ABOVE: Arthur Delamont, Art Tusvik, Arnie Chycoski playing in Dal’s Lion’s Band at Empire Stadium 1965.
How Art Met Kay!
Art Tusvik went on three trips with the band in the 1950s: 1953,1955 and 1958. As one of the best trumpet players to ever play in the band, Arthur often called back his more experienced boys to help him out. Art was one of the boys during the 1950s trips that got to know quite well, some of the members of England’s famous Ted Heath Orchestra.
I was anxious to hear the connection between the Kits Band and the Ted Heath Band and Art I knew was the one to tell me. He married the daughter of Ted’s best friend and founding member of the band, Jimmy Coombes.
“Tell me about Jimmy Coombes?”
“Kay is Jimmy Coombe’s daughter. Jimmy played with the Ted Heath band right from the start. He grew up with Ted on the streets of London. They had to put cardboard in their shoes, they were so broke. Both of them played in the Ambrose Band. After Jimmy left the band, he was number one call in London for legit theatre, TV, recordings and movies. He played on the sound track for the The Guns of Navarone, with Dimitri Tompkins. Guys like Frank Sinatra would ask for him, Johnny Mathis was another. It was so sad when Jimmy came to Vancouver. He went from being number one call in London, to nobody calling him in Vancouver. It was really amazing how he had to struggle to get gigs over here.”
“Why did he move to Vancouver?”
“His wife moved here, Kay’s mom. Her name was Audrey. He wanted a change. He taught at UBC and played with the VSO. That would have been around 1965.”
“How did you meet Kay?”
“We were in London at the Hammersmith Palais. Ted Heath’s band was playing. I happened to see her running out on to the floor to dance and I liked what I saw. That was on the 1958 Kits band trip to Europe.
The first time I saw Ted Heath’s band was in Blackpool on the 1955 Kits band trip. I knew her dad, Jimmy because I introduced myself to him. I never did play in Ted’s band but I knew many of the guys who did. I wasn’t as good as some of them.”
“Oh I don’t know about that, I think from what I have heard that you were pretty darn good.”
“Delamont taught us the real world, the world of hollering and screaming at us. He toughened us up for life.”
“How did you first meet Arthur Delamont?”
“I started taking lessons with a guy named ‘Tug Wilson.’ He was in vaudeville with Arthur. I started with him in 1949. I was eleven. We had all heard about the Kits band. I lived at First and Alma, in Kitsilano. So, I went over to the General Gordon School. I had a brand new trumpet. My father was a fisherman. He had a particularly good trip, so I got a really good horn. I had a copper bell and I traded it in for a Constellation. It was the same horn that‘Bobby Pratt was playing. Bobby was the lead trumpet player in Ted Heath’s band. What a sound! That’s what turned me on, when I heard him playing at the Winter Gardens, in Blackpool, in 1955. The Ted Heath band played dances at the Winter Gardens. One marathon dance they played was six hours long. Bobby’s sound was remarkable. At the end of the six hour dance, he was still playing screamers. He had as big a sound on double G, as he did on middle C, unbelievable sound. When they recorded, they had one mike in each section. They had to put him about five feet behind the rest of the guys. Jimmy would be sitting in front of him. He figured that that’s where his hearing problems began. They would say to Bobby,
“Take it easy Bobby. You don’t have to work so hard.”
Bobby would just laugh and say,
“Oh let’s have some fun!”
He died tragically. He left Ted’s band to do section work in London. Went off to do a Frank Chacksfield (British bandleader during the 1950s) recording and he didn’t turn up for it. The guys said,
Three days later, he turned up at home, neatly dressed. His wife asked him,
“How did it go?” He said,
“First take!” As far as he was concerned, he had been there and done the take. What it was, he had ‘wet brain’ from alcoholism. Ultimately, he set up the chairs in his kitchen, in front of his gas stove and gassed himself. It was just a tragedy.”
“Did he have an Arnie Chycoski kind of sound?”
“Arnie had a very beautiful, very controlled sound. The Rob McConnell band was very symphonic. The Ted Heath band had a roaring kind of sound. Bobby had the ability to hit double G’s. Arnie had the ability to hit double C’s. It was almost like he was playing a C Melody trumpet. It’s not easy to play that kind of stuff. They were just different kinds of players. Bobby was a jazz player. Arnie was more symphonic and a lead player. In a comparison to Maynard Ferguson, Bobby Pratt would say,
“I don’t have that double C.” But he had a photographic memory and he could remember charts like you wouldn’t believe. He was just an amazing player.”
“You went on three trips to Europe with the Kits band, in 1953, 1955 and 1958. You didn’t see the Ted Heath band in 1953?”
“No, the big deal in 1953 was at the BBC studios where we met Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on the ‘In Towne Tonight’ show. We also played on the ‘David Whitfield Show.’
Later on, when I went back to live in England, from 1959 through 1963, I did a Christmas show in Brighton with David Whitfield. It was called ‘David Whitfield on Ice,’ that was at the end of his career. One of his big records was ‘Cara Mia.’”
“Let’s go back to when you first met Arthur.”
“He hated me at first because I had a brand new trumpet. He unloaded on me. He hit me on the back of the head with his trumpet. Good thing the guys stopped me because I was going to wrap him on the head with mine. He backed off. I had a kind of love, hate relationship with Arthur. I was either really on side with him or really off side. But that’s the way he was. He was either hollering at you or he was nice to you.”
“He was always testing the guys.”
“I remember a fellow who came from London’s, Parker Brass Studios, Phil Parker was his name; a trumpet player. He came from London to Vancouver and he settled here. Arthur scared the hell out of him. He hated Arthur! He played in the Parks Board Band, one of Arthur’s professional bands. He didn’t like the way Arthur behaved. Phil was a fabulous trumpet player but he couldn’t play in front of people because he choked. I sometimes did the same. I remember I was working in a show in London with Michel Le Grand, Modern Jazz Ballet with Zi Zi Jan Mere. She was the star. She was in Les Girls with Mitzi Gaynor. It was big in France. Her husband was a choreographer. I came back from a break, to the pit. I was playing with a guy named Stan Roderick, great trumpet player. I was playing fifth. He was playing lead. I was doubling on double G’s and double C’s. Anyway, when I came back from the break, I saw that the lead chair was empty. I said,
“Where’s Stan?” Someone said,
“Oh he ruptured his lip.”
So, I was moved into the lead chair and I choked. I was heartbroken because I had been really lucky and fortunate to get the gig. It was my chance. I was in tears. I said to Michel,
“I’m sorry.” He said,
“Don’t worry. It’s all right!”
“He knew you were sincere.”
“Yes, I thought it was the end of my night but it wasn’t. After that, I made sure that I was never without a bottle of scotch in my trumpet case.
That’s another story! One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was later in life, when I finally realized that I didn’t need booze to play. Ted Lazenby had the same problem. He was a wonderful player.
Don Charles was an interesting fellow. He was a good singer as well. The girls loved him. He looked a little like Dean Martin. Later on in life, he packed on a lot of weight. He didn’t play so well anymore and ended up working in the post office.”
“Youth doesn’t last forever.”
ABOVE: L to R, Art Tusvik, Donny Clark and Don Charles
“No, that’s true. Bill Trussell was a fine player. He deserved far more success than he got, beautiful sound! Donny Clark is another good player.”
“Nice guy as well.”
“Ian McDougall played with Johnny Dankworth in England. He was not in the Kits band but he was a part of the pro music scene here in Vancouver. I worked with Johnny’s band at the Marquee Jazz Club. Quite an experience! When Johnny and Cleo Laine came to Vancouver, I went backstage, at the Orpheum. Cleo remembered my first name. I only subbed in his band for one night. At the time, I didn’t like the way she sang. She had this unbelievably big sound but she was really a phenomenal singer.”
“Did you play in any of Arthur’s other bands?”
ABOVE: Chinese funeral in Chinatown, Arthur in front with trumpet 1960s
“Yes, I played in all his pro bands, his Parks Board Band, the Cunard Band. I played at Chinese funerals. We went and played a Chinese funeral one time in Chinatown at the Armstrong Funeral Parlor. One of the guys, Jack Reynolds, said,
“This guy in here wants to talk to you.” So, we opened the coffin and here’s a stiff inside. They were great times!”
“You must have been pretty young on the 1953 trip?”
“I was almost at the bottom of the totem pole. Gerry Deagle was at the bottom. Gerry also played later in Dal Richard’s band. I worked for Dal at the Hotel Vancouver. Lots of ex-Kits guys in Dal’s band.”
“Do you recall anything about the 1953 trip?”
“We had a great trumpet trio on that trip. Doug Holbrook had a beautiful sound. Arnie Emery played lead. He had amazing technique and an iron face, triple tonguing, double tonguing, he could do it all and Roy Griffith was the other.
Ron Pajala was another good player. Played virtuoso saxophone and was also a great accordion player. We went to Paris on the 1953 trip. Ron was supposed to be my chaperone. I made a deal with him. If he went with me to the Follies Bergere, I would go with him to the opera. We were in a cafe in Pigalle and a naked lady came and sat on his lap. From that point on, he was never the same. He said,
“To hell with the opera and the museums, I’m going to spend my time here!” I am not sure if those were his exact words but you get the idea.
Kenny Douglas had a great sense of humor. He is a natural born comedian. Bill Good was a great drummer. Too bad he died so early. He died of cancer. Bill Cave was quite a character. It was so great to play in all the old vaudeville houses on the 1953 trip. To be able to play in all those shows, where you actually had to be on, that was the real deal, great experience!
Arthur’s showmanship was so innate. I can remember going to the Pantages Theatre when I was a kid. I saw the Clyde Beatty Circus and they actually had all the animals on stage and the pit orchestra. Zoot Chandler was another good player in the Kits band.”
“Do you remember Lillie Delamont at all?”
“Yes, a very dignified lady but very low key, lovely lady! He was always such a tyrant, such a contrast. Do you remember what Arthur did when he was meeting somebody important? He would extend his hand but miss their hand. He was just letting them know that he didn’t think they were as important as they thought they were.”
“Yes, I remember that!”
“When he wasn’t looking, we would imitate him having a nervous breakdown in front of the band.”
“Oh gosh darn it fellas, why don’t you try harder” and he would throw the music around.
On the 1955 trip, we heard the Basil & Ivor Kirchen Band in Cheltenham. Donny Clark sat in with their band. Here is this little kid standing up with this really fabulous band. These guys were dumb-founded because he could play such good jazz. Donny always had his own way of playing, even at that early age.
I remember when we played At the Gremlin Ball. Arnie would end on a screamer. Arnie was always a very controlled player and Arthur liked that. Whenever I did it, he would get upset because I would just stick it in.”
“Oh, I think he was proud of all of us. We were all his extended family.”
“Yes I know, I was very close to him, especially later in life. I would drive down and play for the cruise ship departures in my taxi cab. Then afterwards I would get back in my cab and go back to work.
One time I was working at the Hotel Vancouver with the Claude Logan Band. Brian Bolam was playing as well. Afterwards, I went driving taxi and I saw a really good looking girl who had been at the dance, looking for a taxi. I picked her up and drove her home. The next morning I awoke on her couch, in a house on 33rd avenue. To this day, I have no idea what happened. She said,
“I thought you would be better off sleeping here rather than driving home.”
She had remembered seeing me playing in the band.”
“Do you remember anything more about Ted Heath in 1955?”
“When Ted was playing at the ‘Winter Gardens,’ in Blackpool, we were playing down the road at the Palace. Every night after we finished playing, a bunch of us would go down to see the Ted Heath Band play. Their trumpet section, just made your hair stand up. I had never heard anything like it. We got to meet the guys down at the local pub afterwards. Earl Hobson got to know one of their sax/clarinet players quite well, Henry McKenzie, he died just recently. He was a conscientious objector. Frank Horrox was their piano player. He also was a conscientious objector. Neither would fight in the war. Nor serve in the military. Jack Reynolds spent more time in the washroom than anyone I ever met.
Bill Millerd was a very quiet guy. When I was badly injured on the bus, I was sure lucky. Frank Millerd, who was only sixteen, had the presence of mind to take his shirt off and wrap it around my foot, to stop the bleeding. In the hospital, they were able to catch the best foot surgeon in England, before he left on holidays. They brought him back to perform the operation. There was a Catholic priest there as well, wanting to know if I wanted to confess my sins. I wanted to strangle him. And I will never forget, there was another fellow who came to see me from the Salvation Army. He took off his coat and said,
“Son, how can I help you?”
He made sure that my parents were notified.”
“Can you tell me anything about Ted Heath himself?”
“Ted was a very quiet man. Not that easy to talk to. He was just very quiet. When he was conducting his band, if someone was having trouble, he would go and stand right in front of him, like Benny Goodman. You didn’t want him standing in front of you. His band was so good, so precise!
After Cheltenham, I bailed out because my foot got infected. I left the band. That was in 1958. The Heath band was in Cheltenham at that time. I stayed at Jimmy Coombe’s house. His wife Audrey took me to the hospital every day to change the dressing on my foot.”
“That is when you got to know his daughter Kay?”
“Yes, eventually I rejoined the band. They didn’t want me to play the homecoming concert because they felt that I had abandoned the band but I was seriously ill. Luckily I got full mobility back in my foot, so that was good.
I went to a few recording sessions and concert dates with Jimmy. It was a great experience. He was a real character. I kept asking Bobby Pratt,
“How do you play like that?” He would say,
“I don’t know. I just do it.”
So, one of the guys says, I thought I was really going to hear how he did it, he says,
“I do it with brute force and bloody ignorance!”
“How old were the guys in Ted Heath’s band?”
“They were anywhere from twenty to sixty. Roy Reynolds played with Stan Kenton. He was at my house when Stan died. Just broke him up. He played baritone sax and then switched to tenor sax. If you ever get the chance to hear a recording called, Roy’s Blues, do so.”
“After London, you came back to Vancouver?”
“I came back of course, with the band in 1958 and then I went back to England in 1959. Kay and I were married and we lived in England until 1963. I kind of regret leaving England, I think that I might have done better in England.”
“You played professionally in England?”
“Anything more you want to add about England?”
“I played a summer season on the North Pier in Blackpool for the David Whitfield Show. At the end of the season, the weather was getting rough and the sea was actually coming into the pit. I remember thinking,
“I’m not going down with the ship.”
In order to stay in London, I got myself a job as a chauffeur. So I had a day job. I was working nights at an Irish Club in Cricklewood, six nights a week. I will never forget St. Patricks Day. We were told there would be no breaks. There was a guy being chased and they tried to get him on the bandstand. The leader of the band was a tenor sax player. He had about size twelve brogues. I remember him putting his foot in this guys face and pushing him back into the crowd. The music went flying like confetti.
I did a show here in Vancouver with Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer. There was a fight afterwards in the parking lot, band mentality, I guess! My first gig in Vancouver was playing at the Cave with Fraser McPherson for the Mills Brothers. I was really too young but I got called because I could read and that was all because of Arthur Delamont. I knew how to read the cuts and to be spontaneous. Arthur taught us how to do it all. He also taught us endurance. Non-stop playing! You had to learn to pace yourself.”
“Brian Bolam worked many circus gigs. You had to be able to read the music quickly.”
“I remember a circus story, after the show, I was trying to get back to my trumpet case to get something. This rental cop was trying to stop me from going into the band room. So I pushed him out of the way. I went roaring around the corner and I’m looking at the lion tamer. His name was ‘Tarzan Zirini.’ He was standing looking at this lion, which was out of his cage. Tarzan had a chair in his hand. The lion looked at me and then looked at him and turned around and went back into its cage. I said to George, that was his actual name,
“I am sorry I got in the way.” He said,
“I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life. If the cat looks at me, he’s got trouble. You’re dinner!”
Another fellow named Bob Hamper who played trombone in Brian’s circus band, always liked to give the cats a razz! They were bringing the cats in, in the wagons and Bob’s making noises at the cat with his trombone.
The cat leaned over, lifted his leg and pissed at him. Must have gone thirty feet! Bob had to throw his suit away because it smelled so bad.
The bandleader was a real character. He says,
“I told you so. Don’t mess around with the cats.”
He was part Apache, Mexican and Italian. There was a guy who threw a bottle at the band. The bandleader tried to chase him through the stands. He had a pacemaker. He had to telephone in because the pacemaker started acting up. They said,
“We are sending an ambulance to get you. Where exactly are you?”
Great memories! There was this kid who played trumpet and his wife played piano and organ. I remember this Norman Rockwell painting on the wall; of the old farmer and his wife in rural America. They looked exactly like them.”
“Did you ever hear of anyone jumping over board in Southampton, as the boat pulled away?”
“Gerry Deagle almost fell overboard in a storm. I remember on the island of Jersey, we would get the smaller boys to go down these holes and bring up German army helmets that had been dumped. The Germans left a lot of stuff!”
“Do you remember any other bands?”
“Kenny Ball was later on in 1959. He recorded Midnight in Moscow.’ We used to go to Archer Street in Soho, where the musicians congregated. Thousands used to go there to get gigs and to get paid.
Gordy Delamont, in 1958, bet me I couldn’t play a Double F. I did it every time. Just popped it out! Gordy’s daughter Susan came on the 1958 trip. He had a hard time keeping the guys away from her. She looked much older than fourteen. Brian Parkinson started going out with her on the trip.”
‘How was Gordy Delamont?”
“Nice guy, someone you could hang out with, nothing like Arthur. Arthur was very strict. Gordon was not nearly as strict. I remember in Paris, everyone thought the bidets were foot baths.
Arnie Emery was a remarkable player. Wound up becoming a good doctor as well. His daughter was born blind. She became a good singer.”
“Who would you say were the three people who influenced your life the most?”
“I would have to say for sure, Arthur and Jimmy Coombes. The third one, I will have to think about that for a while!”