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In the late fifties and early sixties, Southern Marines Steel Orchestra was considered by many to be the sweetest sounding steelband in San Fernando.

A big part of the reason was because their captain, Milton "Squeezer" Lyons, one of the band's  founding members , was also one of the best pan tuners in the land at that time.

So Marines were famous for having the sweetest pans around, even in later years when Squeezer was assisted by youngsters like Burch Kellman and Karloff Alleyne.

One of the reasons for this sweet sound, was the five note bass, also referred to by it's fans as the "singing bass".

This single pan, five note bass pan was easily maneuverable on the road and gave the arranger flexibility with bass arrangements that was as yet still uncommon, since the trend towards wheeled carriages was still in its infancy.

I remember how the players, and I must make special note of a Bajan panman called Surgeon, would make those pans 'sing"; and they helped to create that sweet sound on the road  that had Sando people shouting as we came down  Pointe a Pierre Road towards High Street,

"Look de Marabella Band!"

I've never heard anyone speak about this pan , or seen it mentioned in any discussion, so this leads me to wonder, was this pan unique to Southern Marines?

Did any other band feature this pan?

This pan disappeared as the bass became a three pan, and then a five pan bass, but we Southern Marines fans loved that pan, and we all tried to "take a knock" on it whenever we could.

Does anyone know the history of this pan? I've always been curious about that.

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The single five note bass was called the "The Tune Boom". It was created by Neville Jules, using the Bermudez Biscuit tin, during the Christmas before the 1948 Carnival. Neville with a small band paraded down Tragarete Rd to show it to Ellie. By the time of the Carnival, Ellie's band came into town with more Tune Booms than Neville's band. Ellie now claims (cf A. Myrna Nurse's "Unheard Voices") that the first person he saw with a Tune Boom was Fisheye and he copied it. Then Neville went on to make "Two Bass", mind you, not from the 45 gall oil drum which came after, but from special "caustic-soda" drums Neville got from the Slaughter-House (Abbatoir) in Port-of-Spian. Neville created the "Three-Bass" from the 45gall Oil Drum and this was copied by Boots Davidson for TASPO in 1951. By the time TASPO returned Neville was already making Five-Bass then Six-Bass. 

Back in the day the 3note bass was called the low bass and 5 note high bass, I think they used three 45gal drums. there was a guy name Zoo-Zee that made these pans for Cross Fire.

Good piece of history Bukka Rennie. 


This was the full 55 gallon drum, with a handle, on wheels so that the player also controlled the movement.

I'm thinking about around say '58 to about '62, and I remember Marines using  the five note bass and the three pan bass back then on the road.

At this time, the five bass was pretty common on stage sides, but they weren't in use on the road, at least not in San Fernando. Like I said, the trend to mobile carriages was still in its infancy.

I'm talking from personal memory now, but I never saw any other band in that era using a five note bass pan that way, at least not in San Fernando on the road.

And , if you recall Bukka, because of the mobility factor, back then there was still a difference as to some of the pans a band played on stage and those they played on the road.

That sounds really interesting. Does anybody know if the layout was the same as the tune boom?

Very good question Matt.

Agreed, Bertel:

Also, I too would like be reminded of the layout of the notes on the 6-drum, 5-note bass.


And you're right, Cecil, the five note bass pan could be considered a high bass, along with the two and three note low basses.

And BTW, I must also mention that sometimes the two note bass is called the "du-doop" , but its not.

The two note bass, like the three note and five note basses were all fifty five gallon drums on wheels in the era I'm referencing ( again in Sando, ah doh know what Allyuh was doing in town), whereas the du-doop was a smaller drum, sometimes carried by a strap over the shoulder.

And please remember , guys, I'm speaking about personal observations of a specific era in pan history.

Funny enough, When Tripoli went on tour, We had a four pans called the High Bass and the Five pans together called the Low Bass. Three pans together cut three-quarter length called the Cellos.

This sounds like a typical setup from the mid sixties, Courtney. I started playing four (tenor or high) bass about 66, and by then we had completely converted to mobile carriages for the road, and you had complete sets of bass pans on the road.

I'm referring to the era before that, when we were still in transition. and bands  were just  beginning to put pans on wheels.

Many bands still favored three bass sets for the road, and I believe this was one of the first pans to put on wheels.

I remember 61, 62 and maybe even into 63 many bands were still predominantly 'pan round neck, at least for the smaller pans like tenors, single seconds and guitars.

In those days, the stage side pans were more sophisticated and you already had multiple pan sets on stage.

Pans like the five note bass was strictly for the road.

Remember, the change to wheeled carriages didn't happen all at once, but in stages;and some bands were ahead of others.


Glenroy: back in the 60s, the 5-bote bass instrument functioned as the bass voice in the orchestra.


You right bout the du-dup, Glenroy ... it was a single (somewhat smaller) drum played and carried by one person, with one deeper note  and one higher note.  It was the central piece of the engine room in early pan sides and small pan-roun-de-neck sides, and still in use today.  The name derives from the alliteration of the sound the drum made [dup, du dup dup dup, etc. ...]


I remember 5-note bass pan instruments being around up to the mid/late 60s, but can anyone confirm when the 6-note bass was introduced or became the standard?

Thanks,  Peter


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