Trinicenter Message Board Trinidad and Tobago News

The History of Steelband in Trinidad and Tobago

Steelband Hoax

'Spree' Simon did not invent Pan

February 27, 1987
By TnT Mirror

Slater, Goddard, Big Mac and Zigilly
From Left to Right: Slater, Goddard, Big Mac and Zigilly

The biggest steelband hoax ever has been exposed.

For years and years, the country has hailed Winston "Spree" Simon as the inventor of pan and a national hero.

In fact, several calypsoes honouring him were recorded just before his death several years ago, and one bard even had him wheeled out on the Grand Stand stage on the Dimanche Gras Show of the same year.

He was even given a National award as pan's inventor.

But the fraud was unmasked on Tuesday when George Goddard, currently on contract with the TnT Government, blew the lid on it during a meeting held earlier this week in Barataria.

Winston spree Simon
Winston "spree" Simon

"The pan which took 'Spree' to glory, had actually been bought from a man named Andrew "Pan" De La Bastide for a shilling (24 cents)," Goddard stated.

"It was the first pan ever sold."

Goddard, however, was not alone in leveling the serious charge. With him were several stalwarts of the steelband movement: Carlton Comstance "Zigilly" Barrow, former member of Hellyard (now Catelli All Stars), John Slater and Mc Kellar "Big Mac" Sandiford.

According to Goddard, Spree Simon got his pan in 1946, but the steelband had been in existence since the late 1930s.

"Steelbands were already established in the early '40s before Spree bought his pan."

The three veteran panmen with him all agreed.

Goddard added: "The first two steelbands to exist were Hellyard and Alexander Ragtime."

Slater, author of a book on his own life and times with the Steelband movement in the early days, blamed the people of John John for the Spree Simon hoax.

"These people have to be real selfish to insist that Spree invented pan because the facts are different."

"Spree played the first established tune, a hymn called "I'm a Warrior," but others had been playing local compositions before."

"The first steel instrument to replace the bamboo was actually a Bermudez biscuit drum," Ziggily then interjected.

Goddard, who is currently working with author-historian Michael Anthony to compile the "Official History of Steelband in TnT," told Mirror that touted pan experts like JD Elder, Lennox Pierre, Sylvia Gonzales and Ellie Mannette had been writing and saying a lot of nonsense.

"They have distorted the history of the pan evolution," he charged.

"I took seven pieces of documents on pan history written by JD Elder, former Chairman of the National Cultural Council, and I found that they were not only badly written, but they contained a lot of wrong information as well.

"Cecil Gray and Allan Gilchrist also wrote a lot of misleading information for students in the book 'Languages for Living,' and Mannette produced an article for an international musical magazine which ranks with distortions.

"Trinidad and Tobago must surely have the most backward set of people producing information on the pan movement," Goddard concluded.

Articles | Steelpan Pioneers | Homepage | Photo Gallery