Steve Regis of Sundowners speaks on the very first Steelband Panorama - UpClose!

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

It’s been decades since the south steel orchestras of Trinidad stood toe to toe with the great bands of the North. In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, Steve Regis – arranger, captain and founder of Sundowners – takes us back to another time.
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WST - “When Steel Talks would be very interested in you sharing more about Sundowners Steel Orchestra and what you remember about that first Panorama in 1963… with the steelpan community.”

Steve Regis - “Thank you for your interest in Sundowners. You are asking this old man to remember things that was [sic] 60 years ago but I will do my best to answer them.”

WST - “What song did Sundowners play?”

Steve Regis - “In the 1963 first Panorama, Sundowners played a tune by Sparrow called ‘Henry, Elaine and Mama.”

WST - “What were your expectations when the band entered?”

Steve Regis - “My expectations were the same as any other arranger. I expected to win and any thing short of a 1, 2, or 3 would have been a disappointment. Thank goodness, it was at least second place.”

WST - “How did the members of the band come together?”

Steve Regis - “As teenagers, we decided to start a band in the area where we lived. Some of the streets were Point-a-Pierre Road, Purcell Street, Mount Moriah Road, Panco Lane, St. Vincent Street and other streets in the area.

“In those days, we were not using 5-bass or anything like that. It was 2-note-bass, and biscuit drums for background. Bands at that time were all calling themselves power names like Invaders, Desperadoes, Battan, Tokyo, etc., so this little innocent group of youngsters decided to call ourselves HELL FIRE.  What a joke.  We could not even beat a fly if we got into a confrontation with another band.  The band used to practice in the yard of a house at the corner of Purcell Street and Mount Moriah Road, and we called the house Grenada House as most of the residents were from that country.

“We kept the pans in a chicken house in the backyard and yes, when ever we went to practice, we would have a little cleaning job to do before we started. This goes back a long time but I believe the band’s captain was Steve Drayton and I think he also tuned the pans. After a while, we realized that the name did not suit our group and we changed it to Sundowners after a movie by the same name that was popular at the time. Steve Drayton had left the band before the name change.

“I did leave Sundowners for a short time and went to play with a band called L’il Carib on Carib Street. The band at that time was a bit more advanced than Sundowners. Some of the members were Stokley Jack, Ossie George (the band’s tuner) and Jamille. My motive was to learn more about pan playing, arranging and other little things about Pan.  I did pick up some knowledge about Pan and I then returned to Sundowners a new man - ready to make improvements with the band. The band improved immensely and the results were shown in our second-place finish in the 1963 Panorama and a third place in the Music Festival.

WST -- “How big was the audience at that first Panorama in 1963?”

Steve Regis - “I really did not pay attention to the crowd as I was a nervous wreck while preparing the band to perform. It certainly was not as big as the crowds of today”

WST - “Was there a sound system?”

Steve Regis - “No. The bands paraded down the turf.”

WST - “How were the bands chosen to participate?”

Steve Regis - “The bands were chosen from prelims in their areas and we were the winners from South.”

WST - “What did the band wear as uniforms, for that first Panorama?”

Steve Regis - “I do not remember what the uniforms were. They could have been Flour bag Sailors but they were certainly not the colorful outfits worn by the bands nowadays.”

WST  - “How was the first year Panorama, different from the second?”

Steve Regis - “I honestly could not remember if there was a difference.”

WST - “What was the most memorable moment from that Panorama?”

Steve Regis - “My most memorable moment should be two, not one. The first was hearing the announcement that we had placed second and knowing that this little South band had beaten all but one of the big bands from North. The second one was J’Ouvert morning when the band reached the Library corner and I saw the thousands of San Fernando people waiting for the band to congratulate us and to jump up with the band.”

Steve Regis is third from right, back row

From (L to R) back row - Lennox Glean (Wonderland), Kelvin Hart (City Syncopators), Herman Collins (Casablanca), Osmond Charles (Savoys), Hugh Borde (Tripoli), Emmanuel “Jack” Riley (Invaders), Steve Regis (Sundowners), Rudolph Johnson (Fascinators), Morrison Romeo (Tobago)

Front row (R to L) - Elton John (City Symphony), Kenneth Thomas (San Juan All Stars), Clifford Alexis (Stereophonics), Vincent Hernandez  (Satisfiers), Desmond Hernandez, Randolph St. Louis (Renegades)

WST - “Now tell us all about YOURSELF – your life in Pan, how you started, what you experienced, what you accomplished, and anything and everything you would like the steelband community to know.”

Steve Regis - “I believe that my answers above already explained most of my life in the Pan world, how I started and some of my experiences. As for my accomplishments other than the above, I was selected to the National Band to perform in the U.S.A. in 1963. I was one of three arrangers in the band. The two others were Junior Pouchet (now deceased) and Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed. I was also chosen at that time, Manager of the group as our President George Goddard was unable to accompany the group for the trip. In 1965 I again was part of the group that went to England, Scotland and Wales for the Commonwealth Festival and I was also a member of the band when we played at Expo ‘67 in Montreal, Canada.

“I returned to Trinidad after Expo in 1967 and left in 1968 to live in Montreal where we had a great stage band called Melotones.  In 1978, I left Montreal to live in Toronto. At first, I tried to join a few bands but to tell the truth, I did not feel that the bands were very serious and I was always a person who took band practice seriously. I also had a few offers to teach in schools but that was not possible as it would have been difficult to do my day job with the Ontario Government and to teach at schools. 

“Over the past 7 to 10 years however, I have been judging some Pan competitions here in Toronto and have also been judging The Calypso Monarch Competitions held at Caribana time. I have to admit though, that since stopping, pans have improved quite a lot. Pan players are so good now that I regret they were not in my time. I just cannot believe it when I see these young ladies playing so well.

In my time, I had a vision that one day, Pan will be played throughout the world; I did not imagine that I would have seen it done so well and by women and kids. Kudos to them all.”

More from Steve Regis in the WST Forum - Setting the record set on Sundowners

“Let me fill in the missing pieces and some clarification of Sundowners.

“The original Sundowners was captained by Selwyn Dayal and I was the music arranger. The address was at Purcell Street in a garage which belonged to Selwyn’s family. After Selwyn left for the U.S.A., the band was moved to my yard at 7 Panco Lane and I became both Captain and Arranger. My next door neighbour Henry Hart who was an employee of Texaco, became our manager and he was able to obtain a great contract from Texaco to sponsor the band so we became Texaco Sundowners.

“In 1965 while I was away in England, Scotland and Wales with The Trinidad and Tobago National Steelband, a very ambitious young member (whom I will not name as I do not wish to start something that was 48 years ago and long forgotten) formed a mutiny and removed all the pans from my residence to Vistabella. With some of the members of the band, they formed a pan side and even had the gall to call the band Sundowners.

“They were however, not able to use the name Texaco as the contract was signed by me and Texaco would not deal with any one but myself. After my return, I was called in by Texaco for some clarification and I informed them as to what had transpired. They gave me two options.

“(1) - They could handle it legally and recover the pans. I did not like that idea as it would have made enemies with friends that I had grew up and played with for several years. I would not have been able to accept them back into the band as I would not have been able to trust them anymore.   

“(2) - They offered to have a full new set of pans made and I could start a new band.

“That was a good offer except that it took me many years to get Sundowners to where they were and I did not think that I could have started from scratch again to teach new people to play. Also at that time, I had seen a bit of foreign countries and I was getting the itch to live abroad.

“Around that same time, my younger brother Raphael Passey, (now deceased) had started to teach a young group of kids from the area. I had given them a few pans to start and they were making progress. The name of the group was West Stars and I asked Texaco if they would be willing to give the sponsorship to this group. They said that they would on condition that I would be a member of that band. West Stars was extremely happy with that as it meant getting one  of the biggest sponsors and also an experienced arranger who had been around the block, and so Texaco West Stars was born and Texaco Sundowners died peacefully.

“The Sundowners that went to Vistabella, never really made it into the big times. They did get a sponsor called Schlomberger for a while, but after I left Trinidad in 1968, I could not really say what happened to that band.

“In the 90s, the original captain of Sundowners, returned to Trinidad for some time and he started a single pan band which he again called Sundowners. I don’t think that they lasted very long as Selwyn again returned to the U.S.A.

“The only Sundowners that was a powerhouse in San Fernando, was the one mentioned above called Texaco Sundowners. This was my band which placed second in the first-ever Panorama, and also placed third in the Music Festival. We also produced a first place winner in the Tenor Solo competition in the Music Festival (Ralph Ryce).

“The band also performed in the movie Eighteen on Steel with Invaders and the American Naval Steelband.  The band’s name also appears in the book 40 Years of the Steelband, written by George Goddard.

Sundowner’s performance in the movie ‘Eighteen on Steel’


“Sorry for the long-drawn history but it was necessary in order to clarify as to which Sundowners was the successful band that came out of south.”

Steve Regis

Click for WST’s Trinidad and Tobago Panorama 2013 coverage 50 Years of Steelpan Music Excellence

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