WATCH: Looking back at legendary big band leader Dal Richards
Vancouver’s “King of Swing” has died.
Dallas ‘Dal’ Murray Richards passed away on New Year’s Eve at 11:41 p.m. Born in Vancouver in 1918, he was 97 years old when he died of natural causes in his Gastown home.
For the first time since 1936, Richards did not play at Vancouver’s New Year’s Eve show due to health problems. If he had, it would have been his 80th consecutive New Year’s Eve show.
The legendary bandleader has been honoured many times for his music and achievements and is a recipient of the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and was the first inductee into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Richards’ wife, Muriel Honey, told Global News that he died peacefully in her arms just minutes before the new year.
Raised in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, he graduated from Magee Secondary School in 1937. Richards was first heard in the Sandy DeSantis and Stan Paton bands before he formed his 11-piece band in 1940 and began performing steadily for the next 25 years at the Hotel Vancouver’s Panorama Roof.
When music tastes changed in the 1960s, Richards moved into hotel management. Eventually tastes shifted again and a renewed interest in swing and big band music emerged in the early 80s.
Richards continued to perform until shortly before his death in the Lower Mainland from the PNE band stand to the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.
Vancouver city mayor Gregor Robertson expressed his sadness over Richards’ passing.
“I was very saddened today to learn of the passing of legendary big band leader Dal Richards at the age of 97. Dal’s many decades of entertaining in Vancouver and far beyond our city long established him as the ‘King of Swing,” and he was awarded the Freedom of the City by Vancouver City Council,” Robertson said in a statement.
“His music enlivened Vancouver’s cultural scene in ways that will always be remembered, and I am tremendously grateful for his friendship, his inspiring commitment to music education, and deep contributions to our city’s vibrancy. Vancouver City Council and I would like to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
A memorial service for Richards will be at Christ Church Cathedral at 2 p.m. on Jan. 9
His death spurred many to social media to remember the Canadian legend.