1991 George Goddard Forty Years in the Steelbands: 1939 - 1979

An Early Supporter among Professionals:
Lennox Pierre

   One of the versions by a person who can claim early and abiding interest in the steelband is that by Lennox Pierre, a solicitor by profession, founder and former legal adviser of the now defunct Steelbands Association (1950 - 1957). In a feature story in the Supplement of the "Independence Issue" of the Trinidad Guardian of August 26, 1962, titled "From Dustbins to the Classics", Pierre wrote:

   History records that on Friday July 6, 1951, TASPO (Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra) sailed from Port of Spain, Trinidad, in the SS San Mateo for the Festival of Britain.... Juveh is mother of "Pan"...Now what is the steelband? This brings us to the modern story which, it is generally accepted, began about the middle of the 1930 s... Here is what Carlton Forde the man who achieved Juveh fame as "Alexander" has to say:

...It was Carnival Tuesday in the year 1934 that the New Town Bamboo Band was coming down Nelson Street. [As the band turned into] Prince Street, the beaters were passing rum in a bottle. The bottle fell and, with the noise, I and the rest of teenagers who were behind the band ran down Prince Street and hid in different gateways.

   After seeing that there was no danger we rejoined the band. I could not get a cutter so I took up a green paint pan in the canal. This pan was the support for a tray earlier in the day. We started beating the pan with our bare hands, turn after turn in "Foule" fashion. Now I was not so known to the Bamboo giants so I figured that if I could get my clique together only with pans the next year, which was 1935, we would be on top. So I started gathering pans. Anywhere I saw a pan answering the description of the one we used that night it was taken into my custody...

   Every day some of the boys would go and coast on the pans, using a stout box which was in the yard as bass... One day while coasting, Totee took a stone and started tapping on a piece of old iron in gin bottle fashion.

   I did not like the bass because it was a box so we decided on a big paint pan, but after some trouble to get one, we figured on some biscuit drums.... The last set of pans we got was from the Harbour Scheme and very dirty, so I took charge to burn them out.

   In burning, scraping and beating out the dents, I found that some pans had very high notes when burnt for an hour or so...

   January 1935, the bamboo specialists started practising for Carnival. We went to the yard watching, empty handed the first day. The second evening two of the boys went with two pans. The next day I went to the yard and told them that we would surprise town this Carnival if we let go bamboo. They fussed and grumbled, but Freddie Maroon said he liked the pans, and we moved over our instruments to the "Big Yard" at the corner of Tragarete Road and Woodford Street... Ragtime Band was taken from the picture by the same name which was showing at the Empire Theatre at the time.

   When Carnival came on Monday morning we lined up. I as "Alexander" was the leader of the Band. Every member was equipped with music sheets, and, of course I had my baton...

   Carnival Tuesday, the bamboo bands deserted their bamboos and took to dustbins and old pots and pans. That's how the dustbins got into the picture. The rival bands for 1937 were Alexander's Ragtime Band, Spitfire, Gonzales, Hell Yard, George Street. As time went on we had Bar 20, Waterloo, and Oval Boys, known today as Woodbrook Invaders. This is Alexander's Story. I know Alexander. As a resident of New Town, I played Juveh in his band. I know that there are other versions of the origin of the Steelband.

   However, the transition from the "dustbin" age steelband to the modern steelband is much better known and more definitely dated...(1)

© 1991 Mona Goddard

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Historic Update: 08 January 1998; Last Update: 16 July 2014 23:45:00 TT

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