Mr. D – The Life & Times of a Legend

The Arthur Delamont Story!

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Published by: Warfleet Press
Release Date: Available
Pages: 362
ISBN13: 978-0-9812574-6-4


The story of the youth band movement in Canada. The youth band movement in Canada, began in Vancouver in 1933 when Arthur Delamont’s Kitsilano Boy’s Band won the Junior Band Championship of the World at the Chicago World’s Fair.  Besides all the main players, it brings into the picture a host of other characters and musical figures that were around during the day, such as the unsung heroes: the parent organizations which played a crucial role in getting Delamont’s bands off on their amazing two to five month trips, Garfield White who was instrumental in securing the assistance of the CPR both in Canada and abroad for his trips, Lillie Delamont, Arthur’s wife, who accompanied him on all the 1930s and 1950s tours. Both Lillie and Garfield were responsible for leaving a thorough accounting of the boys’ adventures both at home and on tour over the decades. It also tells the story of the group of music educators who in the early 1960s, struggled to get instrumental music into the school curriculum in B.C. It is also my last book to date, on Arthur Delamont and his Vancouver Boys’ Band. 

Competition was keen in building musicianship. The music festivals which were around from the 1930s to the present are mentioned whenever possible. The band was always entering contests at home and abroad and they always took first place due to its members high level of musicianship. British adjudicators showered praise on Delamont’s boys often comparing them to the crack Grenadier Guard’s Band.

I tried to make sure every boy had a voice. Of the over 100 interviews I conducted with old boys, I tried to include at least one anecdote passed down to me by each boy. With some boys, I included several, such as Dal Richards who was a wealth of information as was Kenny Douglas, Gordon Laird and Michael Hadley to mention a few. All were interesting and deserve remembering.

What was it really all about? This book also explores the meta-narrative. Was it just a man with a band who took a bunch of kids on a few trips to England? It was anything but as you will discover as you read page after page of how Arthur took a bunch of ragtag neighbourhood kids and built them into the finest junior band in the land, in five years. Their march through the provincial, national and world band titles is the stuff of legends. And as one adjudicator said in Chicago in 1933 when they beat the Chicago Boys’ Band by 24 1/2 points to win the world band title, “Their win was anything but marginal.”  Arthur knew what he was doing. When one of his boys asked him what was next after their win in Chicago, he said,” Why England of course!”

Comparisons were many. Arthur’s band was often compared to the John Philip Sousa Band and would stand in for them on concert programs while on tour in England. I have explored this comparison in depth and compiled it here for all to see. One interesting comparison is Sousa’s band library and Delamont’s library were the two largest privately held music libraries of their kind in the day.

We have to mention the photos. The band’s best now iconic photos are all included as well as lots of photos never before seen from the private collections of several of the boys, given to me by their relatives who I managed to track down over the years. This book is a photo archive in itself.

What the Greater Vancouver Book is to Vancouver, this book is to the Kits Band. It is chock full of details, facts, names, places; everything about the band that you could ever possibly want to know. It also explores the historic connections the band enjoyed with the RCMP Band, The Ted Heath Orchestra, The Boss Brass and Gordon Delamont. It is the only complete book on the band to date. Each of my other five books only cover a part of the band’s story. It also comes with a CD of the band performing nineteen well-known pieces (its signature repertoire), from 1934 to 1978. It was published in May 2014 and copies are currently available.


“You deserve the Order of Canada for preserving this unique musical history.” – Bill Millerd, Director, Arts Club Theatre


July 21, 1934. The boys arrive in Bugle, Cornwall for the 17th Annual Bandsmen’s Festival for the West of England held under Royal patronage.

“When Frank Wright, the noted adjudicator, stepped from the train the setting, glowing under the rays of a glorious sun, was in itself complete compensation for the tedium of his all night journey from Lancashire. It was Bugle’s Gala Day, for the West of England band championships were to be decided during the afternoon. One could feel the enthusiasm and vitality in the atmosphere. Bandsmen in their gaily colored uniforms were everywhere, and one could gather from the snatches of conversation that the one topic was: “WHO WOULD WIN?” (The Cornwall Guardian, July 26, 1934)
A local newspaper reporter wrote the following article: The day dawned ominously for the Festival. When all awoke to see rain greyly falling from skies uniformly grey, the hearts of those doomed to go to the Festival were heavy indeed. It seemed, in prospect, as if the revival were to be doomed by the weather. But there was magic in the air. Before mid-morning the grey clouds began to lift. Magnificent, lofty cumulus clouds sailed across the blue and for the whole Festival the sun burned down and scorched all as they sat or stood listening to the playing of the bands. They were not doomed after all; fears were fortunately liars and their initial hopes were anything but dupes. For even listening was made hot work! What then must the heat have been like for the competing bandsmen? One of the St. Dennis bandsmen said when he was having a late tea, just before seven, that he had never known playing to be hotter work. How refreshing the trees looked, parched though they were, by contrast with the arid white china clay cones (huge mounds of clay used for English pottery seen nearby).
Arthur’s boys however, did not seem to mind the heat. They went about in two’s and three’s, eating innumerable ices and resting in whatever shade they could find, before and after their playing. After all they were world champions in their class, gaining their world championship at the mammoth brass band contest in Chicago. That they had come to Bugle to compete in the only British contest they had ever entered was due to the perspicacity of Mr. F.J.P. Richards, the zealous honorary secretary of the Festival, the presiding genius of the occasion as one might well describe him, who, when he heard earlier in the year that the Boys were coming to England, snapped them up for his Festival. It was the first time that any overseas band had competed at the West of England Festival and naturally Bugle and the four thousand people who heard them gave the Kitsilano Boys a rousing Cornish welcome.
The boys, whose ages ranged from eleven to nineteen, added greatly to the picturesqueness of the scenes. The sight of some of them under the trees near the marquee made one half fancy that one was at some Continental fete galante. Their tightish fitting black trousers with a broad red stripe, white silk shirts and flowing capes with bright red sides and black backs and black and red Glengarry caps worn at an angle were quite dashing.

June, 1939 Winnipeg, A Boy With A Horn
The following article appeared in The South-East Corner (a Winnipeg newspaper) It was written by Harris Turner in June, 1939 the day after the boys played in Winnipeg.

I met a lad who plays a horn in a band. Anybody who ever played any kind of horn in any band always aroused my envy, but this young fellow played a slide-trombone, which is the most enviable of all musical weapons, and he played it in the Kitsilano Boys’ Band, which, according to the Century of Progress Exhibition, is the best boys’ band in the world. This boy had a uniform that would make a peacock look like a dirty, grey sock. Why was I deprived of the privilege of learning to play the slide-trombone? Why didn’t somebody handcuff me to a slide trombone and refuse me food and sleep until I learned to play it? Why don’t they make slide trombone playing a compulsory subject in public schools? Why don’t they give slide-trombones away with subscriptions to the Western Producer instead of handing out carving knives and aprons?
You may not know that the Kitsilano Boys’ Band comes from Vancouver. It comes from Vancouver every year or two to startle the Boys’ Band universe with its magnificent uniform and its still more magnificent musical accomplishments. It played in Kamloops, in Calgary, in Regina, in Winnipeg, in Kenora, in Fort William and in Sudbury. It is playing in Toronto today and in a day or two it is going to play at the World’s Fair in New York, and then it is going to play in Montreal, and from Montreal, on June 30, it is sailing on the Duchess of Bedford for England, and on the other side of the Atlantic it is going to play in London and all the places in Europe that are aware that metal can be used in the manufacture of slide-trombones and cornets as well as in the production of guns and grenades.

September 3, 1939. SS Athenia Sunk by a German
U-boat Britain and France declared war on Germany.

The Athenia which left Liverpool at the same time as the Empress departed Southampton was sunk by a German U-boat just out of Liverpool (see photo page 98). When news of the Athenia reached the boys, they were greatly saddened because the contingent of American art students whom they had befriended on the journey over had been on board. When news of the Athenia reached Vancouver the boys’ parents thought the boys had been lost, as it had been widely reported that they had been booked the Athenia for their journey home. The Empress remained in the Cherbourg harbor overnight and under cover of darkness at least a hundred (a guess) Polish peasants swarmed on board and concealed themselves in the forward hold. There were people of all ages, some families–none with luggage, other than what they could carry on their backs. Of course they had no tickets and for a while it looked as if they were to be forcibly put ashore. Also, there was talk of delaying the sailing so that the ship, which was painted a brilliant white, could be camouflaged. However, it was likely that the news of the sinking of the ‘Athenia’ off the north coast of Ireland influenced the Captain’s decision to “make a run for it.” The peasants were allowed to remain on board. (Carson Manzer, chartered accountant)

The Empress zigzags back across the Atlantic to avoid U-boats!

To avoid any chance of encountering the submarine which had torpedoed the ‘Athenia,’ the Captain set off to the southwest, down the Bay of Biscay and off the coast of Spain, wisely reasoning that the submarine likely planned to proceed south, down the west coast of Ireland, to intercept the boys’ ship had it taken the usual direct route to Canada, in about the same area that the ‘Lusitania,’ had been torpedoed in 1915 with the loss of eleven hundred lives. Once safely at sea, zigzagging constantly, but at the full speed of 26 knots, (as compared with a U boat’s estimated top speed of 10 knots), daily morning boat drills commenced. (Carson Manzer 1939, chartered accountant)

PHOTO CREDIT: (TOP) The band in the 1930s and 1950s, always had their photo taken in front of Victoria Monument in London when on a tour of Great Britain. It was a mirror image of the photo of the band that the boys sold on a postcard to concert goers. The photo on the postcard was of the band in front of Vancouver City Hall when it was located in downtown Vancouver. It is now the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was also Arthur’s way of showing his respect to the land of his birth.


8 thoughts on “Mr. D – The Life & Times of a Legend

  1. Dave Calder

    Hi Chris. Please keep a copy for me – I live in Toronto now so will need to catch up with you in the next few months!
    Dave Calder

  2. Thanks Dave! No problem. maybe I will finally make it back to Toronto. I have lots of people to see including Gordon Delamont’s family. This is the book I am going to take to London and visit BBC and try to interest them in a mini-series. My next adventure! Chris

  3. Lorne Ginther

    I bought a couple for myself and my brother Gary Ginther, but I would like you to send one to my friend Roy Griffith who went on the 53 trip. Let me know how much and where I send my cheque. Roy and Lee’s address is 15071 Buena Vista, White Rock BCV4B 1Y1. Lorne Ginther

    1. Hi Lorne
      No problem! Say hi to Roy for me. The book is $49.95 plus $10 for shipping so $59.95. If you do online banking you can send an interac e transfer from $59.95 to my email address Or mail it to: Warfleet Press, 1038 East 63rd Avenue, Vancouver BC V5X 2L1.
      I still haven’t been able to get in touch with Kenny Douglas if you should bump into him.

      Chris Best

  4. Sheila Pilkey

    Hello,. My father, Gordon Marshall Roberts played in The kitsilano Boys Band possibly in the war years 1942 to 46? He played the Coronet & the trumpet and exuberantly would tell of marching and playing all over Vancouver. He has recently passed away and my mother remembers listening to the records of the band? I was wondering if you have any pictures or records we could see or listen too!

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