VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Celebrated big band leader Dal Richards died last night at age 97.
Known as Vancouver’s “King of Swing,” Richards performed on 78 consecutive New Year’s Eves. Last night was the first time since 1936 Richards stayed home, due to health issues.
Richards died at home at 11:41 p.m. yesterday with his wife and family by his side. He would have turned 98 on January 5th.
“I’d known him over the years,” says legendary Vancouver DJ and friend of Richards, Red Robinson. What an amazing career the man had. The big-band era dies — he’d been 25 years at the roof at the Hotel Vancouver… the next thing that happens is he’s out of work. What does he do? He goes to BCIT, signs up for a hotel management course, and starts working in hotels.”
“I think the reason for his longevity is he never gave up.”
Robinson has fond memories of Richards, but one in particular stands out:
“We were at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Commodore Ballroom downtown and I was the MC. I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, here’s a man who has a lot of knowledge of the Commodore.’ Dal steps up to the microphone in front of a massive crowd of people there to celebrate the anniversary. Dal looks around and says, ‘So, the Commodore is 75. Oh, to be 75 again.’ He had a great wit.”
“He is basically a BC legend. There’s no question about it.”
Richards was a recipient of the order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, and was granted the Freedom of the City by Vancouver City Council in 2005. He is also a member of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Audio: Legendary Vancouver DJ Red Robinson speaks to NEWS 1130, reflecting on Dal Richards’ life and legacy
Dawn Chubai with Breakfast Television has performed with the Dal Richards Orchestra for the past eight years. “It’s been an incredible honour and privilege to be able to be one of the greatest band leaders that I’ve ever worked with and certainly, a legend here in Vancouver.”
“He had this sense of gratitude for everything he’s had here in Vancouver and throughout his life. He always said music saved his life.”
She says Dal made a connection with the audience, whether he was on stage or not.
“The music was a thing that truly bound him to the people that loved him over the years, whether they saw him perform personally, or if they saw him in the street. People felt special being in his presence… He never made anyone feel more special than when he looked you in the eye and he just even said hello.”
She calls the fact that he died on New Year’s Eve “poetic.”
“I know that he didn’t want to perform unless he was at his peak. And that’s why they took a break this year. It really was poetic — ‘It’s New Year’s Eve… I’m Mr. New Year’s Eve… I’m going to go out.'”