With profound sadness the Hales family announces the sudden passing of Bob/Bobby on October 15, 2016, at 82 years of age. He was a devoted husband to spouse Marj, best dad ever to daughters Karen, Cheryl and Kim, as well as a caring, supportive and fun grandpa to four grandchildren: Nadina, Nicole, Melissa and Daniel. He was also a cherished son, brother, nephew, uncle and a friend to many.
Bob was born in the small town of Avonlea, Saskatchewan. As a teenager he moved with his family to Chilliwack, B.C. where he graduated from Chilliwack High School. Upon graduation from high school he briefly worked in the banking industry. He quickly realised that he could not spend the rest of his life working in banking and needed to follow his passion for music; in particular, jazz music and the trumpet. Bob then moved to California where he attended Westlake College of Music.
Bob graduated from Westlake College in 1957, moved to B.C. and immersed himself in the music industry. With hard work and determination Bob became a well respected, multifaceted musician and an intrinsic part of Vancouver’s music scene during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. He was an accomplished trumpet player, composer, arranger and conductor. He composed and arranged original music for both television and movies, as well as music for the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. In 1972, Bob wrote the well known theme music for the CBC television series, “The Beachcombers,” which is still being played today.
Bob was the leader of the “Bobby Hales Big Band.” He had the honour of working with some of Vancouver’s most talented musicians and an array of the greatest local and international performers. In addition, he taught music at Douglas College, was the Musical Director of the Pacific National Exhibition for six years and the President of the Vancouver Musicians’ Association (Local 145) from 1996-2012. Bob was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame for his contribution to the music industry in 1996.
Above all, Bob was a dedicated family man. Bob met Marj while he was playing in a dance band in Sylvan Lake, Alberta. They were married in October of 1957 and were only a few days short of their 59th wedding anniversary when he passed away. Bob and Marj had three daughters and four grandchildren. Together, they created a family home that was full of love and laughter. They welcomed extended family members into their home, along with neighbours and friends.
Bob remained in touch with his relatives in Saskatchewan; spoke frequently to his beloved sisters Joyce and Roberta. He happily embraced all of the relatives from Marj’s side of the family. He spoke often of the importance of family and was unabashed about how he felt about his family. There are no words to express how much he is loved and respected by his family and how much we will miss him.
Lastly, it would be a disservice not to mention Bob’s unparalleled sense of humour. He was quick witted and had the uncanny ability to tell incredibly funny stories. He saw humour in everyday situations. Bob was known to tell many corny and sometimes inappropriate jokes (which he often found himself giggling at). Bob had a unique way of looking at the world and dissecting problems; he was wise and extremely thoughtful. He also enjoyed golfing, bowling and time spent with all of his many friends.
Predeceased by his parents, Robert and Eunice Hales, brother Douglas Hales, sister Roberta Monkhouse, mother-in-law Winnifred Severinson, brother-in-law Clark Roberts and much loved cat Tashee.
Please join the family in celebrating the life of this incredible man. Memorial service is being held on Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 1 p.m. at First Memorial Burkeview Chapel (1340 Dominion Avenue Port Coquitlam B.C.).
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in memory of Bob to either the Alzheimer Society of B.C. or the B.C. SPCA.
Remembrance of Bobby Hales
By Sharman King
VMA ex-President Bob Hales died on October 15 at 82 years of age. He is remembered by all of us as an Arranger, composer, bandleader and trumpet player with a legendarily quick wit. Well-known as the composer for the long-running CBC TV series The Beachcombers, he would have called the Beachcombers Theme “A medley of his hit”.
As a young man he worked briefly in a bank in Chilliwack but determined music would be better. He attended Westlake College of Music in Los Angeles where his classmates included fellow arranger/composer Ray Sikora, renowned trumpet player Arnie Chykoski and Herb Alpert. At Westlake Bob found his voice as a fabulous big band writer. On his return from Westlake Bob found work playing in Paul Perry’s band in Sylvan Lake. Paul’s son is PJ Perry, a recent recipient of the Order of Canada.
PJ explains the importance of Bob Hales in PJ’s life and career: “I had a nice visit with Bob this summer at his apartment in Coquitlam – shared a giggle and old times. “Bob Hales was an extremely important person in my life, both personally and professionally. The beginning of our relationship was in Sylvan Lake AB where Bob played the trumpet chair in my Dad’s orchestra. It was about 1956, I was young, about 14 or 15 years old. Bob had been studying at Westlake College in L.A. and he brought new musical insight and energy to the band and to me. Bob’s arrangements were and still are perfectly created. Bob played several years in Sylvan and during this time he influenced my musical growth tremendously. We jammed together, partied together and later on when we both were living in Vancouver he and Marge became neighbors of my folks in Burnaby. Both Bob and George Ursan married sisters from the Sylvan Lake area. It felt like a big family to me. “In Vancouver, Bob became my band leader and I played lead alto in his big band and was steadily employed with his band at Isy’s Supper Club. All these gigs gave me priceless experience in the art of playing music and learning the business. One of the funniest, nicest guys I ever worked for and hung with, the Canadian music world has lost a treasure. “
There was a special fellowship of the saxophone in the Bobby Hales big band. PJ Perry was an early baritone sax player; he later played lead alto. Campbell Ryga, Al Wold, Dave Quarin, Jack Stafford, Tony Nickels, Bob MacDonald and many others played and partied together. Fraser MacPherson and Wally Snider were usually the tenor players. One of my all-time favourite recordings is “Shuffle Scuffle”, the showcase Bob created for them on Bob’s jazz album, “One of My Bags.” Tom Keenlyside was another sax player in the Hale’s band. Tom recalled that he first played for Hales at age twelve in the Bud Kellett’s Kiwanis Boys Band. Tom remembers Hales’ amazing humour – he was very fast, very witty and often very, very crude. As Rene Worst said, it’s hard to think of anything you would want to print or repeat. One problem is that none of us can remember his lines, even if they are printable, because they were so funny and so fast. Rob MacKenzie remembered Bob’s reactions to hecklers on casuals – “Get your own band!” and his reply to an inebriated request to “Play something we can dance to.” “Dance something we can play to” was Bob’s comeback.
(Personally, I came to UBC music school in 1966 and I believe I heard one of the first Bob Hales Big band performances at the old Cellar at Broadway and Main. I still remember their opening, Lord Nelson. Within a few months the original bass trombone player, John Capon left Vancouver for Toronto and I got to join the band. I played for Bob for the rest of his career and it was an absolute musical thrill.)
Many great musicians got their early experience with Bob before they moved on. Pianist Ralph Grierson is one – he first played with Bob in the Paul Perry band in Sylvan Lake and worked with Bob in Vancouver before he went on to a great career in Los Angeles. Ralph said, “It was always a joy to play Bobby’s arrangements and listen to his stories.”
Bob Hales spent a lot of time backing vocalists. In nightclubs he was the bandleader at Isy’s and he later had the band at the Cave. The Cave band was spectacular because it played Las Vegas acts for ten days. By the last show on Saturday the band was very, very tight – perhaps in more ways than one. The Mills Brothers and Mitzi Gaynor were perennial fixtures at the Cave. Mitzi Gaynor’s musical director was Bill Ross, now a very busy Music Director in Los Angeles. Because Bob Hales always had a great band at the Cave, Bill got to know Vancouver’s musical resources and standards. As a result Bill brought some early motion picture recording projects and several seasons of MacGyver to Vancouver musicians and studios.
Bob was also the Music Director at the PNE for many years – backing more vocalists including Sonny and Cher, Paul Anka, Tony Orlando and, most memorably to many musicians, Frank Sinatra. The Hales band often featured great local vocalists at the PNE, most notably our dearly remembered Pat Hervey. During the initial popularity of the Manhattan Transfer the Hales band played for a Manhattan Transfer clone called the Chromatones. The Chromatones are long gone but one of the singers says “I do remember the PNE appearance with “The Chromatones” as being a highlight of my short-lived singing career!” That singer was Renee Rosnes.
Here’s a story from a very young, 18 yr old, girl singer in the mid 1960’s, Judy Ginn Walchuk: “I was booked to tour the southern U.S. through Chicago and Bobby had written all my charts for my show. My musical knowledge was limited and I was nervous as I had to rehearse house bands on my own and did not speak “musician.” So Bob wrote a superb version of "Waltzing Matilda" that constantly jumped between 3/4 and 4/4. He then taught it to me with his infinite patience. Then he said, “If the musicians are ever giving you grief, place this chart in front of them and sing it like it’s the easiest music ever written” It worked every time and I always treasured Bobby and his generosity with his talents.”
After Bob retired from music performance he had another career coming. For many years the Vancouver Musicians’ Association had a succession of trumpet players as its presidents – Bob Reid, Bobby Herriot, and Stew Barnett had all been President. Bob followed Stew from 1996 to 2012, bringing his business acumen, quick wit and pragmatic problem solving skills to the Vancouver Musicians Association.
We will all miss Bob Hales and treasure the memories of his leadership, musicianship and humorous approach to every situation.