Steelpan genius: Anthony Williams / Neville Jules was the or­gan­is­er supreme of Trinidad All Stars; he was the cap­tain who mem­bers lis­tened to, not be­cause he was a “bad­john” (“but I could take care of my­self”) but be­cause he ex­ud­ed au­thor­i­ty and re­spect from All Stars pan­men.

El­lie Man­nette with In­vaders placed the band on the steel­band map. He pound­ed the pans in­side to cre­ate the mod­ern in­stru­ment. El­lie mi­grat­ed and trained gen­er­a­tions of pan­men in Amer­i­ca.

An­tho­ny “Tony” “Muff-Man” “Skip” Williams–Sun Val­ley, North Stars and Pan Am Jet North Stars (PA­JNS)–is the sci­en­tist supreme of tun­ing and cre­at­ing pans. He was mas­ter arranger, com­pos­er, in­no­va­tor, leader, and a man as­cribed the ti­tle by many I spoke with as “ge­nius of the steel­band.”

For the gen­er­a­tions whom we have robbed of the knowl­edge of Williams, let’s set down a few mark­ers which tell the sto­ry of the man who de­vel­oped, ar­guably, the great­est steel­band yet to in­ter­pret the ca­lyp­so, Eu­ro­pean clas­sics, jazz, among oth­er forms of mu­sic.

First, the most colour­ful and in­ter­est­ing of his so­bri­quets: Muff-Man. He had a full head of hair with the muff pro­ject­ing to the front. Of­ten he wore a felt hat styl­ish­ly fit­ted over the muff. “It was con­sid­ered a vagabond style in them days, and my own was big,” he said chuck­ling to him­self. “Now I am hear­ing about Ras­ta style”; he again seem­ing to de­light in a bit of self-ac­cred­it­ed delin­quen­cy.

In his time from the late 1940s through the 1950s in­to the 1960s as leader, arranger, com­pos­er, tuner and in­no­va­tor, Muff-Man con­vert­ed North Stars (it was first North­ern Stars) in­to the cel­e­brat­ed Pan Am Jet North Stars, ini­ti­at­ing steel­band spon­sor­ship.

Un­der his lead­er­ship, Pan Am Jet North Stars won the pre­cur­sor com­pe­ti­tion to Panora­ma in 1963 (The Best Road March Steel­band Com­pe­ti­tion) play­ing Spar­row’s “Dan is the Man in the Van”. In the fol­low­ing year (1964) PA­JNS won the first Panora­ma com­pe­ti­tion which was or­gan­ised by the new­ly formed Steel­band Pan As­so­ci­a­tion of George God­dard, with Kitch­en­er’s “Ma­ma This is Mas”. In the year af­ter, the band placed sec­ond to Guin­ness Cav­a­liers.

Williams and the band felt they were robbed and that was their last ap­pear­ance in that com­pe­ti­tion.

In the 1962 Mu­sic Fes­ti­val at Queen’s Hall, Williams arranged, and with his band played the “Voic­es of Spring”, still con­sid­ered one of the great­est of ren­di­tions of Eu­ro­pean clas­sics by a steel band.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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