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Interview Recorded: July 03, 2005
Posted: July 19, 2005
One steelband that do not forget a tune
The late Rudolph Charles was one of the first inventors with pan. We were the first band that brought out the nine bass. When he brought out the nine bass, people used to go in the Savannah to see what he was doing. One of the main men with the nine bass was a guy they used to call Eugene, but he died. After the nine bass, we played the twelve bass that Rudolph brought out; they still have the trophy for it. Rudolph Charles was the first man who invented all of those things with pan including the quadraphonic pan. When he died, they gave us permission to use the Priority Bus Route for the funeral procession. We carried his body in a chariot he had made to be cremated down Caroni. That chariot was another one of his inventions; he was never forgotten. Rudolph was not an easy guy; he was a serious fella and you couldn't push him around. An example of that was when he stopped going to the music festivals because there was no justice with regards to paying the panmen for all that they had to put out. It is hard work when you have to put out tuner's choice, play their test piece, the calypso and so on. Back then they never used to pay. In the 1966 Panorama, we played 'Sparrow's' tune 'Obeah Wedding' and all we got was a thousand dollars. It's only now they are paying; he made them start to pay before he died.
To this day, we still play 'Obeah Wedding' by 'Sparrow', which is another thing with us in comparison with the other bands. When we go out and play with any other band, they cannot handle us because we are one steelband that do not forget a tune. We could go and stand up and play a tune from since in the '60s like it was yesterday we played it. There are bands that played a Panorama tune and if you tell them to play the same tune next week, they cannot play it. We are the only band like 'Sparrow'; he could come and sing an old song like 'May May' and not forget it. When they had the first big steelband thing up at the Hilton with 'Sparrow', our band was the only band that played with him and the show was very successful. We also traveled with 'Sparrow' to places like Washington and Philadelphia. 'Sparrow' doesn't forget anything, which is why they could have shows like the ones coming up with him next week from the 7th July. Because he doesn't forget anything, he could go and sing all the tunes from way back; the other calypsonians cannot do that. We are like 'Sparrow'; we could go and play about fifty tunes without stopping. When we go to 'All Stars' pan yard to play, sometimes they want us to stop because they find we play too long. Sometimes bands do not want us around because they know that we do not forget; we have plenty good tunes and we do not ever forget them. Any tune that we play, we are likely to keep it and if they call on us to play it, we could play it. For the Point Fortin Borough Day Celebrations, we played tunes that we played in the past and one of them was 'Rebecca' by 'Blue Boy' now known as 'Super Blue'. 'Rebecca' is like our anthem; it was also a tune that brought us victory.
'The Mighty Sparrow'
The man we cannot leave out is Clive Bradley. He is the man responsible for us with all the nice music and so on. When we won the first Panorama with the tune 'Obeah Wedding', the arranger was Beverly Griffith; we didn't know Clive Bradley as yet. For the Panorama 2005, Beverly came up here in the pan yard because he still does work with the band; we do not forget who we start with. Although Bradley arranges for us for Carnival, there are other things like 'Bomb Tune' and so on that Beverly can still do for us; W.I.T.C.O. pays for those things. Long ago, even though Beverly was good with the music, he wasn't really good with reading music, so before he left to go abroad, he introduced Clive Bradley to the band and so far we have won the most Panorama competitions with Bradley.
Robert Greenidge is one of the world's best panmen and he is also a good arranger. He was the first fella to win with the first tune that he attempted. Even though men like Len 'Boogsie' Sharpe and Ray Hollman won with their own tunes, it was a good while before 'Boogsie' won with his tune. We won in two Panorama competitions with Robert; his first attempt with the tune 'Volcano', and then he came back and won with the other tune 'Fire'. Robert is in New York now, playing with all those big bands and high-class singers over there.
Pat Bishop doesn't actually work with the band, but she's doing work with 'Exodus' now. We went all about with Pat Bishop including Carnegie Hall. She could arrange and she is a good conductor. When you go to a festival with Pat Bishop, no conductor could beat her with a test piece; they cannot win her with that. She is a full-bodied woman who could really dress and when you see her on a stage she looks really nice.
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