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First Steelpan Recording, 'Lion-Oh' Hell Yard SteelBand & the Roaring Lion1940

"The earliest known steelpan recording from Trinidad and Tobago was the Hell Yard Steel Band accompanying "The Roaring Lion" in 1940. This was recorded by Decca Records on February 11th, 1940, at the Sa Gomes Emporium located at Marine Square and the name of the calypso was 'Lion Oh'. , the first two lines of which were "Leggo me lion, Lion oh, Oh leggo me lion, Lion oh" and the Decca recording card listed the performers as "the Lion with his West Indian Rhythm Band."

The Decca record sheet also asserts that this performance "is the earliest known recording of a steel-band" and lists the instruments used as "boom (metal drum), tenor (two large cans or biscuit tins), du-dup, and the ubiquitous bottle and spoon"

Taken from the book 'The Birth of Steel-Drum Music and the History of the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra' by Bukka Rennie

Attributes .
Credit is given to Cynthia Mclean for the Pan Art pieces.
Credit given to the Roaring Lion foundation for use of Lion's photographs.
All other Images appearing in this video are copyrighted to its respectful owners

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Comment by FOY BARNES on November 13, 2013 at 3:37pm

Hi Glenroy, I am quite pleased that you remembered the first steelbeand that you heard on the radio was BRUTE FORCE. It boggles my mind that so much of the true history of pan is unknown to the experts. As far as a parallel development in Antigua, let me just throw some facts out there and anyone can judge.

1) First Panorama............ Antigua. This was some time around 1946. HELLS GATE won playing Peanut Vendor. Some sources say that it was in St. Thomas, but actually it was at the Antigua Girls School.

By the time Trinidad had its firtst Panorama, Steelband Competition as it was called, this competition was more tha fifteen years old.

2) First Steelband Association ..........Antigua

George Goddard in his book tells us that the Steelband Association in Antigua was created before the one in Trinidad.

3) First steelband appearing in a movie ..............Antigua

4) First steelband at the Festival of Britain ...........Antigua

When Ellie Mannette took the group to Britain in I think 1952, that was not the first. A band from Antigua went in 1946 and was the only musical invitee from the entire British Commonwealth. George Goddarg's book verifies this fact.

5) First steelband to play in a Hotel in Trinidad................Antigua

George Goddard mentions this in his book. Ellie Manette can corroborate this as he had words with a government official over this matter. He thought that this was a slap in his face, because he did not think a foreign band should play in Trinidad hotels when his band was not allowed to.

These are just a few bits of information that tells me Antigtua cannot be left out of any historical discussions about pan.

Comment by Glenroy R Joseph on November 9, 2013 at 6:40pm

As a student of history, cultural and otherwise, I accept the Hell Yard recording to be the first steelband recorded, since the bass kettle and especially three note kettle  were a distinctive step up from the iron band rhythm sections that had begun to replace the tamboo bamboo bands.

And I must mention that I was so proud and happy to meet Mr. Neville Jules in person on Labor Day in Brooklyn.

It is almost unbelievable that such a quiet unassuming gentleman could have had such a major impact on a nation's culture.

Much, Much respect!

Comment by Glenroy R Joseph on November 9, 2013 at 6:27pm

Thank you for your input, Mr. Rennie.

You are one of those credible sources that we are happy to have on this forum to ensure the historical record is correct.

And BTW everyone I must mention that the first steelband I remember hearing getting regular airplay on Trinidad radio in the early 1950's wasn't a Trinidad Steelband.

It was Brute Force from Antigua.

Comment by Bukka Rennie on November 9, 2013 at 3:44pm

This Hell Yard recording backing up Roaring Lion in Feb 1940 is the first recording of three-note tenor-kettles, du-dup (or bass-kettle) and bottle and spoon. No Melody, only rhythm. The melody-pans were introduced by Neville Jules on V-J day 1945. The first recording of pans playing melody was Casablanca recorded in 1948 - Blanca then had two ping-pongs tuned at different pitch played by Philip Dunbar and Don Henry; Wallace Reed on iron, a du-dup or bass kettle, and Sidney Corrignton on a dhantal of Indian origin ( described as a long, oblong piece of steel). Brute Force in Antigua was initiated by a Trinidadian who migrated to that island- cf The Oscar Pyle narrative that outlines this story.The Casablance recording came before Brute Force's.

Comment by Glenroy R Joseph on November 8, 2013 at 8:51pm

I disagree with you, Sid.

This is actually an early steel band, or steel drum band , since if you listen you can hear the lead instrument as described on the Decca record sheet.

Deceptive claims have been made using the term "steel band" for the iron bands which may have been popular before the steel drum band started in Trinidad.

As I understand it , the first pan brought to Antigua from Trinidad was an early Invaders pan.

This certainly could not have been in 1940 or earlier.

Foy is suggesting that there was parallel development of the pan at the same time in Antigua and Trinidad.

If that was the case, pan innovations should have come out of Antigua as well as Trinidad.

I may be wrong, but I am not aware of any innovations to the steelband in the development years coming out of any place else but Trinidad and Tobago.

Anyone aware of any , please advise..

Comment by FOY BARNES on November 7, 2013 at 11:08pm

The information provided here is NOT CORRECT. It is a known fact that the first ever recording of a steelband came out of Antigua. The band was BRUTE FORCE STEELBAND. As a matter of fact that information was shared here on this forum a few years ago along with the name of the song and a copy of the record cover.

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