Pan Times
George Goddard

Who Am I?  A Breakdown Of George “Sonny” Goddard’s Accomplishments

by George D. Goddard Jr.

Steelband performers in Trinidad and Tobago (steeldrum’s birthplace) since 1950, have been represented by three organizations: the Steelbands Association, the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen (NATTS), and (now) Pan Trinbago.

One man served as the head of all three. George “Sonny” Goddard (1924-1988).

He is the only president of any of the three organizations to be re-elected to the post, not once, but (at least) ten times!

In all, he served as steelbands’ leader during the years 1957-1959, 1962-1971, and 1978-1979.

He is also the only president of either organization to hold government appointed positions (including Cultural Adviser to the Prime Minister). He also served as an executive member of the Carnival Development Committee (CDC).

His involvement in steelbands began in 1941, as a 17-year old joining the world’s first steelband, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, as a masquerader.

He was an executive member of Trinidad and Tobago’s first steelbands’ “union”, the Steelbands Association, in 1950, after being elected to the post of Vice-Secretary.

By 1957, he is elected for the first time as President of the Steelbands Association by unanimous decision. (Membership at this time had dropped from an initial 76 steelbands down to only 12 steelbands.) He quickly appoints Bruce Procope, Esq., to draft the association’s first constitution. The following year the association is officially registered for the first time.

He was among a group of just over a dozen organizers who held the West Indies Festival in 1958, at which event, he was among those presented to HRH Princess Margaret.

In 1962, after a short hiatus for “religious reasons”, he is re-elected President, and upon his recommendations, the name is changed to the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen (NATTS). At the time, after a vote of no-confidence, the association was run by a 35-member “caretaker committee”, and groups in south and east Trinidad were considering forming their own separate organizations, which George did not believe served in the steelbands or the country’s best interests.

book cover of:  George Goddard - Forty Years in the Steelbands - 1939-1979
He successfully (also in 1962) sells the idea of forming a “National Steelband”, comprising of the more talented members of each member steelband.

In 1963, during the country’s first Carnival celebrations since gaining its independence, he heads NATTS into organizing Trinidad’s first Steelbands’ Panorama, and successfully advises the Carnival Development Committee (CDC) to increase the first prize from $350 (TT) to $1000 (TT). More than a 100% increase!

He led the organizing of Trinidad and Tobago’s first steelbands’ (classical) music festival in 1964, in response to the Trinidad Music Association’s elimination of the “Steelband Class” at their Biennial Music Festival, ending a ten-year tradition.

He is personally invited by Sir Conrad Hunte to attend the Moral Re-armament (MRA) organization’s 1964 International Youth Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan. Actor Sidney Poitier, is among the invitees introduced to the steeldrum. 22-member National Steelband performs at the event, and tour the United States with the MRA.

In 1965, the National Steelband performs at the Commonwealth Arts Festival in the U.K.

Also in 1965, 60 graduate students from the University of California are “moved to tears” during George’s lecture, “The Evolution of the Steelband”, at Casablanca Steelband’s Pan Theatre. They present him with a honorarium, most of which he turned over to Casablanca Steelband.

In 1966, he was a member of a Trinidad and Tobago delegation that took the steelband to Africa for the first time, for the inaugural Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal.

That same year he was presented to Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Trinidad.

In 1967, he wrote to Pope John Paul I, on behalf of the steelbands’ plight to be allowed to play church hymns, and subsequently receives cordial and encouraging correspondence back from the Vatican.

That same year, the National Steelband, with George as its manager, performs at Expo ‘67 in Montreal, Canada.

In 1968, George is appointed on a two-year contract with the government as “Adviser on the Improvement of Steelband Music”.

Also in 1968, at the association’s annual convention, among other requests, they ask for government to instruct embassies in foreign countries to seek out employment for its (mostly-unemployed) members. They also ask for a national subsidy for educational resources, for the association to be able to lobby for legislation to defend their rights and protect the interests of its members, and propose that the name be (again) changed to “Trinidad and Tobago Association of Steelbandsmen and Other Entertainers”. The local newspapers also report that the upcoming steelband music festival presents participants with “their first real musical test” (Sunday Morning by 20th-century composer, Benjamin Britten).

1969, George defends the “Bomb Competition”, after First National City Bank withdraws sponsorship, following criticisms in the media, and accusations of the steelbands causing congestion. (The “bomb” tune was a steelband’s interpreted rendition of a classical piece, played on Carnival Monday morning or J'Ouvert, French for “the opening”. Eventually, the competition would be phased out, however the traffic congestion continues to be a logistical nightmare to this day.)

Also in 1969, the Association, under George’s leadership, organizes the “Steelbands in the Modern World” seminar, the first occasion where government ministers, as well as experts in the fields of musicology, sociology, folklore and the arts, took a comprehensive look at the (then) current and future position of the “steelband in society”.

1970, after a “ways and means” committee is appointed by the Prime Minister, Dr. Eric Williams, meets with George, and discusses plans to set up a co-operative to manufacture steeldrums. George asserts that he represents all the member steelbands, and cannot be involved with any plans for a “steelband co-operative”, that did not include all the membership. Dr. Williams agrees (on George’s suggestion) to meet with the 130 steelbands (in groups), via a series of area meetings.

George is re-elected President on July 26, 1970. At the convention, Nathaniel Crichlow calls for a “Pan College”. The association also addresses issues relating to conditions of performers abroad, and the discrepancy in international relations between touring steelbands and foreign (mainly US) artistes who come to Trinidad and Tobago to perform.

George and his brother, Julian Goddard (general-secretary of the Association), openly protest “outdated colonial law”, that prohibited steelbands from parading on the streets at Christmas, referring to the steelbands as “beating noisy instruments”. Nine steelbands members charged on December 20, 1970, and were represented by the Association’s legal adviser, Charles Tyson, Esq., who disputed the claim that the instruments were “noisy”.

1971, New Years day newspaper article reports that Goddard is upset over the arrests, and calls for removal of the “primitive law”. Calls for steelbands to boycott government functions. George does not attend the Prime Minister’s Party for Tripoli Steelband, just back on tour with Liberace. On February 28, a paid advertisement, “Thank You Dr. Eric Williams”, endorsed by forty-five steelband leaders, appears in the local newspapers. Shortly after, George is fired by the government. SIC (Steelbands Improvement Committee) presses for special convention with aims of disrupting proceedings and moving for a “no confidence” vote. George announces there will no special meeting, and resigns in June as the Association’s leader. Finally, toward the year’s end, the name of the Association would be changed to Pan Trinbago.

1974, in June, George returns, and is elected Treasurer, after losing the bid for President to (incumbent) Roy Augustus. George requests for the organization’s account books for 1971-1974, and writes to the Registrar of Trade Unions after his failed attempts. He eventually resigns as treasurer. On October 20, George loses presidential bid to Bertie Fraser. TOPS (Team Of Progressive Panmen) were mainly responsible for this ousting of the (PNM-loyal) old executive.

1975, George is selected to chair 13-man committee to investigate the feasibility of Pan Trinbago singly organizing the Panorama competition for 1976. (The CDC had been co-organizer up to this time.)

In 1976, he is asked to chair an emergency meeting called by Pan Trinbago, in response to a dispute over venue, between steelbands from northern and southern Trinidad.

Later that year, at the Panorama finals, George is among fourteen steelband pioneers that were honored, including Winston “Spree” Simon, Anthony “Tony” Williams, and the “Mannette Brothers” (Ellie and Vernon).

In 1977, George, now Public Relations Officer, openly states his position that “the North Stands is Carnival institution”. Pan Trinbago threatens to boycott the Panorama if the CDC did not ready the North Stands in time for the event. They also face issues with the use of disc jockeys during Carnival, which was phasing them out of employment opportunities. They further address members’ actions over disagreements and disputes with judges’ decisions, sending stern warning about disciplinary action for violations. Later that year George submits his resignation letter.

1978, after months of continual pleadings by many steelband members, George attends a meeting and is immediately elected President of Pan Trinbago. He addresses the issue of lack of land ownership of the steelbands, whose “panyards” (places where they call “home”) they did not own. He also works to have the steelbands from central and southern Trinidad, whom had broken away and formed their own group, to return to Pan Trinbago. He focuses on the inadequate appearance fees and prize monies awarded to the steelbands for Panorama, working to have them increased.

In 1979, George successfully gets the steelbands to respect the Hindu community, by having them not play Lord Shorty’s calypso, Om Shanti Om, a song with a religious mantra.

Later that same year, in a unanimous decision, 300 individuals from 80 member steelbands of Pan Trinbago, vote to boycott the Panorama competition, in protest of the low and inadequate appearance fees they had been receiving for years. Desperadoes breaks the boycott.

In a letter dated June 5, 1979, George submits his final resignation. This would end 40 years of involvement in the “steelband movement” as player, adviser, leader, and statesman.

His involvement, now as “author”, would continue in 1980, when he began writing his book, Forty Years In The Steelbands, 1939-1979, which he worked on up to the final weeks of his life.

1987, George while on a visit to the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), crosses paths with Dr. Roy D. Thomas of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The next day, he contacts Dr. Thomas, and informs him that the first draft of his book is completed. This was October, and these events led to Dr. Thomas becoming the editor.

On January 18, 1988, George “Sonny” Goddard passes away, leaving behind a widow, four sons, and a daughter. His funeral was attended by judges, members of parliament, educators, trade unionists, Carnival bandleaders, calypso legends, and steelband members.

Later that year he is awarded (posthumously) the country’s Hummingbird Gold Medal for his “contribution to the development of the steelband.”

1991, his book is finally published by Karia Press of London, UK. His widow still owns the copyrights, however, the book’s contents continue to be plagiarized to this day. His sons (all also named “George”), are committed to the republishing and redistribution of their father’s work, and the keeping in the consciousness of those who claim to “love pan (the steeldrum),” the rich legacy and volume of work George “Sonny” Goddard accomplished during the infancy and formative years of “The Steelband Movement.”

Listen to the late Pan pioneer George Goddard in his own words, UpClose!

Leave a comment in the WST forum