The Steel Drum

Solo Pan at the Coronado Island Marriott:

I was lucky. The first steel drum player I ever saw is one of the best. It was 1972 and Othello Molineaux was jamming with some of us young jazz students at the University of Miami. I couldn’t believe the sound coming from that old oil barrel he was playing. It drew me in and I found myself standing over his shoulder as he made magic with his pan.

I was in Miami to study guitar, which I did, but the steel pan was now a big part of my life (we call the instrument a steel pan or just pan, but steel drum is OK too). My dear friend Joseph Remy (JoJo), a talented multi-instrumentalist, played pan in our various bands and introduced me to Leroy “Ali” Williams, the master builder who had made JoJo’s steel drums as well as Othello’s and Jaco Pastorius’, and in 1980 I got my first tenor pan.

A move west and my steel pan career was begun in Phoenix, Arizona. I played steel drum and guitar with Walt Richardson and the Morningstar Band, a reggae- latin fusion group with two percussionists and a fine energy. We played at the Telluride Jazz Festival and packed clubs for several years. On my own I pursued my interest in Jazz and Latin music of all kinds. During this time I recorded with The Beach Boys on the album “Still Cruisin””. My focus today is on developing my sound through recording and composing. Playing guitar as well as pan, I’m paying tribute to some of my favorite composers on my new album “Comfort Zone”.

Every time I play this remarkable instrument I think about the first time I heard the magic.

Contact Tom Gates:


tel: 623-759-3462