The Steelbands unusual US Ambassador
Pandemoniacs of 1957
US Tenth Naval District Steelband of Marines
Extracts from George Goddard and Peter Seeger
Pandemoniacs probably on Base in Puerto Rico
This is the story of a farsighted American Admiral, who became by a quirk of history, unadmittedly the first true ambassador for the steelbands of Trinidad and Tobago to the United States of America in 1957. For the steelbands; Pandemoniacs probably publicised the arrival of the genre in the USA, as much as their Trinidadian counterparts TASPO, had previously done in Europe in 1951.
One reference to Admiral Gallery, and also gives us the name of the band; comes from the 1964 book STEEL DRUMS by folk singer and pan player Peter Seeger; but the date of the Admirals bands exploits is unclear. The reference is about the spread of steelbands out of Trinidad.
The man who got most publicity [in the United States] for steel bands in the late 1950s, was a US Admiral in charge of the Puerto Rican Naval Base. He fell in love with the music, and sent his whole Navy band to Trinidad for a week, with orders to buy a set of drums and come back knowing how to play them. Orders were orders, and they were well-trained musicians. Admiral Dans Pandemoniacs soon became the hit of the island of Puerto Rico, and travelled to New York and Chicago to make television appearances, as the clipping below attests.
Steel bands have also become well-known in London, formed by West Indians who have moved there in recent years. Steel bands have also travelled to Vienna and Moscow, to participate in youth festivals.
Adm. Gallerys Oil Drum Band
Adm. Daniel V. Gallery, former chief of Naval Air Reserve at Glenview, has organized this Navy band, whose instruments are old oil drums, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he now commands the US Caribbean Sea Frontier. The music of such bands is the rage in the West Indies. Some of the oil drums have been cut down to produce a variety of tones.
Added attraction with band is native style limbo dancer; whose object[ive] is to go under bar at lowest possible height without touching arms, hands, back or head to ground. Band will visit Chicago next month.
[ Circa late 1950 - Source (The words Frontier and native make it a US publication) and Date unspecified ]
© 1964 Oak Publications: STEEL DRUMS How to play them and make them: THE STEEL DRUMS OF KIM LOY WONG: By Peter Seeger; pg 33
The other source, by George Goddard, sets both some background history and cites the Trinidad Guardian; giving us the date of 1957. Goddard among other things, is bemoaning the fact of low attendance to a competition organised by the Trinidad and Tobago Steelbands Association.
...only a small crowd attended Wednesday night's [18th December 1957] preliminary of the island-wide Steelband competition at the Astor Cinema for the Renison Trophy.
...When at 10:45 p.m. the All Aces Steelband of Boissiere Village beat out the last of their three test pieces; that spelled the end of the competition.
And then came the judges decision - Silver Stars of New Town, Ebonites of Morvant and Tripoli of St James had secured the highest marks.
Judges were Major Rupert Dennison, Mr Andrew Carr, Mr C S Espinet, Mr Bruce Procope and Mr John Buddy Williams.
[ Trinidad Guardian, December 20th, 1957, pg 6 ]
The US Navy Steelband
The small attendance did worry and frustrate us to some extent; we could not understand how the people in the South could have shown more interest in the steelband than did their counterparts in the North. However, we were determined not to back down because we were of the firm belief that in the end we would be successful in achieving our main objectives, which were to develop and promote the steelband music, and to create genuine unity and brotherhood among all steelbandsmen in Trinidad and Tobago.
While our own nationals were displaying such apathy towards pan and panmen, the Americans were getting into the act. The Tenth Naval District Steelband (of the United States Navy) was, in addition to making a name for itself in the USA, also making top news in Trinidad and Tobago. One month before the poorly attended steelband preliminary at the Astor Cinema, according to the Trinidad Guardian, the US Navy Steelband was playing at the White House:
Steelband to make White House Debut: A Steelband, Trinidad's contribution to the music world will make its first appearance at the White House Washington, next month, when Admiral Gallery's Steelband of Marines stationed at the U.S. Naval Base, Puerto Rico, tour the U.S. next month.
The band was formed by its patron, Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, Commandant of Tenth Naval District of which Trinidad is part. The pans and other equipment were supplied by the Esso Steelband...
[ Trinidad Guardian, November 20th, 1957, pg 3 ]
So while we had poor attendance at our concerts, here was the Tenth Naval District Steelband playing at the White House with our own Esso steelband pans. But this did not disturb us as much as did some people on the local scene who were doing everything in their power to encourage steelbands to violate the principles of the Association...
© 1991 Mona Goddard Forty Years in the Steelbands: 1939 - 1979 by George Goddard (1991): Growing up: the 1950s; pg 90
[This reference is a matter of research for these pages]
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