St. JAMES STEEL ORCHESTRAS
A BRIEF HISTORY by KEITH SIMPSON
STEEL ORCHESTRAS FROM St. JAMES.
In 1956 we moved from San Juan to Finland Street, St. James, fortunately, our home was situated opposite Tripoli Steel Orchestra. So I heard pan every night - my introduction to pan. On Carnival Days the band would form on Finland Street outside our home. As a young boy of six, this was every exciting for me. I knew all the calypsoes the band played. In those days Tripoli played some serious looking Ju Ju Warriors with false teeth - they looked gruesome. On Tuesday they would play sailor, building tanks, boats and planes, Totie who used to sell fish in the St. James fish market was the flag waver, dressed as an admiral. She took her job seriously. Tripoli was formed in the late 40’s and also practised on Ethel Street and Bay Rd before settling on Finland Street. Roderick “Big Boy” Inniss was the Captain for a time, followed by Hugh Borde who is still alive and resides in the USA. The band was originally known as Grow More Food.
Tripoli was the first band as far as I know to amplify their pans with loud speakers, and prior to Highlanders. Also the first band to play in a Church, St Agnes E C Clarence Street St. James.
When we moved to Patna Street St. James, North Stars was just around the corner on Bombay Street, just a few houses away from a club on the said street. I could have stayed at home and hear the band practising. North Stars was one of the greatest steelbands, Won Music Festivals in 1962 and 1966, Panorama in 1963 and 1094. Led by Anthony “Muffman” Williams, who was the first person to place wheels on pans in 1956, invented the Spider Web pans, and placed noted on the pan according to the 4ths and 5ths system He also invented the forerunner to the G Pan placing welding sheet metal to an oversized rim.
Westside Symphony formed by Herman “Rock” Johnson was situated on Brunton Rd., opposite Rajo shop, and entered Panorama in 1964 performing rendition of Lord Brynner’s Bossa Nova Love, they also won a music festival. The band produced one of the largest Indian bands.
St. James produced many great panmen and steelbands. Anthony Williams, Herman Johnson, Sonny Roach, Henroy Roy Harper, Sonny Redhead, Winston “Wold” King, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Pelham Goddard, Joseph “Joe Christopher first captain of Tripoli, Sterling Betancourt, Emmanuel Camps one of the founders of St James Tripolians and first captain, Othello Mollineau, Emmy Thorpe Crossfire, Harlem Nightingale, Sun Valley, Ambassadors, St James Tirolians, Third World Streel Orchestra, Fiery, Stadnik’s, Symphonies, Power Stars, Humming Birds, Pandemics, Wonder harps, Scroungers, Freedom Steel, St. James United, Kool and the Gang, Del Vikings, West Wind, Crossroads, Connoisseurs, Five Graves to Cairo..
St. James produced the steelband to win the first Panorama in 1963, North Stars, first band to win the competition for “Pan ‘round neck steelbands in 1975, St. James Tripolians,
Just a short history.
Keith J A Simpson