Dick King

It’s terribly sad to have to report the passing of Dick King this evening.  Dick died this afternoon at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks.  He was 85.

Since 1976 he led the Dick King Classic Swing Band.  As we said in an earlier blog, Dick almost single-handedly kept the big band sound alive in our area. 

I always enjoyed talking with Dick.  He had a lot of stories.  (He met Sinatra on a couple of occasions.) 

A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 3 o’clock at First Presbyterian Church in Grand Forks.  A memorial concert is being planned for Friday, September 8, at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks.

Our condolences to Delores, Dick’s family and his many friends.  Our hope is that somehow his big band will be able to carry on without him.  

8 Responses

  1. Countrysquirt

    I had the pleasure of playing with Dick King numerous times. He always was “outrageouly positive” He would put a positive spin on some really negative situations…and we would end up being “believers.” He took the band far and wide…I remember playing in places as diverse as Winnipeg, city, county and state parks, and a number of small towns. We enjoyed the playing…we enjoyed the cameraderie, and all of us had a respect for Dick. It sometimes was like a marriage, we would get angry at him, but when the chips were down…were were there for him. I shall miss him greatly. His stories were legendary…and the best part…they were true….Glen Wolf..Harlingen,TX

  2. MiskaCH

    I got my first opportunity to play with Dick King’s band in 1979 when I was a college senior, and played with his band until I moved away from the area in 1987. Playing with Dick’s band provided as much education as I received in 4 years of college, because many of the best players in the area wanted to play in his band…. Dick was a tireless promoter, doing everything he could to get gigs. I can recall coming home from out-of-towners a few times when the sun was already coming up. But we loved him and the band enough to travel that far. I owe him a great deal…. Now that I’m a seasoned teacher with nearly 30 years of teaching experience, I still quote Dick King routinely. One of Dick’s favorite sayings was “dump the truck, boys” – which meant we should really “hit it”, because we were coming to the biggest part of the tune we were playing. Every one of my high school jazz band graduates knows what “dump the truck” means. Dick King’s legacy lives on through my students…… Conrad Miska, Eagan, MN

  3. Ralph

    Not a musician…just someone who loves the music of the Dick King Band a great deal.

    He will be missed by all of us. Greatful that we got to share the three decades of music with him, my only regret is not being able to know him well enough to share all of his wisdom.

    “To live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die.” — Thomas Campbell

  4. Pete

    I started playing with the band back around 1995 or so. It has been and continues to be a huge influence in my musical and personal life. I now live in Colorado, but have made several trips up to the region since moving here, as the desire to see Dick, my friends in the band, and to play that wonderful music is vital to me.

    I too have several wonderful memories of Dick, his stories, and various adventures that went along with jobs the band played. We had similar interests..the big band era, music, and vintage cars. One of my favorite memories was the time he allowed me to drive his 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible to Turtle River State Park for our annual 4th of July concert. It had about 3 inches of play in the steering wheel, but cruising at 70 miles an hour down Highway 2 with the top down–man…what a ride! Not trying to be cliche, but I felt like I was king of the world.

    I loved going to his office to chat with him and his secretary, Sharon Bredemeier. Every so often I’d ask him questions about his war experience. He seemed to enjoy relaying stories about that…how his bomber, “Sweet Routine” did a bombing run on the same day the last atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. How they almost ran out of fuel on the flight from Hawaii to San Francisco after the war was over, and how he was a DJ spinning swing records on a radio station in Hawaii during the war in his spare time.

    Dick may be gone, but his legacy will live on. Bands like this simply do not exist anymore; Dick’s band is one of a handful left in the entire country. Dick’s wish was that the band would continue after he departed; and this something that he re-iterated just days before his first stroke last week. I think we owe it to him to keep the band going and this kind of music alive.

    Pete Berg
    Colorado Springs, CO

  5. Dave

    I remember starting in Dick’s band in the Spring of 1983, just a dumb freshman in college. After playing my first job with his band, I remember asking Dick if I could miss the next job because I had a date with a girl I really liked (who later became my wife). Dick could have said “play or your fired”, or he could have simply said “fine, go on your date” and then hire someone else and never call me again. But Dick said “well, girl friends are important too”. He understood people and he was extremely loyal to “his guys”. Dick had an incredible memory, although that began to fail him his later years. Dick’s book of tunes numbers somewhere in the 400’s and he could tell every single tune and what the number was. His knowledge of big band history was incredible, a virtual walking encyclopedia. He knew every national band, what their theme song was, what their hits were and who most of the sidemen were. It was always quite an education (and adventure) traveling with Dick to an out of town job somewhere. And it was always fun. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to play in his band and extremely blessed to have known him.
    Dave Christianson, Grand Forks

  6. laasland@msn.com

    I remember listening and dancing to Dick King and the Classic Swing Band as a teen-ager and had the privilege of speaking with him just a few years ago. He was truly a gentleman! Does anyone have a photo of him to post on this page?

    L Aasland

  7. Justin "Yes, I'm Related To Terry" Dullum

    I never, as an adult, thanked Dick for the opportunity he gave me in high school to play guitar in his band. His passing awoke me to this thoughtlessness. I’ll chalk it up to one more little thing I learned thanks to Dick.

    As a 16 year old who was discovering jazz, playing for Dick’s band was an enormous thrill. I was amongst players far beyond my ability and had to scramble to keep up. It’s the kind of fire all budding musicians benefit from being thrown into, but they all don’t have the opportunity. I did, and I’ll always be grateful for it.

    In return for a spot in Dick’s band, he’d ask me to come around his office on Saturdays and re-organize the song books; the numbered sheet music would be out of order after a gig. I’d sit on the floor of his garage, next to his beloved Pierce-Arrow, and try to make sense of the havoc the trombone section wreaked on the charts.

    I’d bring my guitar along as well. Dick, his saxophone and I would run through a few charts. He’d play me a couple of records. He instilled in me his particular love for Antonio Carlos Jobim. He was the right guy for me to know in a small town in North Dakota where Jazz aficionados are in short supply. I consider myself very lucky to have been his friend.

    The night after Dick died, my band and I played a show in Los Angeles. I wore my Dick King Classic Swing t-shirt in tribute. We dedicated the set to Dick; I told a few funny stories (and everyone’s got funny stories about Dick)…as I write this, I realize how there isn’t anyone in Grand Forks who will offer people what Dick did. My parents recently sent me a picture of the Dick King Swing Band in action. I saw a lot of young faces in the band. He was educating young people about Jazz right up until the end. I’ll remember him for this, more than anything.

  8. Lynn Schroeder

    I played in the band for the past 25 years and, like everyone else, I’ve got my share of “Dick King stories.” One of my many favorites occurred just last year during Cavalier’s all school reunion.
    The legion was packed full of people and nearly everyone was on the dance floor all night. I know Dick was dog tired but he was as lively that night as I’d seen him in years. The only thing Dick liked better than making music was watching people enjoying themselves at a dance. It fired him up like no pill could ever accomplish.
    That night, during one of our short breaks, we were standing outside in the back of the legion when one of the guys saw a funnel cloud to the west and it was heading in our direction. The tornado was still a few miles away but it was definitely zeroing in on our position.
    The sirens began to blow and I walked back inside to tell Dick that a tornado was heading our way. He didn’t have his hearing aid on at the time, so I had to repeat myself a second time quite a bit louder, much to the chagrin of a few of the folks in the legion who quickly went outside to check things out.
    (The tornado eventually turned out to be a small one, but small or not, the folks came back in to confirm what I had just yelled into Dick’s ear.)
    Dick looked straight at me and said, “Well, bring the boys back in and we’ll play a set.”
    That wasn’t the response I expected, but I did as he asked and we kicked off the next set with a loud and lively number… I think it was “In The Mood.”
    The dancers hesitantly returned to the dance floor and before we were midway through the chart, the floor was full again and folks were doing their best to enjoy themselves, but everyone could hear the low rumble outside as the funnel cloud roared overhead. We kept playing and the dancers kept dancing and by the time we finished it was all over.
    The cheers were loud and wild and more than a few folks came up to say, “It was just like on the Titanic!” referring to the band continuing to play as the ship sank.
    I still get comments about that event to this day. I’m still not sure if Dick understood what I said or if he simply decided that if it’s our time to go, we might as well be doing something we enjoy. In my mind, it was the latter, and I still have to chuckle when I think about it.
    Thanks for the memories Dick. All the dances from now on will be mighty dull in comparison to that night.

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