70 years of the Kamloops Rube Band means lots of stories to tell | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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70 years of the Kamloops Rube Band means lots of stories to tell

This undated photo shared by the Kamloops Museum and Archives shows some of the Kamloops Rube Band members together.
Image Credit: INSTAGRAM - Kamloops Museum and Archives

KAMLOOPS - The Kamloops Rube band has marched through 70 years and their once-unique style of incorporating silliness to contrast their talent has been noticed all around the globe.

It started in 1949 when the high school band was recruited to help put on a fundraiser for a blood drive. A group of young teens took the opportunity to dress up and act as fools. Unbeknownst to them, that was a foreshadowing of their future.

Claude Richmond dressed up as a hobo for what would soon be remembered as the first Rube Band performance. He was only 14 years old when the group put on their first performance. 70 years later, he still plays with the group, and share stories of the band that helped to shape his life.

“When you’re playing happy music, which we do, it draws people,” Richmond says. “We’ve gone into cities and just stood on the street corner for no reason and just started playing. Pretty soon we’ve got 300 people around because it just draws people in.”

You've likely seen their type before — full bands march, often in funny costumes or clowns — but the Kamloops Rube Band can stake a strong claim to being the first. They quickly came to be known as the group to contact whenever there was a parade or event and sometimes covered serious, somber occasions.

The group took their name after a hayseed band from Williams Lake that called themselves the Rubes. The term ‘Rube’ was often used to describe carnival workers, and since the Kamloops Rube Band embraced similar silliness, the name stuck.

Richmond played the sousaphone, which is similar to a tuba, but larger. For 70 years and throughout many life changes, Richmond was always brought back to the band. During that time, the band has compiled a list of achievements, special performances, and even a run-in with police. The group has brought their show to places like Japan, Europe, the U.S. and of course many points in Canada.

Credit: FACEBOOK- Kamloops Rube Band

The Rube Band’s first big trip was to Montreal for Expo ‘67. Richmond says none of the band members spoke French, so the group relied on the translations of a member’s wife. Although her French skills weren’t very strong, she was the Master of Ceremonies for the group during their performances, which added an extra element of hilarity.

The language barrier wasn’t the only speedbump on that trip.

“We were at Expo and this radio station came to us,” Richmond says. “They said to me and the other guys in the band, ‘We’d like you to come and publicize a blood donor clinic for us, because we understand that's how you started.’”

The group agreed and the radio station asked the band to take on St. Catherine’s Street, a four-lane, one-way street in the heart of old Montreal. The Rube Band was used to playing on the streets of small B.C. towns, but never a main street in a major city. Richmond knew that permits were necessary when taking over a street, and the radio station employees assured him it was covered.

“We get down there, we pull up to within about 100 feet of the street on the side street, and they said, ‘There’s St. Catherine’s Street, just go to it,’” Richmond says. “I thought, ‘This doesn't sound right.’”

Despite his hesitation, Richmond and the band decided to march on.

“We get out in the middle of the street, we stop the traffic, and we start marching down the street and of course the people are coming from out of the buildings,” Richmond says. “Pretty soon, we had gone down three or four blocks and we looked back and St. Catherine’s street was a huge parking lot.”

Richmond says a police motorcycle rolled up and pulled in front of the band. What one band member thought was an escort was actually an angry Sergeant. The officer took a drummer’s sticks and marched the group into a side street, where other officers were waiting.

“We were surrounded by the police,” Richmond says. “They’ve got us backed up against a building, the police are surrounding us, and there's a crowd behind the police hollering at them, ‘Leave them alone!’”

Although no charges were laid, the band was asked to move to a nearby park and ordered not to play.

In 1949, a highschool band dressed ridiculously and put on a performance in support of a blood donation clinic. 70 years later, and their goofy attitudes remain.
In 1949, a highschool band dressed ridiculously and put on a performance in support of a blood donation clinic. 70 years later, and their goofy attitudes remain.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK - Kamloops Rube Band

The band’s presence is usually better received than by the police in Montreal. They have played shows across the world, bringing their costumes and big spirits wherever they go.

“We went to Holland in1980 for the liberation of Holland, the 35th anniversary of the end of World War Two,” Richmond says. “We did a serious job there, that's where we wear our red blazers and we don’t clown around.”

Richmond says after all the serious business, the group was asked to play at a concert series. They got into their comical roles and put on a show that stunned the audience.

“Music is supposed to be fun and we make it fun,” Richmond says. “That’s the whole thing behind the Rube Band is to bring a little bit of entertainment and fun to people.”

The colourfully clad Rube Band welcomed Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to the stage.
The colourfully clad Rube Band welcomed Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to the stage.

The unique Rube Band style quickly gained attention from other goofy musicians around the world.

“We’ve had imitators,” Richmond says. “We’ve had other cities phone us and say, ‘We want to put together a band like yours, is it okay? And can we call it the Rube Band?’”

The Kamloops Rube Band never agreed to have imitators, but Rube Bands started popping up around the world regardless.

“We've even had one in Baden–Soellingen which is an air force base in Germany, they’ve formed a band and called it the Baden Rube Band,” Richmond says. “We started something and it has carried on.”

This photo of the Kamloops Rube band was shared in a 1969 Kami Days booklet.
This photo of the Kamloops Rube band was shared in a 1969 Kami Days booklet.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK - Kamloops History

As time would have it, Richmond’s own son got a taste of the Rube Band action with the German imitation group while he was stationed at that air base.

Although Richmond’s own children haven’t been very much involved in the Kamloops Rube Band, he says it is sometimes a family affair. He notes father-son duos who frequent the stage, and one family bond that is a little more unique than the others.

“We had the mother, father, son and daughter there,” Richmond says. “The father has been in the band maybe for I’m guessing 20 years and she joined just a little bit later and they met in the band and got married, had two kids, and now they come out to the band.”

The children, early to mid-teens, play at local shows and events. Richmond hopes they stay close by for their post-secondary education, as recruiting new members is now the biggest struggle facing the group. Richmond is the last original member of the Rube Band, although not the oldest.

“There's one guy older and I gotta keep him around because I don’t want to be the oldest member,” Richmond says. “He’s a year older than me, so he’s older than I am. I tease him all the time.”

If you want to get involved with the Rube Band, check out their website.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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