I was just 14 years old when Desperadoes Steel Orchestra won the National Panorama title, for the first time, performing Mighty Sparrow's "Obeah Wedding." The musician responsible for that historic victory was a 25-year-old pianist named BEVERLY GRIFFITH. Having attended Progressive High School in Port-of-Spain, Beverly became musical director of the highly acclaimed and very populated Clarence Curvan Orchestra.
He was taken to Desperadoes by Dr Roy Cape and was invited to arrange for the band by its legendary innovator/leader Rudolph Charles.
Beverly took Desperadoes to third berth in the inaugural National Panorama competition of 1963, arranging Lord Kitchener's "The Road Make to Walk." The following year, Desperadoes placed second, with its performance of "Mama, Dis is Mas," also arranged by Beverly. Sponsored by West Indian Tobacco Company (WITCO) in 1965, the following year, Desperadoes copped its first of a dozen National Panorama titles.
Beverly also took Desperadoes to prominence in 1965 when it won the Prime Minister's Best Village Classical Competition for steel orchestras. He guided Desperadoes to the title of Triple Crown in Pan in 1966 when the band placed first in the National Panorama, Bomb and Best Beating Steelband on the Road competitions. Fifty-eight years ago, in the May 5 edition of the Daily Mirror (supplied by George Saul), it was reported that the recording of Beverly's "Mama, Dis is Mas" by Desperadoes was played 500 times a day on local radio. This arrangement is still acclaimed as one of the best performances of a calypso by a steelband in the history of the National Panorama competition.
Having embarked on his pan pilgrimage with Starland Steel Orchestra, which was captained by his brother, Beverly's migration to Desperadoes saw him going up Laventille Hill to the panyard for most of his waking hours per day. He and Rudolph Charles were well met as both of them were perfectionists in their craft.
As far back as six decades ago, Beverly predicted that Desperadoes would be the tip of the spear as far as steelbands went. He once said: "It's because of that subtle rhythmic intensity and near classical introduction," musical ingredients that captured the public's imagination.
Beverly also believed that iron percussion in a steelband should only be used at carnival and on the road. He thought the din of too much percussion overwhelmed the sweetness of the instrument. Beverly was always concerned about the image and reputation ascribed to Desperadoes, being "wrongly" labelled as "a badjohn steelband" and being given a bad name.
In his 1964 Daily Mirror interview he said: "I have worked with Despers (for) years and I know they are a disciplined set of dedicated people who have the desire to learn much more." In 1985, Beverly, assisted by Robert Greenidge, arranged Lord Kitchener's "Pan Night and Day" which earned Desperadoes first place in the National Panorama competition.
Domiciled in the USA for several years, BEVERLY GRIFFITH died on Tuesday, April 19. Beverly turned 81 on Easter Monday, April 18.