Wong with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt


PLACE OF BIRTH: Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
  • East Side Kids (1940s)
  • HiLanders (1950s)
  • PanMasters, Texas (1980-)
  • Tuner
  • Arranger
  • Manager
  • CAREER:                                        In the early 1940s, Wong was a member of the first teenage steelband in Trinidad, East Side Kids. He later moved on to other steelbands before starting the HiLanders in the 1950s. In 1956, while with the HiLanders, he was approached by famous US folklore singer, Peter Seeger, who was interested in how the steelpan was made. Seeger ended up filming a 15-minute, 16mm documentary entitled Music From Oil Drums with Wong. In 1958, the film won the "Chris" award for excellence of Production, Information and Education and was also nominated for the EFLA (Educational Film Library Association) award in 1959. The film was produced in conjunction with an instructional manual, The Steel Drums of Kim Loy Wong co-authored by Wong and Seeger, and was believed to be the first ever book to document how to make and play the steelpan.

    In 1959, with the assistance of Folkways Records, Wong left the HiLanders and migrated to New York, joining the short list of panmen who introduced steelband music to the United States. On arrival in New York, Wong started several steeldrum programs for delinquent, inner-city children, including: the Henry Street Settlement; Educational Alliance on South Broadway; Leak & Watts in Yonkers; Dr. White Centre in Brooklyn; Graham School in Yonkers; and Children's Village. He also taught in Queens, New York, and among his students were renown US panmen Andy and Jeff Narell. Wong later became the steeldrum instructor at Wiltwick School for Boys outside of New York and worked with a number of other correctional institutions.

    While in New York, Wong performed at the Café Wha' in Greenwich Village with Richard Prior and Richi Havens, and with famous pianist Liberace at Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. He also opened for shows by popular international performers such as Ike and Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Stan Kenton, The Rolling Stones, and John Lennon. He entertained for first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and Rosalyn Carter. In 1980, Wong moved to Houston, Texas, where he started another steelband, PanMasters.

    DIED: October 3, 2018
    Compiled by Ronald C. Emrit