By Submitted Article on June 3, 2020.
In the summer of 1937 friends Lou Gonzy, Curly Gurlock, Buck Waslovich, Remo Baceda and Joe Horhozer got together to form a band. After only two days of practising, the Alberta Ranch Boys played for the Lethbridge and District Exhibition Parade, launching their musical career.
The Alberta Ranch Boys quickly became a popular act, touring British Columbia with their “cowboy swing” style. They landed in Vancouver in 1939, where they entertained service members on radio. The band played at Victory Loan rallies and released songs such as “We Bought Them Before and We Will Buy Them Again” to promote war savings stamps.
The Alberta Ranch Boys were known across Canada, appearing with superstars such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Once the war ended they were invited to New York to record their music; however, they chose to settle down to a quieter life in Lethbridge. As Lou Gonzy later recalled, “If we so wished, we could have gone big, but we’re kind of glad we didn’t.”
Another local big band was the Royal Albertans Orchestra, fronted by lead saxophonist Steve Smerek. The Royal Albertans were typical of many dance bands, with a changing roster of musicians as members joined the military or simply moved on. Pianist Jack Patey, for example, had started out in the orchestra pit for silent movies; he fronted several of his own bands and played for other local groups including Jack Heath and the Trianon Ballroom Orchestra.
Family lore has it that when Tommy Dorsey came through Lethbridge in 1951 he invited Steve Smerek to join him on the road – but Smerek turned down the offer to remain with his family. When the Royal Albertans dissolved that year, other members including Jack Patey and Nick Kucheran continued to play with dance bands well into the post-war years, though the heyday of the big bands had passed.
You can learn more about the music of the home front at http://www.galtmuseum.com.
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