Big Band legend and former Musician’s Union President Bobby Hales recently passed away at his home in Vancouver, Canada at the age of 82 from natural causes.
Hales might very well be one of the last true “big band” leaders of the original Big Band era. Hales was known for his ability to pull together very talented musicians, from a small ensemble to large, full orchestras.
Based in Vancouver, Hales initially played and arranged music for Dave Robbins’ big band and has led bands in various supper clubs and played in the city’s studios. He was music director for the Vancouver edition of CBC TV’s ‘Music Hop’ and for ‘The Rolf Harris Show,’ and composed theme and incidental music for the CBC series ‘The Manipulators’ and ‘The Beachcombers’ and for the CBC TV movie ‘The Overlanders.’ In 1988 he completed a suite, The Beginning of the End, for the closing ceremonies of the Calgary Winter Olympics.
The Bobby Hales Big Band, formed in 1965, was heard often on the CBC’s ‘Jazz Canadiana’ and ‘Jazz Radio-Canada,’ performed nightly during the Pacific National Exhibition for several years, and in 1977 gave concerts and workshops elsewhere in British Columbia and Alberta. He laed Vancouver’s leading jazz orchestra during the 1970s, he continued largely as a commercial orchestra in the 1980s, recording an album of dance-band music, “Bobby Hales Big Band.”
“He was a great guy and he will truly be missed,” said fellow musician Andy Thomas. “He helped a lot of aspiring singers and performers.”
Hales wrote arrangements and frequently worked in recording studios as both a band leader and arranger. Most notably, he composed several television scores and in his later years served as president of the union local of the American Federation of Musicians.
“He loved music,” Thomas attests. “Whether it was Swing or Jazz or anything, he loved it.”
At the core, Bobby Hales was a ‘musician’s musician’. He wrote, arranged and orchestrated, but first and foremost he was known by many for his skills as trumpet player. In addition, Hales was respected by his colleagues for his willingness to mentor and coach fresh, inexperienced but promising talent.
Bruce Faulkner, who was among the many who served in one of Hales’ big bands, was a swing drummer fresh out of high school. “Bobby was first-class all the way, and a top trumpet player” noted Faulkner, who was mentored by Hales when Faulkner began playing professionally.
“He was a top trumpet player,” Faulkner notes. “I was in awe of him.”