Wilf Wylie


Vancouver Sun, 22 Sept 1951.

Wilf Wylie (1913-1985) was a local musician, music teacher, and band leader.

He was born George Wilfred Wylie to George Primrose Wylie (1881-1949), of Bowness-on-Forth, Scotland and Marion Ida MacKay (1887-1920), of Woodstock, ON. GPW was a plumber in the city who came to Vancouver from Scotland when he was 13 (ca 1894) and ran his own business here from 1911 until 1948 (Province 20 Oct 1949).

Wilf had two older sisters — Alice Janet (1907-?) who was 7 years his senior and Esther Marion (1908-1931) who was 6 years older. Their mother died when she was 33 (and Wilf was 6).

I presume that Wilf went to primary and secondary schools locally and was enrolled in private piano lessons during that time. There is nothing to indicate that he enrolled at UBC nor that he attended a post-secondary piano training college.

Although he wasn’t taking classes at UBC, he was busy making a name for himself there as early as 1936. The Ubyssey had this to say about the music on offer at a “super-colossal pep meet” at the Point Grey campus:

Jackie Williamson¹ and his orchestra provided incidental music — and not so incidental at that, especially in Duke Ellington’s ‘Solitude’, when the air was taken up by trombone, trumpet and clarinet in rapid succession. Wilf Wylie proved his right  to a place among the moderns in his catchy, quick-moving solos of ‘Body and Soul’ and ‘Some Day Sweetheart’.

Ubyssey 28 Feb 1936

Wilf was 23 at the time of the pep meet.

Within three years, Wilf was leading his own band and playing the White Rose Ballroom. His band consisted, at this time, of the following personnel: Cliff Binyon, Sid Goldstraw, Pete Lucky, Sam Rainaldi, Ray Turnbull, Pete Watt, and voclist Irene Francis (Sun 23 Dec 1939).

Sun 6 Sept 1947

Sun. 6 Sept 1947.

By 1941, he was teaching piano for George Rex’s Popular Music Studios. Rex had a ‘method’ of instruction to help students master a musical instrument. Wylie by 1942 was managing the Vancouver operation, located at 422 Richards. He managed the Vancouver studio through the 1940s.

Wilf spent at least a year in the U.S. (1947?) playing with medium-to-big-name bands in the Los Angeles area; he was lead pianist for a time with Tommy Dorsey’s big band, and with the less-well-known Ray Badauc’s band. Apparently, he also made a recording on the Columbia label with trombonist, Kai Winding sometime in the early ’50s (Ubyssey 5 Oct 1956).

In 1951, Wilf left Rex Studios and accepted a position at Williams Piano House. He would be involved in sales and repair work, and specialized in tuning instruments (Sun 22 Sept 1951). He continued to moonlight as a band leader in the period from the late-1940s until the early ’70s. He played supper clubs and dance locations.

Wilf seems to have retired by the early ’70s. He died in 1985 from heart failure.

Sun 29 Dec 1971

Sun. 29 Dec 1971.

He married Frances Robson in 1942. But by 1947 she’d divorced Wilf. In 1952 he married again, this time to Katherine Widdess; and in 1957, history repeated itself with Katherine divorcing him.

As for kids from Wilf’s marriages, there appear to have been at least two: Thomas Milton and Frances Arletta.

He composed and published just one piece of music, as far as I can tell. According to Dale McIntosh, he wrote “High Winds on the Prairie”². This is odd, since, as far as I could tell, Wylie never lived on the prairies, and ‘his’ genre was jazz (rather than country/western, of which genre I assume “High Winds” was).



¹Jackie Williamson and his Rhythm Band played regular gigs at the Mandarin Gardens  restaurant in Chinatown.

²Dale McIntosh. The History of Music in British Columbia. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1989, p. 256.

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