Pelham Goddard

The Quiet Giant

A When Steel Talks Spotlight

Pelham Goddard - Steelband arranger
Steelband music arranger and  composer

PELHAM GODDARD was born in Clarence Street in St. James, Trinidad on December 12, 1946.  The son of a seaman and a school teacher, he attended St. Crispin’s EC school.  His love affair with music began early, with the first instrumental object of his affections being the piano which he played at school. Pelham remembers that ‘when the rhythm got the better of him’ and he ‘beat’ it out on the school benches, punishment followed because of the noise he created. 

On a 1959 trip back from Germany, his seaman father brought back a piano to the Goddard household - and Pelham never looked back. With the rhythm in his soul, he had become very involved with the Tassa drumming for the Hosay festival, but as he puts it "the day the piano came, I made my choice, and started learning the piano." Pelham’s now-eighty-eight year old mother is a Graduate of Trinity and Royal School of Music, and his late father both read and played music by ‘ear.’ After a few tips from his mother, he started to pick up notes from songs then heard on the radio, some of which he says he can still remember. Pelham’s older brothers were already into steelbands like Tripoli, Crossfire, Starlift and Silver Stars, so music ran in the family, to say the least!


In 1967 he went on to play in bands like Pete de Vlaught Orchestra - where he met Earl Rodney who at the time was with Solo Harmonites. He also played with combos like The Clan, and The Flames.

Pelham’s career in pan started one year later when he went to ‘hangout’ in Starlift’s pan yard one night with his brother, and ended up playing a five bass. He got ‘picked’ for the National Panorama - no easy feat for a first-time pan player, and he realized then that his talent was expanding - to the Steelpan.

His opportunity to try his hand at arranging for a brass band came in 1972 when ace arranger Clive Bradley asked Pelham to ‘hold the fort’ for him with Esquires Brass, as Bradley had commitments ‘up on the hill’ with Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. Pelham capitalized on the opportunity, while at the same time going through an arranging course at Berklee College of Music. Later that year he toured St. Thomas with top calypsonians and became a main figure in the recording studio arena.

Pelham Goddard - Upclose
Pelham Goddard

National Lottery 3rd World Steel Orchestra was formed in July of 1972 and they wanted Pelham to arrange for them, which started off his then-latest successful forage into music - arranging for steelband. He put his mark on the steelband’s hits like Gold and American Patrol, and the results sated on the charts for weeks, and also went over well in North America. 

The name Pelham Goddard can be found in numerous album credits of musical heavyweights such as the late Ras Shorty I (formerly known as Lord Shorty) - the undisputed father of SOCA music (Pelham was involved in the creation of the SOCA music art form), and other calypso legends like Mighty Shadow, Mighty Sparrow, Calypso Rose, Super Blue, Singing Francine and also Charlie’s Roots. In his years he has also combined his talents with those of Ed Watson and the late Art de Couteau.

Pelham Goddard on keyboards
Pelham Goddard on keyboards

In 1983 he arranged for Invaders Steel Orchestra, and then again for Starlift Steel Orchestra in 1986. That same year he arranged David Rudder’s music, giving Rudder the crown for every calypso competition he entered. Pelham is the only musician in history whose arrangements won thirteen ‘Road Marches’. His talents as a composer are well documented, especially for selections that were played by other steelbands for National Panoramas. The Hammer, Savannah Party, Happy Song, Panama, Dedication, Play My Music, The Band Plays On, The Unknown Band - all flowed from the musical pen of Pelham Goddard. His synthesizer solo on ‘Woman On The Bass’ is just a ‘sample’ of his synth work, being the first musician to use the synthesizer in calypso music.

Since 1989 he has been part of the Exodus Steel Orchestra ‘stable’ as their resident arranger, and to date the band has won four panorama titles. The latest was for Panorama 2004. The arrangements for the band have also brought them multiple Panorama ‘East Zone’ (Trinidad) titles and a World Festival championship, to name but a few of the band’s Goddard-led accomplishments.

Despite his hectic work commitments, for the past ten years Pelham has found time to found and run his own recording studio called Agra 9 Production Studio, from which he has produced the most songs written especially for pan, among them winners like In My House, Picture On The Wall, Fire and Steel and Freedom. Also forthcoming was a CD collaboration called  ‘Sticks and Fingers,’ with Pan legend Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, (himself an ace steelband arranger). A Musical Stew, Case Of the Disappearing Panyards, Simple Ting and Parade, also came to life in Pelham’s studio.

Years of hard work and extraordinary accomplishments have been recognized by the Trinidad and Tobago government with Pelham Goddard receiving one of the twin-island republic’s highest awards, the Hummingbird Silver Medal, along with many others including the Sunshine Award for arranging and producing.

The New York pan scene also benefited from his expertise, the last being Marsicans Steel Orchestra who came in at second place in the 2002 New York Panorama with Pelham’s arrangement of ‘Firestorm.’

100 Marsicans steelpan players prepare for the New York panorama competition. Veteran standout Pelham Goddard is the arranger

Pelham Goddard continues to brew up a storm of hits and arrangements in his studio, as resident arranger for Exodus Steel Orchestra and abroad.

by C. Phillips - Basement Press

Pelham Goddard
Pelham Goddard at When Steel Talks

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