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The 1937 Flood Benefit Concert
Guy's Greatest Gift to his Hometown
by Christopher Doty

On the afternoon of April 26, 1937 all hell broke lose in London West.

The Thames River, swollen from nearly a month of continuous rain, breached its mammoth concrete breakwaters and began to deluge one of most populated neighbourhoods of London, Ontario Canada.

By the time the water subsided three days later, one in ten Londoners were homeless and property damage was estimated in the millions. Drinking water had to be boiled and most of the city's industries shut down. The disaster had claimed the lives of five area men.

Two hours down Highway 2, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians were set to play at Detroit's Fox Theatre. The band, then at the height of its popularity, had not appeared in London for nearly a decade. Local theatre manager Fred Jackson, who had booked some of the band's earliest gigs, contacted Guy about the possibility of a flood relief concert. On May 4th the following telegram arrived at city hall:

"The Royal Canadians and myself are giving a benefit performance in aid of the Red Cross at Loews Theatre Wednesday midnight May the fifth STOP Tickets one dollar and a dollar and a half STOP May we solicit you patronage STOP Sincerely Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians."

The tickets for the benefit sold out so quickly that a second show was scheduled at the nearby Capitol Theatre. In all, 3500 tickets were sold and $4000 was raised. Scalpers did a brisk business, charging as much as $2 per head. The concert opened with Home Sweet Home, a gesture that reduced many audience members to tears.

Although Guy and his Royal Canadians would return to London many times during the next 40 years the 1937 flood benefit would remain their best-remembered performance. If Guy had never ventured into the city again, Londoners would still have reason to be grateful to him.