1986 , The Year of The Hammer

Nineteen eighty-six was a memorable year; two incidents made that year unforgettable to me.

The date was January 28th, 1986, and I was at Logan Airport in Boston on my way to Trinidad for the Carnival, when we got the news that the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members.

Onboard was Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher from nearby Concord, New Hampshire, who had been expected to become the first school teacher in space but instead died at age 37.


Meanwhile, ten months earlier in Trinidad on March 29th, 1985 Rudolph Charles, captain of the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra passed away at age 46.

Rudolph Charles (Charlo, aka “The Hammer”) was a celebrated steelpan tuner, pan pioneer and leader of the steelpan movement in Trinidad and Tobago, and was mourned by the pan fraternity worldwide.


For Carnival 1986,singer and composer David Rudder won the Calypso Monarch competition with his stirring tribute to “The Hammer”.

The Steelband Panorama competition of 1986 was a tribute to the memory of the fallen steelband leader, and several bands featured David’s calypso masterpiece” The Hammer” .

“The Hammer” by David Rudder (Calypso Monarch winning performance, 1986)

We all knew that Desperadoes would go all out in honor of their fallen leader, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

They had a fine performance that night.


But the night belonged to Leon “Smooth” Edwards and Trinidad All Stars.

Smooth’s arrangement of “The Hammer”, and the performance by All Stars outclassed everyone else and was the obvious winner that night.


Incidentally, “The Hammer” could also describe the shock felt worldwide , when the shuttle blew up that day.

The Astronaut and The Hammer!

I hope no one is upset that I bring these two events together, but they are my memories, after all.

Rudolph Charles (1 October 1938 – 29 March 1985) 

Sharon Christa McAuliffe (née Corrigan) September 2, 1948 – January 28, 1986)

May they Both Rest in Eternal Peace

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