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Bob Wakefield: Death of Peter Urquidi Awakens Memories of a Hit Santa Barbara Musical

While it is true that Peter Corral Urquidi died in Las Vegas on April 27, 2016, this is not an obituary.

Let’s call it a historical review and reminder.

Born in Santa Barbara on Nov. 7, 1921, Urquidi was the composer and the late Jack Richards was the lyricist of a musical produced for the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department back in April 1946.

Urquidi lived in Santa Barbara and performed in the area until August 1959, when he and his wife, the former Jacquelyn Darling Bache, moved to Las Vegas. It was there, as he performed with various groups at many of the top clubs, that his keyboard versatility reportedly earned him the name “Man of Many Sounds.”

What he left behind in his birthplace, though, is something that deserves greater recognition and awareness by current residents. That 1946 musical was entitled On the Corner of State and Anapamu, and one of the songs in it also had that title. Many residents — past and present — consider that referenced intersection almost a national heritage landmark.

The production ran three nights, April 15-17, and was performed on the stage of the Carrillo Recreation Center. Co-sponsored by the Youth Council and the Parks & Recreation Department as the inaugural “Rec” Revue, its main purpose was to raise the money to complete the decoration and furnishings of the youth lounge.

Identified earlier as the lyricist, Richards was first and foremost a career educator, initially a mathematics teacher, but best known as the first and then long-time principal of La Colina Junior High School. He died here in December 2007.

Among other residents involved in some capacity with the original production, but also now deceased, were Peter Wolf, George Velliotes, Ken Kruger and Damita Jo DeBlanc. The latter was among five new members recently installed on the Santa Barbara High School Wall of Fame.

Other participants who were at last report still living, but not contacted in relation to this article, are Anita Stahmer-Bates and Esther Jendresen-Woods of Santa Barbara, Ray Cavallero of Ventura, Marion Sabiron-Stark of Mission Viejo, David Dodge of Arizona and Tom Hartnack of New Jersey.

It is Richards’ widow, the former-Jeannine Lombard, who kindly supplied this reporter copies of the program for the 1946 musical, along with photos taken either during rehearsal or one of the three nights of performance. In turn, copies of those materials were submitted to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum for inclusion in its Gledhill Library.

Mrs. Richards, however, retains what she considers the “complete words and music from the production.” It would please her, immensely, she declared, if a revival of the musical could be staged in the near future.

Perhaps it’s about time. After all, Peter Urquidi died just 10 days after the 70th anniversary of the last performance.

— Bob Wakefield has worked with his third name since 2007. He was Bob Johnson at Santa Barbara High School from 1946 to 1949, then his actual birth name, Bob Wiener upon entering the Air Force in 1950. A 1957 UC Santa Barbara graduate, he was an educator for 33 years, retiring in 1990, but writing for fun since. The opinions expressed are his own.

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