SILVER STARS and the Pouchet dynasty

by Ian Lambie

Provided with the expressed permission of: the Author

One evening in May 1953 the Police raided the panyard and arrested and charged six of the youths for creating a nuisance and disturbing the peace. The accused were defended by attorney Arthur Wong, and the Magistrate George Cabral dismissed the charges and ruled that steelband practice may not be a nuisance before 10 p.m. Arthur Wong sued the State for wrongful arrest and each of the boys was awarded Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars, a tidy sum in 1953. This information was supplied by Ray Chan and Colvin Joseph who were present but were not arrested. This incident had an adverse effect on the parents of some band members...

Silver Stars and the Pouchet Dynasty: Part I

One day in 1947, Ellie Mannette of Woodbrook Invaders, while on Duke Street was confronted by a group of rival panmen. He was offered a safe haven at the home of Hollis Rodriguez who witnessed the incident. In appreciation, Ellie gave one of his favourite tenor pans “el Maestro” to Hollis.

Hollis brought the prized pan to the home of the Youngs at Woodford Street in Newtown where a second pan was introduced by Maurice Alvarez. The group comprised of students from both St. Mary’s College and QRC (Queen's Royal College), obtained more pans and relocated to the more spacious backyard of the Chan family at 80 Picton Street.  In 1948 Newtown Boys’ Steel Orchestra lead by Ramon Young was formed. The twin brothers Ray and Ronnie Chan were members of the band.

The band’s first assignment was to supply the music for “Valentinos,” a Carnival band organized by the Guillen family, and the name “Valentinos” stuck. In 1952 the band appeared on a Rediffusion Programme with the theme song “Count Every Star” hosted by Sam Ghany and Frank Pardo, and the band adopted the name “Silver Stars.” Ramon Young continued at the helm and around 1953 nineteen-year-old Selwyn Gomes was introduced to the band by Fred Penco. Selwyn soon became the band’s arranger.  When the Chans required additional space to extend their home the band was relocated to the Halfhides’ backyard at No. 7 Warner Street.

Junior Puchet
Junior Pouchet

Enter the Pouchets of Western Main Road at Cocorite. Mrs. Pouchet had purchased a tenor pan for son Edgar “Junior” from Hugh Borde of Tripoli Steelband, and later one for younger son Edwin as a birthday gift. Together with some friends, other pans were obtained and the band “Gold Coast” was formed. In 1953 “Gold Coast” merged with “Silver Stars.”

One evening in May 1953 the Police raided the panyard and arrested and charged six of the youths for creating a nuisance and disturbing the peace. The accused were defended by attorney Arthur Wong, and the Magistrate George Cabral dismissed the charges and ruled that steelband practice may not be a nuisance before 10 p.m. Arthur Wong sued the State for wrongful arrest and each of the boys was awarded Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars, a tidy sum in 1953. This information was supplied by Ray Chan and Colvin Joseph who were present but were not arrested. This incident had an adverse effect on the parents of some band members.

In 1954 Selwyn who was also the arranger for Tropitones Steelband accompanied this band on a tour of Canada and during his absence his protégé Junior Pouchet filled the vacancy in Silver Stars.

Tropitones at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1955
Tropitones at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1955 - photo ©  Lawford Dupres

In 1956 Selwyn migrated to Canada and Junior assumed the position of arranger and captain. Silver Stars was a very popular steelband and played at the prestigious Country Club, at fetes, and at private parties. In 1963 Silver Stars became the first steelband to be adjudged the Carnival “Band of the Year” with its Russell Charter portrayal of “Gulliver’s Travels,” with costumes designed by Pat Chu Foon.

Pat Chu-Foon
Pat Chu-Foon  - photo ©  Dr. William B. Aho

Silver Stars acquired a reputation for its “Bomb” tunes arranged by Junior Pouchet, the most memorable of which include “Military Polonaise” (1960), “Salut d’amour” (1961), “Die Fledermans” (1962), “Elizabethian Serenade” (1964), “Ghost Riders in the Sky” (1965), “Wonderful Land” (1966) and “The theme from Dr. Zhivago” (1967).

"Salut d'amour" by Silver Stars Steel Orchestra

In 1968 the band entered into contracts to play at the “Forty Thieves” club in Bermuda, then in Los Angeles, and finally in 1971, at the Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando, where it was a featured attraction for the next twenty-nine years.

Every Carnival season Junior returned to Trinidad on sabbatical leave from his overseas commitments to arrange the Silver Stars tunes for the Carnival and in 1970 the band had its first success in the Panorama competition tying with Invaders for third place. Silver Stars played Calypsonian Blakie’s “Simple Calypso” while Invaders played Lord Kitchener’s “Margie.

Silver Stars and the Pouchet Dynasty: Part II

Edwin Pouchet - Steelpan Music Arranger
Edwin Pouchet

In the continuing absence of Junior the band gradually lost its popularity and became dormant in 1976. In 1986, it was resuscitated by Edwin Pouchet who had returned to Trinidad following a stint with Junior and the Adventureland Steelband.

Junior Pouchet has been one of pan's greatest ambassadors. No one has been responsible for more persons hearing steelband music in live performances than Junior Pouchet and his Adventureland Steelband. This stage-side of eight members from the Silver Stars performed at the Epcot Center in Disney World from its opening in 1971 to 1999. During its first year, the Epcot Center was visited by 10,700,000 persons. The number of annual visitors steadily increased to 14.1 million in 1978 and to 23.9 million in 1986. In 2015 there were 53,000 visitors to the Epcot Center daily.

Early contracts required that the band perform seven days per week which was reduced to six days per week, and finally to five days per week playing for twenty minutes in each hour. The Adventureland Steelband also played at Disney Hotels, at Disney Conventions, at private parties and occasionally on Disney’s river boat “The Empire Queen.”

Junior Pouchet and Edwin Pouchet
Edwin and Junior Pouchet - image © Mark Loquan

Young Edwin idolized his elder brother Junior and in 1973 Edwin joined Junior and the Adventureland Steelband at Disney World.  And so versatile was he that he was capable of playing any of the instruments. In 1976 Edwin returned to Trinidad and in 1982 arranged Calypsonian Scrunter’s “The Will” for Invaders Steel Orchestra.

In April 1983 Tokyo’s Disneyland was opened, and so confident was Junior in Edwin’s ability, that he sent him to be the arranger for the Adventureland Steelband at Tokyo Disneyland.

In 2004, Silver Stars had won the Panorama medium band category playing “Pure Party,” a Brian “Bean” Griffith composition. For Panorama 2005 Silver Stars played “Frenzy” earning 2nd place in the medium band category, and for the 2006 Panorama the band played Edwin Pouchet’s first-ever composition “High on de Pan.”

Silver Stars were back-to-back champions in the 2009 Panorama, large band category playing “First in de Line,” and in 2010 with “Battle Zone.”

Edwin also arranged the orchestra’s winning pieces for the Pan in the 21st Century competitions; “Love Theme” in 2002, and “Phantom of the Opera” in 2007. Other arrangements included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Romance in F Major,” and “In the Mood” in 2005.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” arranged by Edwin Pouchet

He has also arranged for Panorama several calypsoes sung by “The Original DeFosto Himself” (Winston Scarborough) including “Pan In A Rage,” “Play Mr. Pannist Play” and “Four, Lara, Four.”

In the 2011 medium band category of Panorama, Katzenjammers of Black Rock, Tobago were co-winners playing Edwin’s composition “Wake up” and in 2012, Katzenjammers were again medium band winners playing another of Edwin’s compositions, “This is Bacchanal.”

Over the years the lyrics for most of Edwin’s compositions were written by  Alvin Daniell.

Silver Stars celebrated its 60th Anniversary from 1st to 8th November 2008 at its headquarters at 56 Tragarete Road which are the same premises occupied by Alexander’s Ragtime Band in 1939/1940.

Another achievement of Edwin was the realization of his dream to establish a Parang and Steel Festival which was accomplished in 1990. This well-patronized annual cultural event has grown in popularity over the years.

Junior Pouchet passed away in Orlando  on 24th March, 2012 and Edwin followed two years later on 22nd March, 2014 in Port-of-Spain.

With the passing of Edwin, Chanel Pouchet, Edwin’s daughter assumed the captaincy of the band and Liam Teague became its arranger. Christine Pouchet, Edwin’s widow is the band’s manager.

The Silver Stars “family” was in mourning following the murder of its most prominent Japanese-born panist, Asami Nagakiya, whose body was found on the Queen’s Park Savannah on Ash Wednesday 2016.

Inputs from Ray Chan, Peter Quong Sing, Davo Mahon, Lawford Dupres and Colvin Joseph are acknowledged.

 


Veteran pan player Ian Lambie
Ian Lambie

“I was there,” says Ian Lambie, who is 83 years of age [in 2016] and since 1998 has lived in Tobago.  His band was Casablanca [Steel Orchestra] and he lived close to the panyard and was friendly with many of the players, particularly Ormond “Patsy” Haynes who became a member of TASPO.

 


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