Winston John Simon


Winston “Spree” Simon was famed for inventing the steelpan. He was born in 1927, Rose Hill, East Dry River, Trinidad.

He moved to Clinton Street (now Foster Street) John John to live with his brother Joseph.   John John was a factory area that produced many items from tins and drums. This was the perfect place for Winston and his friends to experiment with any discarded items.

There are many accounts as to how and when Winston came across the biscuit tin that was 'tuned' to produce a note. However, it was used as an alternative to the Tamboo Bamboo which was outlawed at that time.

There was also a ban on carnival and this gave him more opportunity to develop his four-note tin.  On 5 March 1946 Carnival Tuesday, he unveiled his 14 note pan and was accredited with being the first person to play a recognisable tune on pan.

This accolade was given to him by the people of the John John area and was not publicly claimed by Winston himself. At a time when many people in Trinidad were seeking an alternative to Tamboo Bamboo it was possible that someone somewhere else may have stumbled on the same idea. As communication was not as accessible as it is today, it is impossible to prove the myth surrounding the actual birth of pan. Many historians conclude that Winston would have been too young to be around at the time pan emerged. 

Due to Winston’s notoriety, he was selected to tour Britain as a member of Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) in 1951.

Winston led three steelbands in Trinidad, Tropical Harmony, Fascinators and Destination Tokyo (now known as Carib Tokyo).

In 1970 he suffered a stroke and this reduced his involvement in pan to a minimum. On 18 April 1976 he passed away.

Many caylsonians marked his achievements by writing calypsos in his honour, most notably was Lord Kitchener’s Pan in Danger.