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- the Man who introduced Steelpan to America
in an exclusive interview
When Steel Talks


The year was 1949, and the music scene in America would never be the same.  That is the year that Rudy King, aka 'Rock' and 'Rudolph Carter' - (to those who knew him as a young boy/man in his native Trinidad) came to America, bringing with him the knowledge of manufacturing and playing the instrument now known worldwide as the Steelpan.

That was fifty-three years ago.  Though much time has passed some things never change as Rudy remembers his boyhood days in Trinidad of being chased because he was 'sinking' the pan (part of the preparation process of making the pan); to when he came to America and was also doing the same thing, and a bucket of water was flung out a window, drenching him - to his experience in August 2002 in D'Radoes pan yard on Lincoln Place in Brooklyn, when one irate resident threw a balloon full of water and scored a bull's eye as it hit Rudy.  Even though the pan is now recognized as a full fledged instrument, Rudy laments the continual indignities suffered by Pan players.

Rudy King has gone through a lot of changes - beginning from the age of twelve when he hid from his elders to make and play pan, reminiscing about pilfering biscuit tins to turn them into pans, then having them stolen by the more established pan side known as 'Bar Twenty'.  His first band in Trinidad  was called the East Side Kids Band which would later be renamed Paradise Boys.  As the instrument evolved, so too did Rudy, who lists among his icons the Trinidadian pan legend known as 'Ziggily', and the man he credits as his greatest knowledgebase - Neville Jules, legendary former captain of Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra in Trinidad.

From first performing for free food and drink, then eventually for fees of around $25.00, Rudy King and the Trinidad Steelband (as Rudy's ensemble was then known) continued to uplift the steelpan in America.  Rudy moved on to bigger times when producer Sam Manning invited him on a four-week 'gig' in Chicago at the Blue Angels- which ultimately turned into a four month stint, and cost Rudy one of the 'great lady loves' of his life - (when Blue Angels' crowd pleaser 'the Mighty Charmer' opted out of show business to answer the call of Islam, eventually becoming today's charismatic Minister Louis Farrakhan).

Returning to New York, competing and sharing a joint triumph on Amateur Night at Harlem's Apollo theatre, and a subsequent week long engagement at the famed venue; a performance at Harlem's Rockland Palace on Seventh Avenue, along with tours of Texas, Oklahoma, the Carolinas and Canada - made for a musical and colorful tapestry for Rudy and his steelpan ensemble.

In the 1950s, Rudy teamed up with Denis Busby to perform at New York's Columbia University but found that he needed to be 'unionized', and needed a Union card.  Having no musical category for the steelpan, the Union president registered Rudy as a 'Percussionist'.  It was only later on that the steelpan was recognized as an instrument, and today Rudy is unionized as a pan player.

Sometime in the 1960s, Rudy's steel orchestra consisted of twenty-something players, now known as the Tropicans.  They won both the first and second annual 'Panoramas behind the museum' (the Brooklyn Museum) - soundly trouncing the six or seven other challenging steelbands which were a bit larger.  The Tropicans later evolved into New York's present day Moods Pan Groove.

Rudy became a member of Despers USA Steel Orchestra, and is today gracing the Despers USA spin-off -  D'Radoes Steel Orchestra - with his monumental knowledge and talent.  On 21 November 2002, City Lore, a non-profit organization will honor Rudy King for his 1949 introduction of the steelpan.  City Lore is inducting him into their People's Hall of Fame at the Museum of the City of New York.

Some of his dreams include a Brooklyn-based establishment where steelpans and other related steel orchestral equipment are sold; facilitating today's young pan players - especially those in his own band - with solid audio-visual documentation of their performances; stable homes (pan yards) where steel orchestras are not constantly being harassed and chased by authorities; a Pan Arena where steel orchestral performances can be held year-round - so that the annual Labor Day-based Panorama is not the only New York event where the steel orchestras may be witnessed in their full orchestral majesty and; also a larger and more prominent venue for the Panorama itself - as the time for steelbands being 'behind' [the museum] should be 'behind us' and should be the headline acts at a place of prominence.

By CP - Basement Press Release Writer

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Date: 11.11.02

The Early years -
RUDY KING (seated) and one of his ensembles

(That's 'Little Jack' - another well known pan player in his own right, on double seconds out front)


Rudy King at Basement Studios with one of his old band mates - former Despers USA member Franklyn Joseph -(now himself leader of his own band - Caribbean Youth Panoramics)


Rudy King making a point as he reminisced during the interview at
Basement Recordings studios
for the
When Steel Talks website



The TROPICANS at the first New York Panorama



 Khalick Hewitt with Rudy King
during his segment of the interview

Rudy King slide show...

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