Gordon Olson started the Vancouver Junior Band in 1944. He was a teacher at Vancouver College in Vancouver, B.C. Over the next ten years, he would build his band up to become one of the finest junior bands in Vancouver. He had a special leaning towards American style marching bands because he attended the University of Western Washington. His first band trip with his band was in 1950 to California but nothing much is known about that trip. More trips followed and by 1956, he was touring across the US from west to east with his band.
Delamont’s focus was always on England and the continent. He had just come back from a tour of England in the summer of 1955 and was preparing to return in 1958. While Delamont’s boys marched, they were not really a marching band. They were considered to be along the lines of a British military band because they had both woodwinds and brass. For a long time, there were no military bands in Great Britain, only brass bands. While they were not considered a marching band, they won marching contests with the best of them.
Olson’s band though was much different. It was patterned along the lines of an American marching band or show band as it later became known. Olson gave a lot of thought to what kind of a band he wanted because he wanted to distance himself as much as he could from Delamont. He hated being compared to Delamont and rightly so. In a few short years, he would realize his position in Vancouver band folk lore when the Beefeaters were born. But in 1956, he was busy touring with his Vancouver Junior Band. The groundwork however that eventually set the stage for the first appearance of the Beefeater Band was started in 1954 by Dal Richards.
One hundred and twenty-five young people massed together to welcome people to their twelfth annual feature concert on May 23 at the Lord Byng Auditorium. They were members of the Vancouver Junior Band A,B and C groups.
Selections played at the concert included Golden Eagle by Walters, Southern Cross Overture by Yoder, Grandfather’s Drum by Ostling, A Night at the Ballet by Walters, Clarinet Polka, Deep River Suite by Erickson, Bright Eyes by Finlayson and Loch Lomond by Richardson. The massed band played Folk Song Suite, Arr. Weber, Children’s Prayer by Humperdinck, Apple Valley Overture by Olivadoti and Byron March by Mesang.
The tour for this big year included such interesting places as Winnipeg, Minneapolis, Chicago, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York.
ABOVE: Dal Richards with Arthur Delamont in the early years.
Pt. 1 – The B.C.Lions FC
“Come on and roar you Lions, roar….”
Over 20,000 people laughed the first time Dal Richards played that song in 1954. They laughed because the Lions were funny in their own futility, a football team which had been freshly moulded out of everyone else’s hand-me-downs and have-nots. That is why Richards, a musician, and football, a sport began their long romance. Don Mckenzie, Stan James, Bill Morgan, and Ken Stauffer were directors of the newest team in the Western Interprovincial Football Union. With Tiny Rader, Jack LaBelle, Art Mercer and others, they had provided the impetus to get the league’s fifth franchise.
In 1954, they had it, but must have wondered what to do with it. When coach Annis Stukus put his first team on the field, McKenzie, James, Morgan and Stauffer were struck with a unanimous, and instantaneous, comment: “Omigawd!” They agreed the novelty of professional football was fine and dandy, but it might be wise to give the public a little entertainment, too. Enter Dal Richards- band leader, song arranger, producer and idea man. A sort of Cecil B. DeMille draped in pigskin. Unprepared and inexperienced with halftime entertainment in 1954, Richards brought in high school bands from Mt. Baker, Bellingham and Seattle. And while teenagers kicked up bare legs and clapped cymbals, crowds of football fans reached back into their old gee-whiz, and became paid-up fanatics. Paid up, apparently, for life.
“That’s what a lion’s roar is for…”
As the team on the field slowly began to mature, so did the half-time entertainment. In the beginning, high school bands sufficed, along with a smattering of model airplane displays, retriever trials and whippet races. Variety, the show business magazine, would have killed itself laughing, and Richards would be inclined to agree. In the realm of showmanship, these shows lacked polish, effort and imagination. Still, the budget amounted to only $4,000 a season.
Another full year in 1954 added to their list of accomplishments, Honors at the PNE band Contest, Honors at NW Washington State band Contest and a concert tour through five Canadian provinces and eleven U..S states.
Pt. 2 -The B.C.Lions Football Club
“From the mountains to the sea…”
A guy walks into a complex and completely different business, such as football, and operates under a film of sheer confusion for a while. Before the B.C. Lions, Richards only had to worry about accompanying dancing feet. His largest claim to athletic fame was the red ribbon he won for Magee high school in 1937, in an inter-high track meet. He was second in the 220 yard dash. He is a native Vancouverite, born January 5, 1919, and raised at 1438 West 73rd Avenue, Richards began playing the clarinet and saxophone for a living 25 years ago. he became a band leader in 1940, initially at the old Alma Academy. On January 8, 1951, he married his singer, Lorraine McAllister. The marriage produced a daughter in 1952, Dallas: but Lorraine still had to sing for her keep. The point is none of these vital statistics pointed toward Richards becoming football’s answer to Ed Sullivan. “I’d say we really got started in 1956,” Richard’s said. “Dick Diespecker was working with me on production then. I got the idea to add a line of cheerleaders to the show. I had just been to New York to see some stage shows. The chorus line seemed to be adaptable to football.” Grace McDonald had produced stage shows in Vancouver. She owned her own dance school. More important, she was intrigued with Richards’ approach, and his idea that dancing girls, and football, could go steady.
“You are the pride of all B.C…..”
Grace McDonald’s dancers joined up in 1956.