Legendary Vancouver bandleader Dal Richards, who died New Year’s Eve at 97, was a semi-regular performer at South Slocan’s Playmor Hall and other West Kootenay dance venues of the 1940s and ‘50s.
“I have a vivid memory of playing a show in Nelson on a Saturday night, and coming to play at the Playmor on Sunday,” he said in a 2004 interview. “Because there was no dancing allowed on a Sunday in those days we started our show very late, to avoid breaking the law, and everyone had a great time dancing till the wee hours.”
Richards figured he appeared at Playmor at least three or four times. He recalled proprietors Alex and Laura Powell as “great people. They were appreciative of bands, because they’d been in the business as professional dancers for a lot of years.”
The couple advertised their shows, ensured performers had good audio equipment, and generally made the musicians feel welcome, Richards said.
In those days, Richards already had a high profile thanks to his Saturday night CBC radio broadcasts from the Panorama roof of the Hotel Vancouver. He regularly took his ten-piece band on the road to the interior.
“We’d take a week off or more and start in places like Kamloops. In Trail, it seems to me we played in the Colombo Lodge. Nelson seemed to be the Civic auditorium. And then the Playmor.”
The latter, he recalled, “had the best and most enthusiastic dance crowds. That’s what the place was for. They must have held other functions there, but I never thought of it as other than a ballroom. For that reason, the people came to dance. It was an excellent floor, as I recall. And the stage was good.”
Lots of other then-famous and semi-famous names passed through Playmor between 1941 and the mid-1960s, including Tex Beneke, Gene Pitney, Bobby Curtola, and Buddy Knox.
The building was later a furniture warehouse, a bingo hall, and since 2007 has been Covenant Church at the Junction.
Richards went on to become a fixture at the Pacific National Exhibition and performed a New Year’s Eve show of some kind every year from 1935 to 2014. His last gig in West Kootenay appears to have been a September 1987 show in Nelson.
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