Commancheros Steel Orchestra was formed in the village of St. Paul's, St. George's, Grenada in 1967 by Mr. Denis Phillip, who was inspired by the enthusiasm of some young boys namely Oliver 'Dolly House' Charles, Leslie 'Doctor Fats' Robinson, Harold Charles and Adrian 'Shakey' Hayes who actually renamed the then "Tiny Tots Combo" to Commancheros
Although the band has gone through many transformations, namely membership, in terms of the number and age of players; and instruments from what was known then as the oil drum to the chrome pan now used, the orchestra has definitely grown in membership, stature, 'panmanship' (skill and technique), repertoire, quality and quantity of instruments. having gone through all those changes over the past thirty (30) years, Commancheroscontinues to be one of the leading steel orchestras in Grenada.
From its inception until his death in 1983 the orchestra was under the leadership of Evelyn 'Brat' Bullen who was also the musical arranger. Brat as he was affectionately called, took the 'band' as it was then referred to, to its first steelband competition in 1968 cropping the first place.
A new dimension was added to the orchestra when in 1970, Brat, along with other members including the founder of the orchestra Denis, were instrumental in successfully negotiating and securing the orchestra's first sponsorship. The then sponsors were W.E. Julien & Company agents for Coca Cola. The orchestra was then referred to as Coca Cola Commancheros.
When that sponsorship ceased in 1980 owing to the temporary closure of the bottling company, the orchestra was forced to obtain a new sponsor. This was secured with Grenada Marketing and National Importing Board (GMNIB)in 1982 and lasted for 3 years after which the band went unsponsored until 1991 when Grenada Telecommunications Limited (GRENTEL, now Cable & Wireless, Grenada) commenced sponsoring the orchestra. During the period 1985 to 1991, partial sponsorship was obtained from both D and M Construction and E. Marshall and Associates
Commancheros has taken steelband music to four (4) continents across the globe including Dhaka and Morocco in Africa; Las Palmas (Grand Canary Islands) and Italy in Europe; Mexico and Panama in Central America; Brazil andColombia in South America and most of the Caribbean Islands during the 1970's and 1980's while travelling aboard several cruise ships such as Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franco, Archille Llaro, Maxim Gorki and Stella Oceanic.
The orchestra represented Grenada in the 1981 Musical Festival in Varadero Cuba, successfuly participated in St. Lucia's Carnival in February 1994 and most recently, performed in the USA, thrilling audiences in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Connecticut and Maryland.
Comnmancheros has been the champion "band on the road" in Grenada carnival for the last 15 years and won all three steelband Music Festivals held in Grenada in the 70's under the musical directorship of Evelyn and Monica Bullen, Lionel Lawrence and Benedict Hanny. The orchestra has consistently placed in the first three (3) positions at the National Panorama Championships. However, in 1994, history was made when for the first time the orchestra won panorama in both the Junior and Senior divisions playing Cheros Express composed and sung byCecil 'Flying Turkey' Belfon, and arranged for the orchestra by Cecil T. Noel.
In 1995 the Junior orchestra went on to win the National Festival of the Arts playing Nocturn in E Flat, composed by Chopin and arranged and conducted by Cecil T. Noel. In 1997 the orchestra was nominated and presented with the prestigious award for the Performing Art. This award, by the Grenada Board of Tourism goes to the cultural group which worked most consistently promoting Grenada The Spice of the Caribbean" as the ideal tourist destination in the english-speaking Caribbean.
Commancheros and Associates which is an arm of the orchestra, is the committee charged with the responsibility of organising, planning and running a mass band which participates in Grenada's annual carnival mass competitions. The success of this committee is well documented having won the Band of the Year title eight (8) out of ten (10) times, since its formation in 1982.
The orchestra performs year round providing entertainment at some of the leading hotels in Grenada, as well as at other public and private activities. Performing at social and national events such as weddings, Independence celebration, Carnival, other festivals/concerts and charitable functions is definitely a hall mark of the orchestra. The orchestra has a regular compliment of about thirty (30) members. This extends to as much as 110 comprising males and females aged between 9-60 for the panorama competition and Carnival held in August of each year.
The orchestra is managed by an executive committee which includes a Manager, Assistant manager, Treasurer, Secretary, Secretary/Treasurer, Public Relations Officer, Arranger and floor members. This committee is charged with the responsibility to oversee the affairs of the orchestra. However, all major issues of Commancheros including the election of the officers, are discussed and dealt with at general meetings.
A prominent aspect of the orchestra is its strong Community link, support and following. This is evident in the work of and assistance provided by members of the community locally as well as the Commancheros New York Support Organisation, (CNYSO); an arm of Commancheros comprising supporters and ex-players residing in New York. This body was established to give general support to the orchestra and is undoubtedly doing a great job.
Cable & Wireless, Grenada a member of Cable and Wireless PLC is currently in its sixth (6th) year sponsoring the orchestra which is led by the Musical Director/Arranger Mr. Cecil T. Noel.
Since its formation in 1967, the orchestra has done two (2) official recordings on vinyl - "Play Mas" recorded in Barbados in 1972 and "Variation in Tempo", recorded in Trinidad in 1976. The repertoire of the orchestra varies ranging from calypso to classic and this latest CD recording is testimony to not only the varied selection but also the virtuosity in panmanship of the arranger and players. Whether you are at home, in the office, on the road or just in a quite haven relaxing, let this CD "Commancheros in Concert" be your company.
Cecil T Noel December 1997
In recognition of the outstanding contributions made by Evelyn "Brat" Bullen towards the development of the orchestra, community, steelpan art form and Grenada in general, the Compact Disc "Commancheros in Concert" is dedicated to and in memories of he and his wife Monica who also worked tirelessly even under trying circumstances to help in the devlopment of the orchestra.