‘It’s too calm now that you’re gone’
The late casserole pioneer, Anthony “Muffman” Williams, lived, breathed, ate, and slept from the casserole. He brought young people to the steelpan and his legacy must be continued.
Speaking at his funeral Thursday, family friend Kenneth Clarke said Williams, born June 24, 1931 at Port of Spain General Hospital to parents Carmen Roberts and Oscar Williams, was a humble, mysterious youngster. and helpful.
Clarke said Williams was self-taught as a welder, bricklayer and carpenter, who worked as a carpenter for the Department of Public Works in Laventille. He said Williams redesigned his Nepal Street home in 1958 by making his own mold for making blocks, and part of the reason for the redesign was that he wanted his grandmother Hilda to live a happy life.
“Tony was introduced to pan in 1944 at the age of 13. He became a ping-pong ace or tenor pan player and made his first tenor pan with an about eight inch cookie tin with eight notes, and played the first part of Mary Had a Little Lamb. .
Clarke said Williams joined the Nob Hill Steel Band in 1946, before joining the Sun Valley Steel Band the same year. In 1950 he became a member of the Northern Stars after Sun Valley frontman Felix Roach decided to leave Sun Valley. Northern Stars moved to Kandahar / Bombay Street, eventually changing its name to North Stars after the 1951 Carnival because the name was too big to fit on the jerseys.
He said that in 1951, Williams was chosen as one of two members of his group to form the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO).
“The Steelband Association, in order to curb the fighting steel band riots, decided to send a steelband to the England Festival and asked each steelband to send two representatives. Of this list, only one remains alive at the moment. Tony played a tenor boom, the equivalent of a triple-butted guitar, made from a biscuit drum. He changed it into a barrel of oil, producing a different tonal improvisation. During this tour, Lieutenant Griffith presented them with 12 notes. As they were all tuners and musicians, the transition to a full chromatic scale was not a challenge.
Clarke said the experience was productive as they created an evolution in the steelpan. Upon returning from the tour, North Stars moved to 59 Bombay Street.
“He continued his innovations in the development of the instrument, creating a massive movement in Kandahar and the areas surrounding St James. The majority of people got involved and changed the concept of the long-standing bad-john-ism built into pan-men, bringing discipline and respect, great players of all ages. People have become tuners because of him. Everyone respected him.
Williams developed the steelpan spiderweb in 1953, which is in use today, where notes are placed in fourths and fifths with octaves below each note. He then created the double strumming pan and the double guitar pan. Clarke said Williams has made improvements to various ranges of saucepans.
Clarke said Williams worked with many other bands and that in 1955 he got involved in the tenor pan and was instrumental in moving from hanging pan around the neck to being played on stands and then on wheels.
The group became the Pan Am Jet North Stars when the airline began sponsoring the group. The group placed first in Panorama in 1963 with Dan is the Man in the Van, Panorama’s first song. The group toured the Caribbean to Jamaica, Antigua and other islands, as part of Pan Am’s marketing strategy to attract tourists to Trinidad. In 1964, the group was invited to take a historic tour of the United States, where they participated in the Macy’s Day Parade and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Clarke called on policymakers to continue Williams’ legacy by establishing a pan research and innovation center in TT, and also to work on marketing the pan as being from TT.
Pan Trinbago Vice President Keith Simpson offered his condolences to Williams’ family and friends, especially longtime parent and caregiver Yoland Thomas. He thanked the Big 5 steelbands who had helped with the funeral. He said Pan Trinbago will have a memorial for Williams in 2022.
He said Williams was awarded the Chaconia Medal (gold) in 1992 and the Order of the Republic of TT, presented by President George Maxwell Richards in 2008. In 2016, he received the Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from UWI for inspired innovation. , and for its national, regional and global contributions in the field of culture.
His daughter Shermika Thomas said Williams was always grateful for everything he received.
“The house is so quiet with you leaving. I walked past your room so many times and peeked inside, forgetting you weren’t there. You believed that knowledge and ideas should never be kept to yourself. Not a second goes by that you don’t think about yourself. As we rest you, may you rest in peace.
The funeral concluded with musical tributes from Duvonne Stewart, Dr. Len Boogsie Sharpe, Clarke and the Caribbean Steel Pan Connection.
Williams was 90 years old and died of complications from covid19 on December 21, 2021. The service took place at Lee’s Funeral Directors, Eastern Main Road, St Augustine and Williams was cremated at St James’s Crematorium, Long Circular Road.