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THE HISTORY OF NOSTALGIA STEELBAND

Sterling Betancourt MBE FRSA is the founder of Nostalgia Steel Band (1964). He remained the band leader until his retirement in 2004.

 

Nostalgia Steel Band’s origins can be traced back to 1951, when the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) left Trinidad and Tobago in July of that year to take part in the ‘Festival of Britain 1951’. Sir Sterling Betancourt was one of twelve musicians who was originally chosen from different steelbands across Trinidad.

 

After the tour of England and Paris, Sterling Betancourt settled in London. His tenor pan may have been the only pan instrument in Britain at that time.

STERLING MEETS HENDERSON: THE BEGINNING OF UK STEELBANDS

In late 1952, Sterling linked up with the late Russell Henderson MBE, who was in Britain at the time studying music and the art of piano tuning.

 

It was suggested by a record producer that these two musicians produce a recording of Russell’s music.  Under the label Melo Disc, they recorded six discs, among them, Ping-Pong Blues, West Indian Nights and many others.

 

Anxious to form a steelband, Sterling sent to Trinidad for a single second pan and a single guitar pan to be posted to him in England. This was the beginning of steel bands in Britain after TASPO.  

Copyright: Ivan Rojo Gonzalez (2010)

THE FOUNDER: SIR STERLING BETANCOURT MBE

Sir Sterling Betancourt MBE

Russell Henderson MBE

Photo credit: Kevin Joseph

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The original members were Russell Henderson MBE, Mervyn Constantine and Sterling Betancourt MBE. As Russell was the recognised musician in the group, the band was named ‘The Russ Henderson Steel Band’ and their first gig was at the Sunset Club in Carnaby Street.  

 

The steel band trio then became a quartet when Max Cherrie and his brother Ralph joined the group.  The steel band was featured in a number of radio broadcasts, cinema and television films namely The Saint, Danger Man, The Boy who talked to Animals and Upstairs and Downstairs. Mervyn Constantine had by then left the group.

 

‘The Russell Henderson Steel Band’, - also doubled as a Jazz band; The Russ Henderson Jazz Quartet’. They played in West End clubs with Russell Henderson on piano, Max Cherrie on the double bass, Sterling Betancourt on drums and Gigi Walker on trumpet.  The steelband also performed in all the Mecca dance halls, theatres, along with debutante concerts.  Conrad Martinez joined the band as an accordion player and pianist, giving depth to the repertoire already in existence.

Sterling Betancourt MBE