HAPPY 90TH BIRTHDAY TONY WILLIAMS
Anthony Williams was born on 24th June 1931 on Nepaul Street St. James in the same house he lives in today, few houses from V.S .Naipaul. He attended Mucurapo Boys RC School St James and the Royal Victoria Institute. He was in involved in a few small bands until he joined Sun Valley a band led by the legendary Sonny Roach. In 1946 Tony as he is affectionately called tunes his first pan from a biscuit drum in 1944 when he was 13 years old and could have played Mary had a Little Lamb. This was not accepted by leader Sonny Roach who opted for the smaller pans.
Tony joined Northern Stars which later changed its name to North Stars, this band was led by Roy Harper. Tony became the band’s tuner after Carnival after Carnival 1952 and was elected the band’s captain. While in London he was given a music course by Lieutenant Griffith the band’s conductor.
In 1951 he was selected to visit Britain with TASPO to perform in the Festival of Britain. He replaced the Tenor Boom with two oil drums cello pans for the band.
In 1953 Tony gave us the Spider Web Pan, and notes placed according to the circle of 4ths and 5ths. He also introduced wooden stands so that the players could practice with pans around their necls.
North Stars won its first competition in 1955 at the Caribbean Exhibition, the following year the part participated in the Music Festival and were eliminated in the first round of the competition. For Carnival 1956 the band’s bomb tune was Puerto Rico Mambo and unknown to them the band was recorded on Frederick street, this was one of the first professional recordings the band made. The recording was done by American Emery Cook and was included on a record label “Jump up Carnival”. This year North Stars was the first band to hit the road with wheels instead of pans around members’ neck.
Under the leadership and musical direction the band entered the 1962 Biennial Music Festival performing Voices of Spring and the test piece “People of the Islands”, which was changed for the finals to “West Indian Serenade”. North Stars won this competition scoring 177 points.
In 1962 after the Music Festival the band obtained a job to perform at the residence of one of BWIA Managers. Present at the function was David De La Rosa of Pan American Airways who offered to sponsor the band. The band became known as the Pan AM North Stars.
In 1963 North Stars won the first Panorama Competition known initially, as the “Best Road March Steelband competition” playing Sparrow’s Dan is the Man in the Van arranged by Anthony Williams. Tony seem to understand what this Panorama competition and introduced change keys and chromatics in the arrangement.
In 1963 the band made its first overseas trip to Jamaica this was to herald its new jet service from 15th June 1963. Prior going to Jamaica the band’s name was changed to Pan Am Jet North stars as the airline was introducing a jet service.
In 1964 the band won the Panorama competition for the second time perform Kitchener’s Mama Dis is Mas which was also the road march.
In 1965 the band performed Kitchener’s “Hold on to your man” and was beaten by Guiness Cavaliers of San Fernando by half a point. North Stars never entered the Panorama competition again. However for the Carnival the band won the Bomb Competition performing Valencia, and won the best beating band on the road. The band provided music for George Bailey’s band. In December the band recorded a Long Playing record Souvenirs in Steel which included Tony’s composition Pan Down Fifth Avenue.
He however entered the 1966 Music Festival and won with Poet and Peasants, edging out CIty Syncopators who performed the same classical piece.
In 1969 the band performed with world renowned pianist Winifred Atwell at the Queen’s Hall, this performance was recorded, the recorded was titled Ivory and Steel, and Naparima Bowl. The shows were great and many members of the public, the People’s National Movement decided to sponsor three free concerts.
Tony began experimenting with a 36 note tenor pan by placing sheet metal on a rim. The pan was lost in the fire at the Princes Building where it was stored, this affected him a lot.
North Stars toured extensively North South America, Caribbean, England.
In 1992 Tony was awarded the Chaconia Medal Gold, and in 2008 the Order of Trinidad and Tobago.
In June 2021 NIU awarded him an honorary doctorate in Human Letters
Anthony Williams is one of the country’s outstanding innovators, great arranger, and Manager.
On this his 90th birthday we wish Anthony God’s Blessings and good health.