Vancouver's "King of Swing", Dal Richards, passed away shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve, a few days before his 98th birthday, following a battle with cancer.
It was the first time in nearly eight decades that Richards missed performing onstage to ring in the New Year; he played 79 consecutive New Year's Eve shows.
Dallas Murray Richards was named after Dr. Dallas Perry -- the doctor who delivered him at Vancouver General Hospital on January 5, 1918.
The big band musician was the recipient of numerous honours, including the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia, an International Presidents' Citation by Variety the Children's Charity, and lifetime achievement awards from Tourism Vancouver and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. He was a member of the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the BC Lions Wall of Fame in acknowledgement of his many years as musical director of the football team's half-time shows. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by BCIT and an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of British Columbia, and in 2005 was granted the Freedom of the City Award by Vancouver City Council.
Shortly after his 92nd birthday, Richards was selected to represent the citizens of downtown Vancouver to carry and run with the torch in the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay as it arrived in Vancouver.
A memorial service for Dal will be held on Saturday, January 9 at 2 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver. A reception limited to family, friends, and colleagues will follow.
We've read so many stories this week about Dal and his connections to Vancouver. And so, although written a few years ago, we felt it appropriate to share the following excerpt from "A Few Degrees of Dal Richards", a piece by our director of community engagement, Kevin Dale McKeown, published in The Independent Times in 2010:
"I had an interesting realization a few years ago while doing publicity for some long-forgotten event held in the plaza in front of the CBC building.
Dal Richards, who lives a few streets over from the CBC, came by for the event and I watched him as he sauntered across the plaza, dropped into a chair, changed his mind and strolled across the street to get a coffee, and then returned to his chair and got comfortable before the show.
Pretty unremarkable, except that Dal, as I realized in watching, moves through our city with the body language of someone ambling about his own living room. Not in any pretentious or self-aggrandizing way – and we’ve all seen those guys – but in a homey, comfortable guy-in-his slippers-and-favourite-sweater sort of way.
There is no place in Vancouver where Dal is not perfectly at home. And that just seems so right.
Dal’s return to the cover of the Independent Times (yes, he’s been here before) marks a personal record for your editor. It may be that I have been involved in more cover appearances by Dal than any other journalist or publicist.
Back in the early 80s as editor of the West Ender I featured Dal on that paper’s cover when he was managing the Devonshire Hotel. I was the publicist in the story when Dal played First Night 2000 at Science World and choreographed a cover shot for the Vancouver Sun. A couple of years ago Dal participated in a show at the derelict Pantages Theatre (in an ill-fated attempt to save that venue) that I produced, and there he was the day after, on the cover of 24 Hours.
And now here he is again. And no, I’m not on his payroll!
I tell this tale in part to illuminate the myriad ways that Dal Richards is entwined in the lives and stories of many, many Vancouverites like myself. I have never been more than a minor supporting character in the long-running saga of Dal Richards' life at the centre of our City, a grateful spear-carrier, as it were, and there are thousands of others who have a wealth of “I remember when Dal Richards …” stories that connect us all in a very few degrees of separation...
Personalities like [Dal Richards] are essential to the spiritual and cultural health of any community. They blaze our trails, cheer us on, and show us what is possible in a sometimes seemingly impossible world.
Thank you Dal, for everything you did, and every tune you played. You sure had "that swing."