Elliot "Ellie" Mannette also known to many as the Father of the Modern Pan was born 5 November 1926 in Sans Souci, Trinidad and grew up in Woodbrook.
His first real experience of playing pan was at the age of 11 when he played in the New Town Cavalry Tamboo Bamboo for a carnival parade, a band which was later renamed Alexander’s Rag Time Band.
A few years later Elliot and a few band members decided to form a band of their own, the Oval Boys, which later became known as the legendary Woodbrook Invaders. He remained a member of this band for more 25 years.
In recognition of his talent, he received an offer of a scholarship by the British government to study in England. The offer was turned down as he wanted to continue exploring pan and feared that he would loose interest in his vision. This decision proved costly with his family and friends as he was seen to be throwing away the opportunity of a free education.
In 1946, when experimenting with possibilities for pan, Ellie decided to sink the surface of the pan into a concave shape as opposed to its then convex shape. This gave him the opportunity to put more notes onto the pan and it was easier to play. He also used a 55-gallon oil drum to make pans instead of biscuit and caustic soda tins. From this point onwards pan evolved into a family of instruments, which are still recognisable today.
In 1951, he made the pans for the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), when they were due to embark on a tour of Great Britain and Europe. This was the first time that the steel band had been introduced to the world as a steel orchestra.
Even after all of Elliot’s achievements, still he was not favoured for turning down the scholarship offered. In 1967, he decided to move to America where he continued to innovate and promote the culture of his birthplace.
- His tenor design was branded by an F# in the centre of the pan and it became a standard that was used by many bands throughout the country, until the late 1960s.
- His double-second design, developed in the late 1950s, remained a standard throughout the country.
- In 1969 he was awarded the Trinidad & Tobago Humming Bird Medal Silver for Steelband Innovation.
- In 1999 he gained the U.S. Endowment for the Arts Award for Furtherance of Indigenous Culture.
- 28 October 2000, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Letters from the University of the West Indies.
- In 2000 he was awarded the Trinidad & Tobago Chaconia Medal Silver for Culture.
After 33 years away from his birthplace Elliot returned to Trinidad for a short visit. To mark his achievements in the development of pan he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Letters from the University of the West Indies.