The darkest side of the steelband movement came to the fore during the formative years from the mid forties through the fifties into the sixties and as late as 1972 when the last recorded steelband clash saw Invaders running through its step daughter steelband Starlift in Woodbrook of all places .
The steelband was stigmatized by the behaviour of its robust practitioners and immortalized in song by the Mighty Sparrow in his iconic calypso "Outcast" .The most effective line being "If yuh sister talk to a steelpan man the family want to break she hand, put she out break up every teeth in she mouth pass yuh outcast".
The average steelband man in the early years was mostly unemployed and employable: he was a hustler, gambler and a pimp living off the immoral earnings on the jammettes who were prostitutes of a very violent nature.
The Barrack yard was the community of the dispossessed .There was a long building with several apartments tenanted by various extended families communal cooking and bathing was a common occurrence. In the early compound for Africans related festivals such as the Shango\Orisha feasts, Dame Lorraine and Kalinda or Stick fighting competitions. The Congo drums supplied the music and the young ladies danced the Bongo and the Bele .Later on, when the Africans drum was banned ,the Tamboo Bamboo band was invented to replaced it and later on the precursor of the steelband took shape in the form of the metal bands .
The young men grew up in this environment that invoked the warrior spirit of their African ancestors ,these were street fighting men never unwilling to defend their turf or to allow an insult to pass unchallenged: The Steelband inherited the barrack yard and its social infrastructure. Most of the steelband clashes resulted in disputes over women .The pan fraternity was extremely chauvinistic and the cult of Machissimo was clearly evident in that women were debarred from playing .They however fed, housed, and supported their men folk and the jammettes besides minding the saga boys were the flag wavers of the bands and the cause of much friction especially during the World War II days when the night clubs catered to the thousands of American Servicemen stationed here.
The bad johns were employed as bouncers ,panmen provided music and security , while the jammettes provided comfort and other chores .The area of Wrightson Road to French Street to Donkey City (present location of Crowne Plaza Hotel) was renamed the Gaza Strip as it was compared to that piece of land in the middle east that was the arena for pitched battles between the Israelis and Palestinians in that era .
Each steelband had a gang attached to them that sometimes operated beyond the boundaries of steelband warfare .They also engaged in pitched battles with the police where they were often met with full brutality and bundled into the infamous Black Maria Van to be transported to her majesty's prison.
The early bad john were stick men and stick fighters , people like Mastifay and Dalgo from Tunapuna and Sagiator from Hell Yard. Because of the tough nature of the early steelbands men leadership status usually automatic became the unchallenged domain of the baddest men on the block who were not necessarily involved in musical noises but led the troops in battle and enforced strict discipline within the band. This mantle of strongmen captain first won by bad john like Stephen "Goldteeth" Nicholson of Renegades stretches over to modern steelbands East Dry River and San Juan were the areas .Where some of the baddest steelbands came from and it was no surprise that there was always a state of war with San Juan All Stars engaging Renegades, Desperadoes and Tokyo in different occasions ,sometimes out of the Carnival season .San Juan boasted bad johns like Lance Scott, Son Johnson, City Mouse, Glad Man, Jo-Jo, Ghost, Valery, Aker, Keune, The Diamond Brothers and other Renegades gang law breakers was a mixture of saga boys and hardened criminals ,a jail term was a badge of honour and many youths had to make time to be accepted so they channeled their miserable behaviour into petty crimes to serve a prison sentence .Some of the lawbreakers were Nickos, Half-a-Donkey, Tan Tan, Tampico, Papito, Little Axe,Mr. Lee, Whitney Kincaid, The Mc Queen Brothers, Dalphie Holder and Peter Blood.