When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

  • Mass exodus from Haiti, Martinique & Guadeloupe to Trinidad
  • White population grows from one hundred (100), to twenty-five hundred (2,500)
    • Introduction of Mardi Gras (Christmas to Ash Wednesday)
  • Slave & colored population mushrooms from five hundred (500), to sixteen thousand (16,000)
    • On plantation festivals banned
    • Enslaved Africans established own celebration - Cannes Brulees (Canboulay)
    • Enslaved Africans introduced own dance (Calinda) & own songs to African drums
  • Emancipation
  • Canboulay celebrated yearly on August 1st, later moved to Sunday before Ash Wednesday
  • Mardi Gras on Monday & Tuesday
  • Now deemed ex-Slaves, this segment of the population replaces Mardi Gras with Canboulay
  • Whites withdraw and denounce the festivities
  • Sunday revelry is banned
  • Canboulay riots
  • Ordinance declared: the use of African drums outlawed in Canboulay celebrations
    Restrictions placed on size of bands -
    • Yields sporadic & violent outbursts over the years

  • Colonial government & business community take control of Canboulay
    • Organized into disciplined parade of masquerade bands
    • Bands vie for competitive prizes
    • The “Upper class” return to festivities
  • Elliot "Ellie" Mannette also known to many as the Father of the Modern Pan was born 5 November 1926 in Sans Souci, Trinidad and grew up in Woodbrook
  • Neville Jules Born on 21 May 1927, 3 Richards Lane, East Dry River, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
  • Winston “Spree” Simon was born in 1930, Rose Hill, East Dry River, Trinidad
  • Anthony “Tony” Williams is born - St. James, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
  • Outright banning of African drums by the British colonists
  • Tamboo Bamboo replaces outlawed African drums as main musical medium
    • “boom” for low tones
    • “foule” or “buller” for mid-range
    • “cutter” for counterpoint/lead
  • Tamboo Bamboo banned
  • Gonzales Tamboo-Bamboo Band introduces the first type of “bass pan”
  • Lincoln " Delgado " Noel also known as the "Pan Doctor" was born in La Brea, San Fernando
  • bertie marshall Bertram Lloyd Marshall - Berite Marshall was born 6 February 1936, 16 St Vincent Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • Clive Bradley was born in Diego Martin, Trinidad, 1936
  • Alexander Ford establishes The Alexander Ragtime Band
  • Sweet-oil pans, dust bins, biscuit pans: convex-shape
  • Sticks without rubber


  • Steelband competition held at Queen’s Park Oval
    • Alexander Rag Time Band (winner)
    • Hell Ward
    • Second Eleven
  • World War II (1939-1945)
    • Carnival suspended
    • Bands parade “illegally”
  • 3 note ping-pong introduced



Experimentation period begins

  • Roaring Lion - first calypso ever composed for the steelband
    • Alexander Ragtime Band
  • Brute Force (Antigua) - first band to use rubber on sticks to play bass
  • Hollywood influence on band names (violence, force, terror, heroes & movies)
    • Hell Yard >> “All Stars”
    • Merry Boys >> “Casablanca”
    • Laventille Boys >> “Desperadoes”
    • River Lady >> “Destination Tokyo”
  • Age of the “Badjohn”
  • Pat Bishop was born 7 May 1942, Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • Lennox "Bobby" Mohammed was born in 1943 and grew up in San Fernando.
  • Ray Hollman was born on April 22, 1944 in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
  • Reynold Gillies known throughout the steelpan world as "Tony Slater" hailed from Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • V.E. day (May)
  • Tenor kettle (5 notes), ping pong, cuff boom, dudup (bass kettle) appear in the bands of revelers
  • Developments (1945-1950)
    • sweet-oil drums (ping pong) sunk in convex fashion
      • 5 to 7 notes
      • drums held in one hand, rubberless stick in other
      • oil drum sunk in concave fashion
      • 15 notes with rubber-tipped sticks
    • competitions begin in Port of Spain & San Fernando
    • notes continue to be added to drums/instruments
  • Antigua Steelband Association formed - 8 members
    • “The Steelband Herald” published as its official paper
  • “....steelbandsmen attained a standard of performance which equals if not surpasses that of the best there is in Trinidad....”, Sunday Guardian, January 26, 1951, p.17 - in commentary on Antiguan panmanship
  • Antigua’s “Brute Force” steelband gets picture in “The Times Survey of the Colonies”
  • Antigua’s Hell’s Gate is planned to represent West Indian steelbands in Festival of Britain
  • Antigua’s Hell’s Gate wins panorama with tune “Peanut Vendor.”


  • Jit Sukha Samaroo Dr. Jit Samaroo was born on 24 February, 1950, Lopinot, Trinidad.
  • Steelband Committee setup by government to investigate steelband violence and to find solutions
    • Cannon M.E. Farquhar - chairman
    • George E. Mose - chief probation officer
    • Carlyle P. Kerr - solicitor
    • Lennox O. Pierre - solicitor
  • Albert Gomes defends steelband men
  • “Public should discipline Steelband prejudices”, January 8, Sunday Guardian “Behind the Curtain” column J
  • White college students play pan in streets of Port of Spain, later to become Texaco Dixieland
  • Steelbands clash
    • Feb 21 Invaders attacks Tokyo (on Carnival Tuesday)
    • Mar 2 Casablanca & Invaders meet, agree to bury hatchet... meeting attacked... bombarded with stones & bottles...
    • Mar 6 More steelbands agree to end clashes, meeting at Old Prison Quarry, more than 500 members and supporters present from March Hill 60, Invaders, Casablanca, Destination Tokyo, Crusaders, Merry Maker, All Stars and Desperadoes
  • Cannon Farquhar defends steelband men
    • link to “dark past of slavery, plus a century of economic deprivation”, March 12, Sunday Guardian
  • Steelband Association formed by Lennox Pierre & Carlyle Kerr
    • President Sidney Gallop of Crusaders
    • 76 bands joined
    • banned steelband competition for next 5 years
      • poor judging contributing factor to violent clashes between steelbands
    • introduced steelband recital (June)

    • Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) established
      • Lieutenant Griffith of St. Lucia Police Band is musical director
      • formed specifically for Festival of Britain
      • toured France and United Kingdom for 3 months
      • 11 best players from the country, 13 reserves
        • Orman “Patsy” Haynes / Casablanca
        • “Boots” Davidson / City Syncopators
        • Sterling Betancourt / Crossfire
        • A. De Labastide / Chicago
        • Dudley Smith / Rising Sun
        • Winston “Spree” Simon / Tokyo
        • Granville Sealey / Tripoli
        • Clive Belgrave / Southern Symphony
        • Ellie Mannette / Invaders
        • Anthony Williams / Sun Valley
        • Sonny Roache
        • Theo Stephen / Free French
      • Operation Britain - to raise $15,000 for TASPO
      • July 6, TASPO departs on San Mateo, Sonny Roache ill, left behind in Martinique
      • September, Winston Spree gets contract to teach pan music at University of Nigeria & Ghana
  • Developments
    • 3 drum bass boom
    • 2 drum cello coom
    • establish complete chromatic range of notes from ping pong to bass


  • Trinidad Music Association accept steelband men after initial rejection, Music Festivals no longer off limits
  • Bands from south form: Southern Steelbands Association, 25 members


  • Lennox “Boogsie” Sharpe -  He was born 28 October 1953, Benares Street, St James, Trinidad. The nick-name Boogsie was given to him by his mother
  • Hell’s Gate wins Antigua Panorama
  • Anthony Williams creates the  “SPIDER-WEB” ping pong, referred to as the “fourths and fifths” pan..

    Anthony  Williams (right) displays his spider web pan with Herman “Rock” Johnson (left)

  • George Goddard elected President of Steelband Association (June)
    • 12 member band
    • Constitution drawn up
  • Hell’s Gate wins Antigua Panorama
  • “Desperadoes” & “San Juan All Stars” clash
  • Hell’s Gate wins Antigua Panorama
  • Emmanuel Riley improvisations in the Invaders’ recordings “Liebestraume” and “Melody in F” set a standard for pan soloists
  • Kenrick Philmore -  Ken "Professor" Philmore was born 1959, Trinidad.

Timeline Continued click to view

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            You suppose to be an intelligent person; sorry you were not thinking outside the box.

Aye Patrick , yuh see how yuh get Ian vex? Ah never see him vex , he so cool .

Wha happen , yuh forget he is a old Desperados man, or what ?

Thanks Glenroy,

                         You are a man of vision, and you know I will never condemn PAN TIMES. This incident was never made public and I did not mean that it should be part of PAN TIMES Pan History.

I was merely having fun. Do you remember some years back, a famous Basketball Superstar was being interviewed and he mentioned when he was a teenager a swimming pool may or may not have been emptied because he went into that swimming pool. Can you send your phone number to my e mail laventl@aol.com. I would like to speak with you.

Yes, Tripoli should be mentioned in the History and Pan Trinbago should be the one to make these changes

It seems like Antigua has a lot of Steelband History, I would like to know some more about Antigua History of Pan. 

This is relevant and informative for students of the pan. 

I wish to share a piece of History which was presented to me about SPREE SIMON and the THREE NOTE PAN. The person who presented this piece of information which he vividly recalls is Mr. Cleville Callender, a very educated man, worked in various ministries in  the Government service, a singer, he still sings at functions, guitarist and floutist. He is also my brother, never played a pan, or has he been around any bands.

He testified on behalf of Winston Spree Simon an experience he can recall, and said Pan People should give Spree Simon The Praise he deserves.

Mr. Callender recalls that in May, 1945, when World War @ had ended, The Sargeant of San Juan Police Station, Sargeant George told the people of San Juan Hill to come out and celebrate for the war had ended. He, Mr. Callender was at the time 13 years old, for he was born on October 15th, 1932. He recalls he and his friends went following a man Mr. Spree who was playing a pan and all of them were jumping up in the celebrations singing,


He continued saying after that the boys,wanted a pan for them to play. He recalled that the pan had three notes and Mr. Spree was making them to sell for two dollars for one. He said nineteen of them put up money but could only accumalate $1.76, (One dollar and seventy six cents). Sargeant asked what we were about and we told him that we wanted to buy a pan from Mr. Spree, but we were short by twenty four cents. Sargeant George went up into the Police Mess and came back and gave us the 24 cents.We gave a man named Mr. Martin of Santa Cruz Old Road the $2.00  for him to get the pan for us.

He also recalls that Sargeant John Bailey at San Juan hill Police Station told them when they go into the yard they must

have respect and address persons older than them as "Mister",so call him Mr. Spree and let him know that they were from San Juan Hill.

Mr Callender recalls, when they went into the yard where Mr. Spree was making the pans, he was feeling Thirsty and told his friends that he was going to ask for a some water to drink, but they did not want him to go because they said Mr. Spree was a "BAD MAN"." I did not listen to them and I said Mr Spree can i have some water to drink please", He asked me in a LOUD VOICE", Whey you from? I answered, Sir, all of us from San Juan Hill. He then called a man named Alan and told him to give me some water. The man gave us the water in an enemel cup and igave one of my friends named Alcantara some to drink.

 There were six people who came for pans that day;

First- From Carenage

Second-From Curepe

Third- FromSan Juan Hill



sixth- A man with a limp who came from Point Fortin by train, he arrived after everybody else.

 When Mr. Spree gave out the pans, he asked if they heard any notes on pan to play music and everybody shouted "NO". The man from Point Fortin said he was a tin cutter and wanted to know how to make a melodic pan.

About two years ago i saw Mr. Alcantara, who still lived on San Juan Hill, He told me that Mr. Martin had died but he (Mr. Martin deceased) still had the pan at his home.

 Mr. Callender who is still very much alive and remarkably recollects so many places and names throughout his lifetime.  He said, he is convinced that Spree Simon made and invented the first "three Melodic "notes on pan, he boasts that he knows because HE WAS THERE, and that Spree Simon should be given the Recognition that he truly deserves.

Mr Callender can be contacted through me, for any discussion on this subject.



Hi Trevor I remember when we had the show in the panyard theatre the three note pan was mentioned in our presentation and the three notes were G Bflat and A and Spree Simon was given credit for that pan

Really??? Oscar 'Bogart' Pile said it best... Oscar Pile's version on - How Steelband Started

Story behind the steelpan

Lord Kitchener "Tribute to Spree Simon"(1975)

Lord Kitchener - Pan Birthday

The Steelpan - A Short History

It is said that a young man from a depressed area of east Port of Spain, the capital city, was the first to do so. Legend has it that Winston Spree Simon, tirelessly working to improve on the initial discovery was able, sometime in the early to mid-forties, to tune the ping pong; on which he could play a complete eight-note scale. With rubber wrapped around one end of a piece of stick, Spree played a simple melody to the excitement of those who surrounded him at what would later come to be known as the panyard. News of Spree's achievement spread like wildfire around Port of Spain and from there on, experimentation with the drums went on apace across the country.

Trevor I have a question for you What happened to Casablanca I had Siparia  Deltones as our guests a few years ago and the captain of the band told me Casablanca was dead what went wrong?

Poor Administration, Insecurity of the Leadership and selection of Square pegs in round holes. 

I am currently in a course looking into the history of the steelpan and would love to have Mr Callender chat with my fellow students on the subject of Spree Simon and the birth of the pan.

You said he can be contacted through you.


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