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Pan pioneer Stephens dead at 68

April 12, 2001
By Keino Swamber
Trinidad Express

THEODORE STEPHENS, one of Trinidad's pan pioneers, is dead.

Stephens, 68, who was regarded as a “prodigy” when he started playing pan with the Free French Steel Orchestra of San Fernando at the age of 12, died in his sleep at his New York home last Friday.

He made his mark by becoming the youngest member of the famous Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (Taspo) in 1951, and represented Trinidad and Tobago on a tour to the United Kingdom along with such greats as Ellie Mannette, Patsy Haynes, Sterling Betancourt, Belgrave Bonaparte and Anthony Williams.

The San Fernando-born Stephens attended the San Fernando Boys’ RC School and the Nelson Street Boys School in Port of Spain, and was instrumental in forming his own steelband, Metronome and, in 1954, the Southern All Stars Steel Orchestra.

The band went on to win the Music Festival that year.

Stephens, also known as “Black James”, was highly commended by adjudicator Dr Herbert Wiseman for his brilliant solo rendition of his tune of choice “Anna”.

In 1955 he migrated to the UK where he served in the armed forces.

He continued his involvement with the pan as a player, tuner, arranger and tutor and also mastered several musical instruments.

He had visited Trinidad recently.

Public relations officer of the Southern Pan Pioneers Association Junia Regrello told the Daily Express Stephens’ death was a great loss to Trinidad and Tobago and extended condolences to his family.

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