Rudolph Commissiong, a pioneer of #steelband music recalls his life and times as a pan man played against a backdrop of revolution and segregation.

One day during rehearsals I took a break and walked through the terrace, which was part of the building at the back and side of the nightclub to a bar, which I thought was part of the hotel, and called Casey’s Bar. There were about half a dozen white men drinking and talking. I ordered a beer. The bartender stood there rather frozen, then one of the men who I assumed knew who I was told the bartender something about the band. The bartender then said: “OK, but you will have to take it with you. You can’t drink it here....”  That was very degrading and something that lived with me for a long time. ------- Rudolph Commissiong

Esso Steel Band, circa 1974: from left Herman “Rock” Johnston, David Cannonier, Neville Paynter, Carl Borde, Steve Dupres, Calvin Dove. Rudolph Commissiong is in front.    Photo © Rudolph Commissiong

He is ninety years old and is very pleased to share his wealth of experiences by his involvement and travels afforded to him through pan.


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  • This is an awesome story Mr. Commissiong.  Thank you for sharing. 


  • Great story Rudy. It's good that you got it out there, to inform the younger generation, and perhaps the older ones too, of the role that you and the Dixie Stars Esso steelband played in getting its music into the wider world during the 50's and beyond. Your leadership in holding the band together and in creating its unique history is something to be proud of, and should be an inspiration to other bandleaders. I know that you have several interesting anecdotes about your experiences in Cuba and Bermuda which you might share at another time, also about your takeover of the Captaincy of Dixie Stars when we were in Gatacre St. 

    Best regards


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