Elliot 'Ellie' Mannette
Date of Birth: 5th November 1927
Place of Birth: San Souci, Trinidad
Date of Death: 29th August 2018 at aged 90.
He attended Woodbrook C.M Primary School
He was a member of Alexander's Ragtime Band from 1939-1940. Oval Boys in 1940, Invaders from 1941 to 1967, and TASPO in 1951.
He was a Tuner, Player, and Arranger, many regard him as the Father of the SteelDrum
He received the Hummingbird Medal of Trinidad and Tobago in 1969, for his innovations in pan making.
In the United States, he was recognised for his significant contributions and received the National Heritage Fellowship Award in 1999, the highest honor for the traditional arts given in the United States.
Awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the West Indies, and the Chaconia Medal in 2000.
He was admitted to the Hall of Fame of the Percussive Arts Society in the United States in 2003. His work has also been showcased at the Smithsonian Institution.
He served as an artist-in-residence at West Virginia University
Quote: Looking back more than half a century during my humble beginnings in this unique art form, no one during that period could have envisioned the rapid growth of this instrument, through the years as I developed my skills my entire mindset was sharing my knowledge with others for the betterment of this instrument.
Ellie loved playing music and writing songs he dedicated many compositions to special people in his life, he was said to have an infectious laugh. He was a teacher and mentor, who demanded and expected greatness from his students and encouraged them to embrace their passions as he did. His gift at storytelling and memory would mesmerize an audience wherever he was.
At the age of 11, he was a member of Alexander’s Ragtime Band which was created by Alexander Ford. As a young boy he developed a passion for working with tools for metalworking, he is credited as the first person to sink the lid of the oil barrel into a concave shape to build a steel pan, the sinking of the lid was to create a tensed playing surface and the metal was fired to improve the acoustic properties. He is also credited for being the first to place rubber on pan sticks
He created the band Oval Boys the name was taken from the oval sports pavilion opposite the band rehearsal space.
Ellie Manette from the band Invaders, in the early years of the steelpan, played the role of innovator credited with being the first to put rubber on pan sticks, which softened the attack and produced a more refined tone, and for the sinking of the surface of the pan into its now characteristic concave shape which allowed for more pitches to be placed on the playing surface.
He was offered a scholarship to study music in London which he turned down in order to build steel pans.
In 1951, Ellie was a member and tuner chosen to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the Festival of Britain. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago organised the Trinidad All-Steel Percussion Orchestra (TAPSO), a national steel band which consisted of leading figures of the different steel bands, this was to showcase the new musical instrument.
In 1959, the band Invaders had a contract with Columbia Records. In 1963 he received an invitation, to then develop a U.S. Navy Steel band, and was responsible to build the instruments and train players.
Up until the early part of the 1960s, the tuning of his instruments was done by ear, however, he learned the concert pitch of A440Hz and the use of strobe tuners.
He emigrated to the United States in 1967, to work with the youth in New York City, he also began traveling across the country, building the steel pan for schools and communities, where he started more than 10 new bands and has worked with over 350 school programs.
He was invited to Morgantown to join the WVU World Music Center, where his primary focus was teaching the art of crafting and tuning steel drums full-time. He retired in 2007.
He played an integral part in the evolution of the Steelpan, not just as an innovator but also for his craftsmanship, brilliance in designs, and quality of sound. The Mannette Touch a company he formed has become the main source of steel band instruments in the United States.