Russell Henderson MBE
Russell "Mr Pan Man" Henderson was born 7 January 1924 in Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
As a teenager he learned to play the piano and in his early 20s he formed the Russell Henderson Quartet. They played at various events throughout Trinidad and also providied musical accompaniment for many of the island's leading calypso singers.
In 1951, in an effort to further his musical career, he travelled to England to study piano tuning at North London Polytechnic (now the University of North London). Whilst studying he gained employment as a pianist and later made the decision to become a full time musician and abandoned his studies.
On meeting Sterling Betancourt in 1952, they formed the Russ Henderson Steel Band. Russell Henderson was already familiar with steelpans from his days of touring in Trinidad, although he had never played one. His musical competence aided a smooth transition from piano to pan and it was not long before they became established and playing at various venues throughout the island.
A high-point for the band was playing at the first Children’s Carnival in Notting Hill in 1964. This led to them gaining a regular appointment to play at the Notting Hill Carnival starting the following year.
In 1970, he was invited to teach pan in Croydon, South London. Henderson accepted the offer as it was an opportunity to take pan in England to a higher level.
In 1975 and '79, Elmwood Primary School Steelband (Croydon) performed at the Royal Albert for School Prom.
His contribution to teaching was acknowledged and in April 2006 he was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his endeavours.
However, Russell Henderson eventually returned to his first love, the piano and playing jazz.
On 24 August 2012, a commemorative plaque was erected at 69 Tavistock Road, London in his honour.
Sadly, Russell Henderson passed away 18 August 2015.
On 19 September 2015, several memorial concerts were held across West London to celebrate his life.