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February 10, 2006

Canada’s Big Band King Dies

Written by
cindy mcleod

Mart Kenney and Louis Trono at the Banff Springs Hotel

The man known as Canada’s Big Band King with his dance orchestra The Western Gentleman he led in the 1930s and ’40s has died.

Mart Kenney died Wednesday night at a retirement home in Mission, B.C. His daughter Lisa Kenney says there were complications from a fall last Friday that fractured his hip. He was 95.

Debuting in Vancouver’s Alexandra Ballroom in 1931, Mart and the Western Gentlemen quickly became known for their cross-country barnstorming, playing at such prestigious hotels as Chateau Lake Louise, Hotel Saskatchewan, Banff Springs, the Brant Inn and Toronto’s Royal York. They were the first Canadian band to broadcast on Canadian, U.S. and international radio networks, and the broadcasts were soon identified with the phrase “sweet and low.”

He was honoured with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal and the Order of Canada; was a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters hall of fame; wrote the book Mart Kenney and His Western Gentlemen in 1981; and produced a CD in 2000 that included two new Kenney compositions.

Kenney’s theme song was “The West, a Nest and You, Dear”, which was first published in 1922. Funeral arrangements are pending but there will be a memorial service in Mission on Feb. 25.

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