He was honored with the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and was inducted into the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Stash the Bottles!

The Dal Richards Orchestra had a 25-year engagement at the Panorama Roof in Vancouver, British Columbia. Every Saturday night the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would announce “High atop the Hotel Vancouver, overlooking the twinkling harbor lights of Canada’s gateway to the Pacific, it’s the music by the band at the top of the town.”

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Richards’ 10-piece band received $75 per show in 1940 and played from 9pm to midnight. Like other Vancouver clubs at that time, the Panorama Roof was a “bottle club.” It didn’t have a liquor license, so people would smuggle their bottle of booze in and hide them under the table.

The police had the obligatory walk-throughs periodically, Richard remembered. “The police would have to go through the lobby and past the bellman’s desk and up the elevator to get to the Roof. So the bellman would phone up to the Roof’s head waiter. He’d signal us, we’d play ‘Roll Out the Barrel,’ and everyone would hide their bottle.”

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Lew Shaw started writing about music as the publicist for the famous Berkshire Music Barn in the 1960s. He joined the West Coast Rag almost thirty years ago and has been a guiding light to this paper through the two name changes since then as we became The Syncopated Times.  47 of his profiles are collected in Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz. Volume two, containing profiles from 2013-2016 will be available on Amazon soon. He taps his extensive network of connections and friends throughout the traditional jazz world to bring us his Jazz Jottings column every month.

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