The history of Angel Harps Steel Orchestra dates way back to 1965 when the members of the "Teensville Steel Orchestra" led by Charles Moses, Arthur Coard, and Walter 'Dictator' Thomas, joined together with the "Troubadours Steel Orchestra" which was led by George Croney and included the Boyke brothers Lester & Cosley and Anthony 'Tony Poo' Mitchell. Thus the Harps that we know today was born and George Croney is credited with naming the newborn orchestra as the Angel Harps. George Croney, who had spent some time in Trinidad was the new band's leader and arranger. Another Steelband from the community, the Harp Tones under Maudsley Parkes later joined forces with the Harps.
At first, the group practiced in the area known as the "Cocoa" adjacent to Mr. Hico's residence before moving into the "Coals Market" on the Carenage in the late sixties. The Carenage Fish Market now sits on the spot that was used as the pan tent. It is also around that time that the steelband slowly started gaining acceptance in society; certainly there was much less harrassment from the Police and a lot of young faces began showing up at the pan tent to listen to the band.
But just like any infant, and like most other fledgling steelbands, the group soon ran into its own dose of troubles. George Croney migrated to the USA and Lester Boyke became the new leader. With George Croney's departure the band had not lost only it's leader, but also its arranger and tuner. George Croney was all of that and more, an extremely talented pan player. What happened then has happened again and again through the history of the Harps; someone stepped up and filled the void resulting from Croney's departure, well almost. Lester Boyke now became both the leader and arranger for the Harps. For a tuner though, the band turned to Wilfred "Harro" Harris, a young tuner from Mt. Moritz who would later go on to make a name for himself in the pan tuning business. Just around that time too, some of the tuning or 'touching up' of the pans was done by Eric "Brother Broff" Antoine.
Within a couple years, the Harps gained prominence as a very talented Steel Orchestra. This prominence was further enhanced by another first by Angel Harps; when in 1968, the Harps became the first Grenadian steelband to have pans prepared by a tuner from Trinidad. It was more luck than anything, but such are the opportunities that when taken, create history. One Sunday, in the summer of 68, while some of the band members were playing around in the pan house, a quiet unassuming young man appeared in the pan tent.
He introduced himself to Lester as 'Gay' and asked whether he could be allowed to tune one of the drums that was sitting in the pan yard. Lester Boyke was very reluctant since this guy was a just passing stranger but nonetheless told him to go ahead. As it turned out, Lloyd Gay was a top tuner from Trinidad vacationing in Grenada and had done work for some of the top bands in Trinidad including Guinness Cavaliers from San Fernando. Gay's work earned him the job as Angel Harps new tuner thus beginning a revolution in sound of Grenada pan.
With a new, quality sound in place, the band now began a search for an arranger with a 'formal' knowledge of music. Up to that time, neither George Croney nor Lester Boyke, the band's former and present arrangers, had any formal musical training. They were just two naturally gifted and talented pannists and musicians simply stepping up to become musical arrangers. This transformation from pannist to arranger continues even today and is at the root of the development of the art form in Grenada. The vast majority of pan arrangers in Grenada today have come through the same process without having had the benefit of a formal musical education.
The search for an accomplished arranger led Lester Boyke, in 1969, to approach a young musician from the community by the name of Ronald 'Mitchie' Bain and seek his assistance. Mitchie promptly accepted the offer and started working with the Harps in September of 1969 in preparation for the Pan Festival held in December that year. The test piece was 'The Holy City' and the selected pieces were the 'Gold and Silver Waltz' and a popular calypso.
With some of the top players at the time like Cosley Boyke, Walter 'Dictator' Thomas, Clevoy 'Depo' Depradine on tenors, Winston 'Magga' Cummings and 'Jet' Flavigny on cellos, David 'Nesta Boy' Alexander on double seconds, and Willard "Kalarki" Boyke on double tenor, the Harps captured first place in both the Band and Solo categories of the competition. Cosley Boyke and 'Dictator' placed first and second respectively in the ping-pong Solo competition. Needless to say, the Harps swept all before them.
In January 1970, as preparations for Panorama began (Grenada's carnival was at that time held on the two days before the Lenten Season), the Harps decided to thread where no other band had gone before. Inspired by the Police Band playing a classical march, Lester decided that the band would attempt the march, but in calypso tempo. After approaching Mitchie with his decision, the young arranger brought "Sons of the Brave" fused with "Picadilly".
With all the players of the triumphant 1969 team in place, the Harps added 'Ming' on Rhythm, (basically a set of cymbals with a crash - drum-sets were unheard of in those days) and 'Pinky' Chase on Steel, the Harps crashed Queens Park and swept away all before them.