The nineteen sixties were my formative years, and was a great time to be young in Trinidad , especially since our musical culture , influenced by modern trends, had reached perhaps its most vibrant and creative era.
That was the decade during which the steelbands matured into a viable musical alternative to the wind and string instrument bands , both in parties and dances, and on the road at Carnival.
The youthful music of the nineteen sixties represented a major shift from the music of prior generations, and nowhere was this more obvious in Trinidad and Tobago than in the combo music craze that was embraced by teenagers and young adults.
In the early sixties the dance bands also improved significantly, with big new sounds from bands like the Clarence Curvan Band , The Dutchy Brothers band , Joey Lewis, the Bonaparte Brothers , and others , including a few years later the band I consider to be the best of the big band era , the Ron Berridge band.
Bands moved away from the formal dance hall style of the fifties as featured by the Sel Duncan Orchestra , for example , to a more modern youthful sound influenced by rock and roll and Latin American sounds.
The sweet sounds of Ansel’s guitar stylings can be heard in this arrangemnet of “Hawaiian Sunset “
In this musically rich environment of the early sixties , we also saw the growth and popularity of the combo style band.
Influenced by instrumental rock groups like the Ventures , The Shadows, Booker T and the MGs and others, “combo-mania ” as we called it exploded on the scene and caught the imagination of the youth.
One of the pioneers and most influential of the early combo groups was the Ansel Wyatt Combo.
Hailing from Vistabella , Ansel was a guitar prodigy , playing his guitar with the then popular Norman “Tex” Williams dance band as a teenager.
The combo featured Ansel Wyatt on lead guitar, ably supported by Steve Khan on rhythm guitar.
Steve was a fine guitarist whose strumming style blended perfectly with Ansel’s lead. The Sammy brothers, with Morris “Boojie” Sammy on bass and George Sammy on drums, held down the rhythm section.
One of the Ansel Wyatt Combo’s first radio hit in the early sixties was this arrangement of the nineteen-fiftynine Johnny Mathis hit, “Stairway to the Sea” composed by Albert Beach and Guiseppe Cioffi.
From the 1962 movie starring Marlon Brando, here is the Ansel Wyatt Combo and one of their biggest hits with young party goers, “Mutiny on The Bounty”.
The Ansel Wyatt Combo was incredibly popular , and garnered a large and enthusiastic following , especially among us who were teenagers at that time ; particularly since the band members were no more than teenagers themselves.
On a personal note , the success of this band inspired some friends and I to form our own combo , The Silhouettes Combo of Marabella , which achieved a moderate level of success , even after I left T&T in 1968.
As the combo movement grew ,the combos became more sophisticated , including vocalists , keyboards and even wind instruments in some instances.
However , the cultural importance of Ansel Wyatt and his pioneering combo cannot be overstated , and Ansel Wyatt should be recognized as an influential contributor to Trinidad’s culture of the nineteen sixties and seventies.
Ansel Wyatt’s Combo had many popular hits that we danced to as youths, and one of them was this arrangement of the 1960’s hit by the British group, The Shadows “Apache”. So , for all those who were young in the early 1960’s, and those who were teens back then and remember those Saturday evening 2pm to 10pm dance parties featuring the Ansel Wyatt Combo, here is “Apache”.
With little fanfare , and unfortunately little public acclaim, Ansel Wyatt passed away on June 18th, 2017.
He was an authentic Trinidadian guitar hero.
May he Rest in Peace.
“Prelude in A Minor” … An Ansel Wyatt composition
.*** R.I.P. Ansel G. Wyatt (Dec 10, 1943 – Jun. 18, 2017) ***