Winston “Spree” Simon
Tuner, Arranger, Leader and Pioneer.
Winston “Spree” Simon was the first leader of Destination Tokyo. He played and developed the ping-pong (today’s tenor pan) which carried eight notes at that time. The year was 1943. “Spree” would beat hymn, calypsos as well as classical tunes on his ping-pong.
Pan was fast developing by 1946, “Spree’s” ping-pong had evolved to fourteen notes. The top of the pan was still convex and it was beaten with plain sticks, that is to say without rubber that later gave the ping-pong a cushioned, mellow tone. Nor, points out musicologist Newman Alexander, was the pan tuned chromatically, that is to say by successive half-steps. This development too, was still in the future.
“ Spree” had the honour of playing for an audience in Broadway which included the then governor of Trinidad and Tobago Sir Bede and Lady Crawford, the Honourable Norman Tang, Miss Audrey Jeffers, “Lord Kitchener” and a host of other VIPs. On his pan, “Spree” played “ I Am A Warrior”, Kitchener’s “Tied Tongue Mopsy”, Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and concluded with “God Save The King” to the cheers and acclamation of the entire audience. Thus did the name of Winston ”Spree” Simon become one to conjure with in pan circles.
During his later years he made many visits abroad as a goodwill ambassador of pan, taking the unique music to various parts of the world. In 1957 he visited Liverpool and also toured Nigeria and Ghana where he not only introduced pan, but familiarised the people with the techniques of playing as well as tuning the instruments. “ Lord Kitchener” was the first calypsonian to eulogise “Spree” Simon in song.
In 1970 “ Spree” Simon’s health began to decline; he suffered a stroke which took his life in 1976.
Source: The Trinidad and Tobago Steel Pan
History and Evolution
By: Dr. F.I.R. Blake