ABOVE: The boys making a newsreel at the Pathe Film Company in London in 1934.
TOP PHOTO: Pittencrief Park
After the band returned from Chicago as Junior Band Champions of the World in 1933, they were in demand everywhere. Their manager, Garfield White, couldn’t accept bookings because the boys had to go back to school but Delamont knew where he was going to take them next, England. Imagine, in the height of the Great Depression, he decided he would take his boys on a four month tour of Great Britain in the summer of 1934.
Garfield White was indispensible. Delamont and Garfield met in vaudeville. Garfield had a comedy act called Madame Olga Petrovich. He would dress up as an elderly British woman and Dave Denton was his sidekick. But besides understanding show business, Garfield was the head ticket agent for the CPR in Western Canada, stationed in Vancouver. For the trip across Canada, Garfield was able to secure two Pullman cars that could be unhitched and set on a sidetrack over night wherever they had a concert to play. He was also able to secure them passage on the Duchess of Athol in Quebec City, for the voyage to the old country. In 1930, when the band travelled to Victoria for their first crack at the Provincial Music Festival, they stayed at the Empress Hotel. They would never have been able to afford to stay at the Empress had it not been for Garfield’s connections.
Garfield decided to accompany the band on this trip across Canada to England. It was his job to wire ahead and let the next town know the Junior Champion Boys Band of the World was headed their way. Garfield was able to secure bookings all across Canada this way. It was also his job to issue press releases to the next town and have newspaper articles sent to him back home. Like I said, he was indispensable. The boys made their own breakfasts and lunches, in the Pullman cars, with food supplied by Safeway Stores back home. Like their trip to Chicago the year before, everyone in Vancouver chipped in to send them to England.
They were always busy. On board the Duchess of Athol, the boys gave concerts in first and third class for the passengers, when they weren’t seasick. By the time they reached Liverpool, they sounded pretty good. They were met in Liverpool by the Agent-General for Canada, Mr. MacAdams and Cameron Stockwell from a London booking agency, who booked theatrical acts all over Britain. He would be their manager while in England. Two buses took the boys to the train station for the short ride to Manchester where they were booked to play at the Bellevue Amusement Park between events at the 49th Annual British Brass Band Festival. The boys were an amateur organization because of their age and non-union status but they were for hire to play concerts, carnivals, parks, parades, regattas and theatres. The boys were so popular at Belle Vue people didn’t want to go back to the festival. They wanted to hear the band play. That night they played a special concert before 20,000 people.
The next day, they took the train down to London. In London, they were taken to the BBC Studios where they played a concert that was broadcast to the nation. While in London, they recorded three marches at the regal-Zonophone Gramophone Co. Then they were taken to the Tower of London where they played a concert in the moat. Newspaper headlines the next day reported, Tiger in the Moat, referring to their rendition of Tiger Rag. They followed this up by making a newsreel at the Pathe Film Company. It was seen before feature films, in theatres all over Britain. Like MacArthur returning to the Phillipines, Delamont was announcing to all of England that his band had arrived.
To garner more attention, he entered his boys in the Annual Bandsmen’s Festival for the West of England in Bugle, Cornwall, held under Royal Patronage. This was a brass band festival and was made up of the best collier bands in England. There were no youth bands in England in those days. They caused quite a stir and got lots of attention from the high brow audience. When the outdoor festival was over his boys won first place in the hymn division and second place in the concert division. They also won first place for deportment out of the twenty bands that played. It was no small feat. They were a military band meaning they consisted of brass and woodwinds. There were hardly any military bands in England in 1934, only brass bands. He set the woodwinds aside and Delamont coached his best brass players to play as a brass band. The bands they beat had been playing as a brass band for ten to thirty years. The composer of the hymn tune they played, Handell Parker was in the audience. When asked what he thought of the boys playing, he said, “Any band that can play a hymn tune like they just did is of the highest caliber.” The hymn tune was Denton Park.
The tour was a busy one. The boys played concerts all over England, Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, Leicester for a week’s engagement at De Montfort Hall, Eastbourne at the Redoubt Music Garden, Bognor Regis. On this first trip to England, they had nineteen different concert folders of music to learn, one for across Canada, one for the passengers on the boat, several for England and several for Scotland.
In Dunfermline, Scotland the boys played for crowds of between 2,000 and 4,000 people daily. Their largest crowd on the evening of their final concert was for 10,000 people given by the Carnegie Trust. It was the largest crowd they had ever seen at Pittencrief Park, Dunfermline (see photo above.) It was unprecedented they were told that thousands would attend their concerts over the one week period. The boys couldn’t go anywhere without being mobbed by ten or fifteen youngsters wanting their autographs.
The boys were so popular all over England that they received concert bookings in advance for the following year. As usual, Delamont already had big plans in store for the future. He wanted to return to England in the summer of 1936 and enter the British Brass Band Festival at the Crystal Palace in London. If he returned next year to fulfill prospective bookings, he might be hard pressed to come back in 1936. Also, he would ne be eligible to enter the contest in 1936 if he had just won three contests in a row. They had won the Junior Band Championship of the World in 1933, took a first place in the West of England Festival in 1934 so if they won another festival next year, they would not be eligible.
Besides performing on radio, on BBC and making films at Pathe in London, on subsequent tours of the old country, he had another way of announcing his band’s arrival. In 1936, his boys often played one hundred towns in one month, travelling to each by bus. When the band arrived in a town, he would have all the boys get out and line up in marching formation. He would then march them though the center of town announcing to one and all that there was a band in town and to come down to the town hall or bandstand and hear their evening concert. It was the old ‘Town Crier Routine’ and it worked every time.
Over the course of fourteen tours of the old country, Delamont and his boys became more popular in England than they were at home. He endeared himself to his audiences and even played before the Queen on at least one occasion. The level of playing of his boys and the showmanship he brought to every concert, always made him a welcome sight anywhere in the British Isles.
- I have purposely left out most of the details in my blogs on the band for a couple of reasons. It would make these blogs too big for a Facebook audience. And it has already been written in a book. For those of you interested in reading the detailed version of the Adventures of the Kitsie Boys – at home and abroad, please go to my website at warfleetpress.ca and click on my book The Life & Times of the Legendary Mr. D.