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Trinidad-born jazz pianist and leading figure in the steelband movement in Britain who helped set up the Notting Hill carnival. Read more on Russ Henderson


Russell ‘Russ’ Henderson MBE has sadly passed

by Robbie Joseph - Pan Podium

Russell “Russ” Henderson, born Russell Audley Ferdinand Henderson (7 January 1924) in Belmont, Trinidad, is a jazz musician on the piano and the steelpan. He is most widely recognised as one of the founding figures of the Notting Hill Carnival in London, United Kingdom.

Russ Henderson grew up in Belmont, Port-of-Spain. He founded the Russell Henderson Quartet in the 1940s and was soon well known in Trinidad. In 1951, Henderson travelled to England to study piano tuning at the North London Polytechnic.

He settled in England and founded Britain’s first steelband combo (The Russ Henderson Steel Band) with Mervyn Constantine and Sterling Betancourt in late 1952. They played their first gig at The Sunset Club at 50 Carnaby Street.

Russ has been vitally involved in building up Notting Hill Carnival, having played at the first Children’s Carnival there in 1964. He is currently a friend of the 606 Club in London, where he performs a monthly show with his revised jazz quartet, sharing the evening with the Al Whynette Band. In his retirement he has given numerous interviews with BBC Radio 4 and BBC Four on his Notting Hill past.

In 2006, Russ was appointed a member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for Services to Music.

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What a talented, humble and interesting human being. May Russ Rest in Eternal Peace.

Condolences to Russ family.

Thanks for posting, Robbie

 I am saddened by the passing of my God Father. My Dad, the late Rudolph 'Rudy' Greaves played sax with his jazz quartet back then. I last saw Russel during a carnival season back in the early '80's. My dad brought him to the Pan yard of the Pandemonium Steel Orchestra where i played front-line music. Condolences to the Henderson family. May his Soul Rest In Peace.

This is, indeed, a sad day in the music fraternity. Russ was one of those protagonist of Trinidad &Tobago's culture in land of our former coloniser. Russ was, indeed, one of those Trinis to whom I looked up to in my Student Teacher tenure in the early 1970s. Growing up in the "Land of steelpan & Calypso" well intended parents would not have allowed their children to venture into a steelpan yard. I was no exception. So looking at the protagonists of pan including those from TASPO who represented T&T at the Festival of Great Britain in 1951. Russ' colleagues included the likes of the Betancout brothers - Sterlin and Herman, "Hockeyman".(father of Rosita),as well  Ralph "Indo" Bowing, who like myself, learnt to play pan in the UK.    

In that environment I grasped at the first opportunity to get involved in pan. Ebony Steelband was my first option - Metro and Bay 57 steelbands aside. I first played the tumbas then the Bass before settling down on the grundig with the stage side. Later, I were to introduce "Pan on Wheels with Canopy" to the Notting Hill Carnival. Indeed, an historic moment.

From London that exposure enabled me to take pan to my next teaching assignment in Nigeria where I shared my pan experience with my charges at Children's House school. Then in 1999 to 2007 I again I introduced pan to my students in  the Republic of Botswana. In Trinidad I also managed the Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School Steel Orchestra from 1981 to 1999.  

I am deeply saddened by the loss of this great man. I was fortunate to be introduced to Russ through his colleague Irwin Clement, when I started attending Notting Hill around 95 or 96. He invited me over to his home where he had that beautiful white grand in his living room. We would chat for hours about musical ideas in jazz and calypso. I would visit him whenever I was visited London and he would check me whenever he visited Trinidad while I was here. Russ was just a beautiful person whom I was extremely fortunate to count as a friend. God bless you Russ!!! I will miss you.

Rest In Peace.Another pan warrior goes on to join the band of pan angels

What sad news, I was fortunate enough to meet him through my mother and father (Lucille and Bobby). Along with the Holder brothers, Boscoe and Geoffrey, Edric Connor and Winifred Atwell, London was a hub of talented Trinis in the 1950s and they laid the foundation for a lot of good black performers.

Randi Curvan

May his soul RIP, condolences and sympathies to his family and friends...

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