The Golden Decade of Dance Bands (1920s)

In this post, I plan to list all of the ’20s ‘dance bands’ (referred to at the time, typically, as ‘orchestras’) I can identify. These will include Vancouver-based musical groups as well as those that had their base elsewhere. Each listing will include the name of the group (having a minimum of three players), the leader and all the personnel I can identify who played with each group.

The list will not include any of the large orchestras that played in Vancouver (e.g., the VSO, Home Gas Orchestra, Scottish Orchestra) nor will it include any of the theatre orchestras that played in the city (e.g., the Capitolians, Embassy Theatre orchestra).

In short, the post will be a research piece about those smallish groups of musically gifted men and women who entertained their contemporaries while they were enjoying a meal (and, I daresay, tapping their toes to the beat) or dancing up a storm to their melodies.*


The Aitch-Bee Trio (ca1919-28) – E. G. Warne (violin); W. B. McQueen (cello); W. A. Storey (piano). “Playing daily at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Restaurant.” 1925: By this year, was called “The Hudson’s Bay Trio”. Storey was out; Frank Nichols (piano) was in.

Ambassador Cafe Orchestra (ca1925-26) – Leader: Frank Maracci (violin, sax, trombone); L. Martin (trumpet); Len Wilson (banjo); Martin H. Beliger (sax, clarinet); H. Zweifel (sax, clarinet); F. E. McComb (drums); William Sodeburg (piano). 1925: By this year, Martin, Len Wilson, McComb and Sodeburg were out; Tug Wilson (trumpet); Frank Hamilton (piano), and Harry Hamilton (drums) were in. AKA “Ambassador Cafe Bluebird Orchestra”.

Ambassador Cafe Orchestra – Maracci’s Bluebirds – CVA 99-3500 1942, Stuart Thomson photo.

Tom E. Andrews – Leader: Andrews; J. H. Wilson; Fernie Quinn; Art Thomas; Thomas Crawford. Played Cotillion Dance Hall (Davie and Granville).

Arcadians (1920s-1930s) – Leader: Frank Nichols; Bob Levie (sax, voilin); Toby Kent (banjo); Betty Warne (violin); Archie Peebles (trombone, accordion); Johnnie McNair (drums). The band seems to have folded by ca1935.

Belcarra Orchestra (1926) – Leader: Billy Millichip (drums); Jean Goodheart (piano); Don Raino (banjo); Bill McLean (sax).

Frederick Brown and his Orchestra – Leader: Brown; A. W. Delamont (trumpet); Harry Stocker (clarinet); R. S. Ralph (trombone); G. H. H. Keeling (string bass); G. M. Jolley (percussionist); A. Osbaldeston (piano). Played at the “Pan”.

Calvert Trio (ca1925-35) – Joy Calvert (violin); Minnie Beveridge — later Freda Setter — (cello); Una Calvert (piano).

Canadian Pacific Jazz Symphonists (ca1925-29) – Leader: Olive E. Beaton (piano); Ethel Planta (violin); Will Edmunds (cello); Gaston Somny (banjo); Robert Griffiths (contra-bass); Alex Donaghy (sax, clarinet); Paul LaMoureaux (sax, clarinet); Carl Tossell (trumpet); Art Clarke (percussion). Played at the Indian Grill and Ballroom, Hotel Vancouver. AKA: “Ollie Beaton and Her Orchestra,” “Canadian Pacific Symphonists”.

Lawrence Crawford “Kathleen” Orchestra – here aboard the “Alice”. Crawford doesn’t appear here (he was the one behind the camera, I think). UBC Open Collections. 1929.

Canadiens – Leader: Les Crane. Lloyd Mansfield, Jean Pomeroy, Bus Totten; La-Vern Walton. Played the Belmont Cabaret. In one of their ads they make the claim that they are “Just five boys trying to get along.” This group seems to have been from somewhere other than Vancouver.

Canary Cottage Orchestra – Leader: Wes Mortimer (trumpet); Jerome V. R. Clifford (piano); Allan H. Rice (sax); Art Strachan (sax, clarinet); Ewart Riedinger Jr. (drums); Fred Ross (banjo); Harry Hills (sax, bass). Played the (Indian) Grill, Hotel Vancouver. AKA: “Erdodys Canary Cottage Orchestra”. Wes Mortimer was a one-armed trumpet player. When Canary Cottage broke up, Mortimer was the concert master for Calvin Winters’ Capitolians for a number of years.

Cassidy and his Orchestra – Leader: Lafe Cassidy (trumpet); Marion Stafford (piano); Forrest Moneingo (sax, clarinet, trumpet, piano); Vernon Dale (sax, piano, violin); Karl Cassidy (sax); Hal Underwood (sax, clarinet, trumpet, banjo); Frank Roach (percussion). Played the Cabaret at Belmont Hotel. 1925: By this year, Stafford, Moneingo, Dale, and Karl Cassidy were out; Buck Dale (piano), Ken Evans (trombone), and Bert McGee (banjo) were in. By 1927, only Lafe Cassidy and Frank Roach remained of the original group. Others were: Harry Spees (trombone, violin); Walter Romerra (sax, clarinet); Harold Gard (piano); Chic Inge (banjo, sax).

The Cavaliers – H. Edwards (banjo); Stanley Robertson (sax), E. A. Griffiths (drums); W. Kenning (piano). By 1925, Edwarads was out; H. Swaboda (banjo) was in.

Criterion Orchestra. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

The Charleston Four (1925) – Leader: Frank Nichols (piano); Eddie Austin (sax, clarinet, violin); Toby Kent (banjo); Art Newman (drums).

Columbia Concert Orchestra – Leader: Walter De Lowe; Mrs. Francis Knight (violin); Marie Armstrong (violin); Ernestine Walters (flute); Enid Kimball (trumpet);Faye Leonard (clarinet); Virginia Barnard (cello); Was Kimball (trombone); Harrie Grether (bass); Lois Carpentier (percussion); Edith Dupree (piano); Gladys L. Collins (vocal soloist).

Columbians – Leader: Harry Hamilton (percussion, sax); West Gilland (sax, clarinet); Harry Karr (sax, clarinet); “Tug” Wilson (trumpet); Charles Pawlett (violin, banjo); Frank Hamilton (piano). Played the Alexandra Dancing Pavillion.

Harry E. Hamilton who (together with his brother, Frank) appears regularly in this list. Photo courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

Court Orchestra – Leader: W. Garden (piano); S. Kyall (banjo); George Northey (sax); A. Kingcombe (cornet); Len Holland (xylophone, piano, accordion); A. Peebles (trombone); N. Northrup (drums).

Criterion Orchestra (ca1923-29) – Dick Gardner (percussion); Harry Tarlton (piano); George Bush (banjo); Don McMillan (sax). Played the Hippodrome at English Bay. This group appears to have been one of the most stable bands of the 1920s, in terms of membership.

New Criterion Orchestra (ca1929-?) – Leader: Dick Gardner.

Don Flynn and his Orchestra – Leader: Flynn (piano); Fernie Quinn (sax); Boyd Lewis (banjo); Leslie Hulme (drums); Tug Wilson (trumpet). Played Cotillion Dance Hall.

Frank and his Orchestra – Leader: Frank Nichols (piano, violin); Betty Warne (violin); Toby Kent (banjo, violin): Ernie Anderson (sax, clarinet, banjo); Archie Peebles (trombone, piano, accordion); Eddie Anderson (percussion); Eddie Austin (sax, clarient, banjo).

Charlie Galloway – Leader: Galloway (violin).

Billy Garden and his Orchestra – Leader: Garden.

Vancouver Sun. 1928.

Get Acquainted Club Dance Orchestra – Leader: Frank Nichols (piano); Carl Tossell (trumpet); E. S. Austin (sax, clarinet); Toby Kent (banjo); Archie Peebles (trombone); Romeo Perry (percussion). Played at Dominion Dance Hall (339 W. Pender).

Earl Gray & his Orchestra – Leader: Gray; Earl Gibson (piano); George Eichhorn (percussion); Kenneth Cramer (bass); Brayton Frankhorner (banjo, violin); Ted Huffin (trumpet, mellaphone); Gale Claggett (trombone, trumpet, euphonium, sax); Paul McCrea (sax, clarinet, guitar); Henry Belland (sax, clarinet). Played the Hotel Vancouver Grill Room.

John Harper’s Hotel Georgia Concert Trio – Leader: Harper (piano); Helene Ainsworth (viola); Freda V. (cello). Freda’s surname wasn’t legible in my source.

Hastings Park Pavillion Orchestra – E. Couling (violin); J. H. Younghusband (cornet); C. Gaunt (trombone); A. G. McLeod (drums); F. Parsons (piano).

Earle C. Hill Orchestra (ca1920-?) – Leader: Hill (violin); George Bush; others unknown. Played Barron Hotel Restaurant and Cafe DeLuxe (147 1/2 West Hastings) 1920. Judging from the photo below, Earle Hill also played the Spanish Grill at Hotel Vancouver.

Earle C. Hill Orchestra. This photo was made at the Spanish Grill, Hotel Vancouver. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

Hotel Georgia Orchestra – Leader: Harry Pryce (piano, cello); Harry Karr (sax, clarinet); Fernie Quinn (Sax, clarinet); Wes Mortimer (trumpet, sax); Bill Arstad (trombone); George Anderson (sax); Charlie Pawlette (banjo, viola); Harry Hamilton (drums, sax, piano).

Harry Pryce

Hotel Vancouver Quartette – Leader: Olive Beaton (piano); Ethel Planta (violin); Will Edmunds (cello); Robert Griffiths (bass). Played the Oval Room, Hotel Vancouver.

Howard’s Orchestra – Leader: Arnold Howard (piano); William McLean (sax); Harvey Nixon (drums).

Tex Howard and his Orchestra – Leader: Howard (drums); Emerald Krantz (piano); John Bowmer (sax, banjo); William Stewart (trumpet, banjo, slide cornet); West Gilland (sax, clarinet); Hollis Rich (sax, clarinet, guitar); Gale Claggett (trombone, sax, trumpet, mellophone, euphonium, banjo); Lucian Gerhardt (sax, trumpet, mellophone). This group was from Seattle.

Hughie’s Colonials– Hughie (piano); Freddy (banjo); Charlie (sax); Jack (drums). Note: Surnames of players are unknown to me.

The Revellers (l-r?): Teddy Duncan, Eddie Camel, George Gossen, Vincent Cashmore, Homer Woodworth. April 1928 at Kent Piano House on Granville Street. MDM Collection.

Dwight Johnson and his Orchestra – Leader: Johnson; Arthur Most (trombone); Claude Burch (trumpet); James Whippo (trumpet); Bob Dickson (sax); Ray Johnson (piano); Alfred Taylor (clarinet, sax); T. W. Porter (sax); Wally Marks (drums); Prentice Gross (banjo); Ralph Dougherty (string bass, tuba). This was an American band, advertising itself as “the Southland’s finest” and “direct from Hotel St. Francis, San Francisco” (he was also reputed to come from Portland).

Ted Lander’s Orchestra (ca1928-29) – Leader: Lander (sax, trombone); Vic Ross (piano); George Hackett (trumpet); Don Raino (banjo); Henry Anderson (sax); Bev White (percussion).

Percy Lee’s Country Club Orchestra – Leader: Lee (piano); Art Griffith (trumpet); Bert White (drums); Harry Hill (Sax); Herb Roach (Banjo); Claude Hill (bass, clarinet, trumpet); Alf. Olson (bass, clarinet); Alex. Pitts (banjo); Billy Duncan (drums).(Note: Not all of these people played together at the same time). Played the Pavilion at Bowen Island and on Union Steamships’ “Lady Alexander”.

This may be the Criterions or perhaps Earle C. Hill’s orchestra. George Bush appears in this as the banjo player. This is probably the Elk’s Hall. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.
Slides from a light box similar to the one that appears in the photo above beneath the elk’s head. Tom Carter’s Collection, n.d.

Frank Maracci & his Peppy Orchestra – Leader: Maracci (violin, sax, trombone); Roland Tibb (trumpet); Harry Hamilton (drums, sax); Don Flynn (piano); Charlie Pawlette (banjo); Fernie Quinn (sax, clarinet). AKA “Maracci’s Mean Melody Men”.

Frank Maracci’s Bluebirds – Leader: Maracci (violin, sax, trombone); William Sodeburg (piano); F. E. McComb (percussion); H. Zweifel (sax, clarinet); M.Seliger (sax, clarinet); M. Howell (trumpet). Played at Ambassador Cafe.

Melody Boys – Leader: Art Thomas (banjo); Billy Reeves (piano); Fernie Quinn (sax, clarinet); Ronald Tibb (cornet); Romeo Perry (percussion). Played Cotillion Dance Hall.

Morgan’s DeLuxe Players– Leader: Reg Morgan (drums); Carl Nelson (banjo); Ed Sasserville (sax); Bob Koehler (piano). The DeLuxe players probably played the Cafe DeLuxe (at 147 1/2 W. Hastings).

CVA 99-1233.1 – Moroan’s DeLuxe Orchestra ca1925. I assume that the players identified above are the same ones who appear in this photo, although it’s not possible for me to confirm whether pianist Koehler appears here, due to the outdoor location; he may have been one of the two sax players pictured).

Mark Morgan’s Orchestra (1922-24) – Leader: Morgan. Typically played at the Moose Hall (535 Homer) for dances.

Olympians – Leader: Victor Ross (piano); Leslie Hulme (drums); Jack McLean (sax); Frank Bolney (violin, banjo). 1925: Wally Griffiths (trumpet) and Bill McLean (sax) are then in; Jack McLean seems to be out.

The Originals (ca1929-?) – Leader: George Bush (banjo); Don McMillan (sax); Gil Mullen (piano); Len Inglesdy (violin); Jean Baker (drums); Jack Barlow (trumpet); Newton Keith (sousaphone). Played Lester Court in 1929.

The Originals. hand-painted sign ad. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

Parker’s Orchestra – Leader: W. E. Parker (trombone); Francis Collins (sax, trumpet, clarinet, banjo); George Jones (sax, clarinet); Sherlie Denhof (trumpet, sax); Polly Butler (piano); Spencer Adams (percussion). Played at the Breaker’s Cafe (556 Seymour).

Patricia Cabaret Orchestra – Leader: E. B. Austin (violin); F. M. Arstad (sax); E. M. Anderson (drums, xylophone); F. Nichols (piano).

George D. Peter and his Orchestra – Leader: Peter (piano); Charles See (sax, clarinet); Wally Griffiths (trumpet); Ernie Whiteside (drums). 1925: By this year, Whiteside was out; Art Clarke (drums) and W. W. Perks (banjo) were in. By later in 1925, Clarke and Perks were out; Billy Millachip (drums) was in.

“Princess Kathleen” Orchestra (ca1928-35) – Leader: Lawrence Crawford (violin); Harry Pryce (cello); George Cratch (piano); Arthur W. Clarke (trumpet). 1925: By this year, Pryce and Cratch were out; J. Kellaway, and W. A. Storey were in.

Fernie Quinn and his Orchestra (1926) – Leader: Quinn (sax, clarinet); Jerry Hughes (piano); Bill Arstad (trombone, sax); Jack Prowse (drums); J. H. Wilson (trumpet, banjo). Played the Cotillion Dance Hall.

The Ramblers – Leader: Al Spencer (piano); Jack Towell (sax); H. Kenney (sax, clarinet); K. Roach (banjo); Les Aves (drums). The studio orchestra of Radio CJOR (which broadcast from their studio in the St. Julien Apartments (which would ultimately become the Ritz Hotel).

The Revellers (1928) – Teddy Duncan; Eddie Camel; George Gossen; Vincent Cashmore; Homer Woodworth.

Society Hoboes (ca1925) – Alf Hall (piano); Harry Coombs (sax); Leroy S. Harvey (percussion); D. Raino (banjo).

The Tickletoes – Leader: Eddie Bressler (piano); Charlie See (sax); Wally Perks (banjo); George Hackett (trumpet); George (Andy) Anderson (bass); Bev. White (drums); Len Chamberlain (sax). 1925; By this year, Hackett and Anderson were out. AKA “The Tickletoe Orchestra.”

Time Kyllers (1926) – Bun Cooper (banjo); Art Wasey (bass); Newt Keith (piano); Nix Nixon (drums).

Frank Hamilton, 1922. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection.

Bill Tweedie’s Orchestra (ca1927) – Leader: Tweedie (piano); Eddie Morris (sax, clarinet); Nels Griffin (sax, clarinet); Bob Smith (drums); Ralph Johnson (trombone); Bert Prima (banjo); Dick Croft (tuba); Harry Mayfield (trumpet).

Tug Wilson and his Live Bunch of Boys – Leader: H. J. “Tug” Wilson (trumpet, banjo); Bill Arstad (trombone); Jerry Hughes (piano); Jack Prowse (drums); Claude Hill (sax, clarinet). Played the Cotillion Dance Hall.

Calvin Winters Orchestra (1921-22) – Leader: Winters. Played gigs at Cotillion Dance Hall (Davie and Granville). This group pre-dates Winters’ time leading the Capitol Theatre Symphony Orchestra (not included in this list).


*Principal source: BC Musician, a serial of the BC Musicians’ Mutual Protective Union, Local 145 of the American Federation of Musicians. These are available for reading on microfilm in the Special Collections room of VPL (Central Branch). Also consulted: Vancouver Daily World, Vancouver Sun, and The Province, History of Music in British Columbia. Dale McIntosh. Victoria: Sono-Nis Press, 1989. Tom Carter’s images, provided for this post, have been hugely helpful. Additional details provided by Robert Moan and Neil Whaley are gratefully acknowledged.

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2 Responses to The Golden Decade of Dance Bands (1920s)

  1. John Mackie says:

    This is just amazing! Good one!

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