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RIP Vancouver’s Bobby Hales, Probably the Last of the Big Band Leaders

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Bobby Hales was a big band legend

Bobby Hales, former president of Local 145 of the Vancouver Musicians’ Association, passed away on Oct. 15. Handout / Vancouver Sun
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Bobby Hales might have been the last of the big band leaders.

It might have been because there doesn’t seem to be anyone else like him that can be looked to to construct and orchestrate a large combo. There are jazz players who can put a small ensemble together and leaders who have progressive art-rock influences.

Hales could be termed old school and his death the end of an era.

Bobby Hales passed away the weekend of Oct. 15 of natural causes. He was 82.

“He was a great guy,” testifies Andy Thoma. “He helped a lot of aspiring singers and performers.”

Thoma knows. Offstage, Thoma stuttered; talking was difficult. He met Bobby Hales at a PNE talent search at which the band leader was a judge. With Hales’ encouragement he sang and any speech impediment disappeared. He entered contests, starred in musicals, knew acclaim.

Now with a family and more concerned with his oil painting, Thoma withdrew from music but maintained contact with Hales.

“He was behind me all the way.”

Hales did some writing and recording and is remembered by the public for composing the theme to The Beachcombers TV series. In later years, he was the president of the B.C. branch of the musician’s union and became an ardent proponent. There, he was exposed to all kinds of situations and trends in music.

When I met Hales many years ago, I was impressed by his open mind and enthusiasm.

“He loved music,” Thoma attests. “Whether it was rock ‘n’ roll or anything, he loved it.”

At the root of it, Bobby Hales was a musician. He wrote, arranged and orchestrated but first and foremost he was a trumpet player.

“He was the ‘A’ guy,” confirms Bruce Faulkner, who was among the many who served in one of Hales’ big bands. Faulkner was a swing drummer, fresh out of high school.

“”He was a top trumpet player,” Faulkner notes. “I was in awe of him.”

Bobby Hales was an old fashioned hipster. In Thoma’s words “a show biz guy.”

He would have fit into Frank Sinatra’s rat pack. Now, he can join it.

READ MORE MUSIC NEWS FROM TOM HARRISON  HERE  AT THE VANCOUVER SUN WEBSITE

1 COMMENT

  1. What a TALENTED man; what a FAIR man; what an INTELLIGENT man; what a GIVING man; what a PERSONABLE man; what a GREAT man …

    Once, I had a very serious run-in with the Vancouver Musicians’ Association Local 145 A.F. of M.; in fact, a gaggle of us did regarding a film score. But somehow, I was the one that was really on the hook.

    To be succinct: President Hales listened to the challenge, he understood that there was a problem that could be solved, he put together a committee – a competent committee – and a major industry win-win solution was achieved that was so tight, I’m still in awe.

    Bobby played a mentorship role in my life for over 40 years, and many a time, he would have never of known it. It was always smooth, and “Straight Ahead” with Bobby.

    This is but one grateful musician’s story.

    Requiescat In Pace, Mr. Hales; and thank you.

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