Saturday, 2 January 2016

Remembering Dal Richards

The King of Swing Dal Richards died just days before his 98th birthday
While many of us were getting ready to countdown the minutes to the start of 2016, one of Vancouver's icons passed away.

Dal Richards was a big band leader who had performed at 79 consecutive New Year's Eve gigs. He missed witnessing his 80th when he passed at 11.41pm on December 31 at 97.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the King of Swing about 10 years ago in his loft downtown that was full of memorabilia from performing for decades. But what I remember most about him was how full of energy he was even then in his 80s.

He may have physically moved slower, and hearing not so good, but his mind was still very sharp and had quite vivid memories; unfortunately I cannot recount them for you, only that he used to perform at the top of Hotel Vancouver from 1940 that was broadcast live on CBC Radio.

Richards performing with Lorraine McAllister in 1958
"It's Saturday night, at the CBC presents the music of Dal Richards and his Orchestra from the Panorama Roof," he recounted. "High atop the Hotel Vancouver, overlooking the twinkling harbour lights of Canada's gateway to the Pacific, it's music by the band at the top of the town."

How he got into music was really by accident.

Richards was born and raised in Vancouver, and was named after the doctor who delivered him, Dr Dallas Perry.

When Richards was a boy he fell while holding his slingshot and the prong gouged out his left eye. It was replaced by a glass eye, but to recuperate he had to spend long periods in the dark and he became despondent.

Dr Perry suggested the boy learn an instrument and he took to the clarinet. The rest, literally is history. It was during this time he became exposed to jazz and was hooked.

By the end of high school he had his own band and played his first New Year's Eve gig in 1935 and never really stopped working in one capacity or another.

His secret to long life?

"Well, if you find something you like doing in life, pursue it with your heart. That is what I've done with music. I found that it was my love, so I enveloped my life totally."

Richards leaves behind his wife Muriel, and a daughter Dallas with singer Lorraine McAllister, who died in 1984.

Thank you Dal for your boundless energy, optimism and humour, and of course your fabulous music!

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