Educator and journalist Andrew Martin has released “Steelpan Ambassadors,” a new book covering the history and ultimate disbandment of the U.S. Navy Steel Band.
The book, uncovers the lost history of the US Navy Steel Band and provides an in-depth study of its role in the development of the US military’s public relations, its promotion of goodwill, its recruitment efforts after the Korean and Vietnam Wars, its musical and technological innovations, and its percussive propulsion of the American fascination with Latin and Caribbean music over the past century, according to the official description for the book.
“As President Eisenhower cast his gaze towards Russia, the American people cast their ears to the Atlantic south, infatuated with the international currents of Caribbean music,” stated the description. “Today, steelbands have become a global phenomenon; yet, in 1957 the exotic sound and the unique image of the US Navy Steel Band was one-of-a-kind. Could calypso doom rock ‘n’ roll? Band founder Admiral Daniel V. Gallery thought so and envisioned his steelband knocking ‘rock ‘n’ roll and Elvis Presley into the ash can.'”
The book describes the band’s history from 1957 until its disbandment in 1999, how it performed over 20,000 concerts worldwide, and how it moved its headquarters from Puerto Rico to New Orleans and found the city and annual Mardi Gras tradition an apt musical and cultural fit.
Andrew R. Martin, Minneapolis, Minnesota, is professor of music at Inver Hills College. His research explores the global spread of steelpan and steelbands, American music, and popular and folk music and musicians since the Cold War. Since 2011, Martin has written a semiregular newspaper column, “Pan Worldwide,” for the Trinidad Guardian.