I remember in the mid sixties , three south steelbands came on the scene around the same time.
They were Scarlet Symphony of Marabella led by Michael Alleyne , Fonclaire, led by the Austin brothers ,Rudin and Milton Wire Austin, and Silvertones of San Fernando, captained by David “Peasey” Balboza , who I knew , since he worked at the Texaco Oil Refinery at Pointe a Pierre.
When some of the members broke off from Southern Marines and , led by Michael Alleyne , formed Scarlet Symphony, I joined them.
And in 1967, my brother Ian and I played (beat pan😊) on the road for the first time; he played bass while I played tenor bass.
Though the dominant band back then was Guinness Cavaliers ,something about those other two young San Fernando steelbands appealed to me , though of course my loyalty was to my Marabella band , Scarlet Symphony.
The members of the Marabella band was also some of the guys in my “lime”. ( Trinis know what I mean ).
I remember at the time that both San Fernando bands were assisted by south businessman and pan enthusiast John Hoyte, who was to also have a band carry his name. (Hoytonians)
In 1967 , Silvertones gave an impressive appearance in the steelband festival , placing second in the unsponsored category.
Their appearance was highlighted by a memorable version of “The Barber of Seville” , arranged by San Fernando’s outstanding musician and teacher , Mrs. Marjorie Wooding , one of the first women to achieve success arranging for a steelband , and whose son Michael I also knew , working at the Texaco Oil Refinery at Point -a-Pierre .
So, when my band Scarlet Symphony dissolved in late 1967, I made a choice between the two Sando bands that impressed me , and I chose Silvertones, which was then practicing on Legendre Street , a block away from Fonclaire, who were headquartered on Claire Street.
At that time , Peasey Balbosa had gotten ill , and Silvertones was captained by Maylin Zephrine , who was a competent leader , and a good guy.
If I remember correctly , we made it to panorama semifinals in sixty-eight , with “Kicker George’s arrangement of Kitch’s “Miss Tourist”.
I stayed with Silvertones playing tenor bass on the stage side until I left Trinidad late in 1968 , but returned on vacation in 1971, the year I joined the US Army, to play for Panorama and on the road.
That year I played cellos, and as I remember, we played Lord Kitchener’s “Wait Teacher” arranged by Mrs. Marjorie Wooding . which should establish her as one of , if not the first , female panorama arrangers.
That was also the year that calypsonian Maestro brought down a side from Princes Town to join Silvertones for panorama , which was also helped by the fact that the band had gotten a sponsorship to become WASA Silvertones.
Ironically , Fonclaire turned out to be my most durable connection to the steelbands of South Trinidad, since several former bandmates from Silvertones ( like Calvin Bakhorie , for instance) were still playing with Fonclaire into the eighties.
BTW , for the record , It has been assumed that Scarlet Symphony was formed because of a money dispute between Milton Lyons and the members of Southern Marines , as was the case with many steelbands back then.
That may have been a problem since many steelbands were not very good at money management back then however , I think the primary reason for the breakup was because the Alleyne brothers were upset that Squeezer had sent Burch Kelman to the National Steelband instead of Michael , who was assuming a leadership role with the band and had taken over most of the arranging from Squeezer.
So they encouraged the breakup , resulting in the formation of a new Marabella steelband , with both Burch Kellman and Michael Alleyne on the National Steelband.
You can see them both in the band’s picture from 1967.
4 thoughts on “Memories…a brief story of my times in the South Trinidad steelpan scene .”
Thank you so very much I actually was impressed with the information given not being from that error because of my AGE. Like many of my generation this information IS welcome
Love and prosperity for ALL in PAN
As clearly I also that band break up causing Scarlet to be formed and went to the national finals in 1965,to me the conflict was not money they didn’t like Micheal wanting to override Milton ideas two men with different nature of things a learnt musician and copy musician who could not write I say.
Your comments were very interesting but what I’m about to say is also interesting also for in this National Steelband 1967 there are 2 blood Brothers representing 2 different bands and this I’m sure is a first which up to today is still a first. In the picture front row 3rd from left is Steve Regis representing Texaco West Stars and back row 2nd from right is Raphael Passey aka Rayfee representing Fonclaire. They are brothers . Milton Wire Austin was their brother in law being married to their sister.
Thanks for sharing! Didn’t know that T&T had a National Steel Orchestra in 1967! Stay safe.