Rudolph Edwards: Journey with Desperados

WITCO Desperadoes Pan Yard
WITCO Desperadoes Pan Yard

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Staff Article
Interview Recorded: July 03, 2005
Posted: July 19, 2005

In 1959, we clashed with 'San Juan All Stars'

Long ago steelbands like 'Despers', 'Casablanca', 'Invaders', 'Tokyo', 'Renegades' and so on were part of the riot thing. For instance, if a 'Casablanca' man hit a man from 'Invaders' and the 'Invaders' man tell the rest of his band members, the first thing they will ask him, is what band the fella from and then the riot will start. Apart from that, many of the riots used to be over a woman and also when bands used to clash on the road, it was mainly at Carnival time. In 1959, we clashed with 'San Juan All Stars' on Charlotte Street right in front of the hospital on Carnival Tuesday. That same year we played 'Noah's Ark', Cito played 'Fruits and Flowers' and 'San Juan All Stars' played a War Mas', 'Battle Cry', and they had their tank and everything in the band. The first thing they did was mash up Cito's band 'Fruits and Flowers' and that was when the bacchanal started. Our band was in the front going up and when we saw the late Jack Braithwaite (a fella who used to play History Mas') and we opened our band to let him pass through. 'San Juan All Stars' made the mistake when they ran through the band and came up in the front where we were because those Laventille fellas weren't making joke with what was happening. All the badness they came with ended because it was real licks from us with the shepherd's rods we had (the rods were part of our costume). When we turned back, we went and turned over the big tank they had and it was filled with only cutlass and so on in it. The tank had, "Don't Try to Stop Battle Cry," written on it.

After the clash, everything had mashed up and they couldn't go to the Savannah again; they had to run and hide. They ran inside the hospital compound and started taking off their army costumes so that they wouldn't be recognized because licks was still passing outside on the road. I heard that whole thing was caused by a stupid fella by the name of 'Keyboo', but he is dead now. Believe it or not, but back then we used to go down good with 'San Juan All Stars' and they used to come up in our yard and we would even lend them some of our costume pieces like the bottles, belts, backpacks and so on. We used to also go up in their yard to show them how do certain things with their mas'. We had our time playing War Mas' like 'To Hell and Back', 'Jump into Hell' and 'Signs by Ojeema' and we used to win right through. After playing War Mas' we started to play History Mas'.

After that same Carnival in 1959, C.D.C. was giving out prizes and we got a trophy for what we did for Jack Braithwaite and them. Jack probably told them if it weren't for us they would not have reached in the Savannah Carnival Tuesday. When you spend all that money on History Mas' you are not looking for fight. Jack Braithwaite's and Cito's bands were History Mas'; they didn't have any hooligans in their bands. They were not looking for fight; they came out to play their nice mas' (which was expensive) and enjoy themselves. The people who spent their money to buy that kind of mas' are decent people. Cito's mas', 'Fruits and Flowers' was nice and it looked real; he was really good at bending wire. When we are playing mas', we have our own crowd and bands know that. We have strong supporters like Allyson Hennessy who also does our decorations. When you come in our band you are safe and nobody could come and interfere with you. You cannot do our band anything and get away with it.

Recently we buried one of our good panmen up here in Laventille. They brought his body to the pan yard and we put his coffin on a pan stand that Allyson Hennessy decorated for the funeral. We pushed the pan stand onto the road and we carried him up to the St. Marts church. The funeral was big and we beat plenty pan for him.


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