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Memories of the Esso Steel Band from 1952 - The Royal Gazette

Fond memory: Finn Pederson received this steel drum from Bermuda's Esso Steel Band back in 1952 when he was twelve, and rediscovered it while cleaning up at home in Norway

Dear Sir,

Look what I found in the cellar cleaning up after the Norwegian winter: a rusty steel pan!

The story goes like this: in 1952, when I was 12 years old, I was with my father, who was captain on a cargo liner. The ship was 9,000 tonnes deadweight and owned by HM Wrangel & Co in Haugesund, Norway, but chartered by Alcoa at the time.

We were on vacation that summer together with my mother and younger brother. The ship had gone far up in the “bush” (Demerara River, Three Friends Mine) in British Guiana to load bauxite. The ship could not take more than half the cargo, otherwise it would stroke the bottom of the river. Therefore we had to fill up the rest in Bermuda. Then we went to Alcoa’s aluminium works in Saguenay River in Quebec, Canada.

With us on board, we had a Bermudian steel band, who had won a competition and had been taken out to represent Esso on a PR tour in Canada — The Esso Steel Band. The trip took several days and the band exercised every afternoon or evening on the aft deck. They were very good musicians, who not only played Caribbean music, but whatever we asked them to play. In fact, we could just sing or whistle a tune and they found the song immediately, classic or jazz. All of them must have had absolute perfect pitch.

I got as a gift a “Steel Pan” from them — look at the picture and you can see the original Esso logo. I am really ashamed of letting it lay and rust, but I will try to clean it as much as possible.

I know that the original band was founded in 1942 and was led by Hugh Borde from 1951 until 1976 and still is going on.

I found an article in your fine paper from May 21, 2016 about the band and 40 years with Rudolph Commissiong.

There is, by the way, a steel band here in my home town Stavanger, it is the only one in Norway.


Stavanger, Norway

Talented musicians: The Esso Steel Band, circa 1965. Standing, from left, are Rudolph Commissiong, Carl Borde, Steve Dupres and Calvin Dove. Kneeling are Ivan Nelson and Hubert Smith Jr (Photograph supplied)

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The author has some things out of sequence. The Esso Steel band he refers to was Dixie Stars from Gatacre St. The picture shows Rudy ( Pupa) Commissiong leader on the left, Carl Borde next ( Hugh's brother), my brother Steve Dupres, and perhaps Kelvin Dove. Kneeling on left is "Ivan " whose last name I can't remember. The other guy is most likely a Bermudian. Dixie Stars went to Canada in 1954 as the Esso Steel band, to play at the Canadian National Exhibition. In 1955, Esso again took Dixie Stars to Canada on a cross country tour from Montreal to Vancouver. But they also wanted a band to return to the CNE. Being the youngest but only remaining member of the band in Trinidad, still in school, I was asked to "raise" a side for this but couldn't, if you remember how Steelbands operated at the time. Esso took on Tropitones and I was included in that band to go to the CNE in 1955. We went up on one of the Saguenay boats that used to take bauxite from Alcoa in Chaguaramus. I am not aware of Dixie Stars/ the Esso Steel band going up the Saguenay River. The only band at that time to do that was a combination Silvertones / Dixieland side sponsored by the Simplex Co. in 1958. Another thing strange in his report is the loading of bauxite in Bermuda. Don't think this ever happened, so would need to see evidence . After the 1954 trip Rudy took some of the band to Bermuda where they operated successfully for many years . The rest of the band made the 1955 cross Canada tour.


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