Frank Sylvester Rollock was born on 13 October 1937, Tunapuna, Trinidad.
His musical journey started by playing the piano as a young child. However, it was not long before he was drawn to his county’s native instrument, the steelpan. In his mid-teens, he formed his first steelband, the Modernaires, which paved the way for him to start pan tuning.
In 1960, Frank followed his brother Roy to England and continued to play pan at various venues in and around London. In 1961, he and his brother along with fellow musicians took part in Brixton Carnival, transforming it by giving it a Caribbean theme. Although he was not credited as being one of the first to play at Carnival, his performances along with other panmen across the UK were seen as the precursor to Notting Hill carnival and other caribbean carnivals.
As Frank settled in England he formed ‘The Royaltys”, a brass band which included a steelpan. The band consisted of his seven children and extended family members. As the popularity for the steelpan grew within the band and its wider community, it soon became the main focus of the band members. In 1974, the band's fascination for the steelpan resulted in the formation of a community steelband called London All Stars. At this time Frank was employed as a steelpan teacher for the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA). Frank’s enthusiasm as a steelpan teacher inspired a music inspector for ILEA, Audrey Dennett to visit Trinidad in 1980 to get further insight into steelpan culture. She visited several schools, attended the Children’s carnival competition and Panorama.
- In 1974, he formed the London All Stars Steelband (LAS).
- In July 1978, the ‘Brixton Royaltys’ performed on Nationwide, a BBC One television programme for a feature titled ‘The Family Way’.
- In the 1980s, LAS won the UK Panorama competition on three occasions.
- In 1983 LAS won the first UK Steelband Festival Competition.
- In the 2000, he led Ebony Steelband to the World Steelband Music Festival, Trinidad, where they were placed fourth.
- In 2002, he co-founded the UK National Steelband to perform at Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
- Between 2004 and 2014, LAS won the ‘Bomb competition’ a record six times.
- In 2015, songwriter and BBC 6 Music broadcaster Tom Robinison released his album ‘Only The Now’. The track titled ‘The Mighty Sword of Justice’ features Frank, Colin Firth, Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy and Lisa Knapp.
On 20 April 2020, Frank Rollock passed away.
Much of his work over the past 50 years has cemented the steelpan instrument as a firm favourite for many in south London. Many of his pupils have gone on to form their own steelbands, pursue a career in teaching or music of some kind, or they have gained employment serving their community. The Rollock family remains at the foundations of steelpans in London and serve as a tribute to Frank's legacy.