In 1951 Russ first travelled to London from Trinidad to study piano tuning at the North London Polytechnic. That same year the 'Trinidad All-Steel Percussion Orchestra' performed at the Festival of Britain. It was the first time Steel Pan music was ever heard in the U.K.
This is a selection of music from the historic TASPO steel band.
Here is a (link) to a short documentary about the Festival of Britain in 1951
One member of the 'Trinidad All-Steel Percussion Orchestra' stayed on in the U.K. - Sterling Betancourt and in late 1952 Russ formed Britain's first Steel Band (The Russ Henderson Steel Band) with Sterling and Mervyn Constantine.
Russ very kindly allowed me to photograph pages from an album of his working years during the fifties. (click on images to enlarge)
Russ is the man who inadvertently became the catalyst for beginning the Notting Hill Carnival. Here he tells how the door was opened.
'I'll tell you what happen. There is a woman called Mrs. Lambert, I used to live in the Grove you see and she used to do community work and put on things for the kids you know-fetes. And she knowing that I had this Steel Band, which was a real novelty then and saying could I come and play for the kids. A street carnival. So they put up some buntings and they block off the street you see. They had a donkey ride and these children taking the donkey ride up and down the street with a clown. So after half an hour playing this band I found it was getting boring. So I turned to the boys in the band, all of us were used to Carnival back home like we was taking a march. So I went to the chap with the donkey and I say look follow us because we taking a march and we making a block out of the streets...so we started and the kids started following us and they had their little donkey cart with the clown and carrying the kids and as we started to make this round the crowds just started gathering on the streets you know, this was a novelty to them- 1965 a Steel Band on the road. So it was really only the kids who were dressed up and the three of us in our pretty shirts that was all and the crowd just followed us. Well, that was the biggest route we ever took in a Carnival because it just snowballed and we went all the way to Whiteleys, right over the Bayswater Road and came right up you know. The police were just helping us with the traffic, helping people to move out of the way because they didn't know what it was. Nobody knew if we had permission, nobody knew.'
A sample of my pictures of Notting Hill Carnival can be seen (here)