`Music was the only way out for me’ – Dexter Daly
By Ruel Johnson
February 8, 2004
`I found music was the only way out for me…I find that it could do certain things. You play out, you put up your ‘lil money, you could buy a school shirt, you buy a school pants…’
WHEN someone hears about a one-man band the very first image that comes up in their head is probably one of an odd-looking character playing the flute with one hand, the drums with the other and a piano with his toes.
Dexter Daly doesn’t quite fit that picture but possesses an equal affinity for playing music as such a character might have done. Daly grew up in a single-parent home during the seventies and eighties. He started playing steel pan music from the age of six, and found that – in addition to giving him pleasure – it helped give him some independence. His mother was doing her best to provide for the first eight of what would eventually turn out to be s16 children.
found music was the only way out for me…I find that it could do certain things. You play out, you put up your ‘lil money, you could buy a school shirt, you buy a school pants…”
He started out playing the tomberos, then moving up to play the tenor bass pans as he got older. Daly says that he loved playing the tenor bass with a passion. In fact, one incident in his younger days earned him the name `Tenor’ or `Tenor Baby’.
He recalls that the band he played in was participating in some parade or the other. The truck that they hired was too small and all of the musicians couldn’t their instruments on it. Unfortunately, one of the musicians left out was Dexter.
cry throughout the parade so dem banna start calling me Tenor Baby…”
Tears notwithstanding, Tenor Baby didn’t restrict himself to playing just one type of steelpan though.
only instrument I know that I was never too fascinated playing in the steelband was the drum set. All them pans I could play.”
Daly grew up honing his steel pan skills under several teachers, like ‘Dougla’ and `Massabo’ and played in several bands.
played with Youth Division Band, I played with Palm Tree Breakthrough Band, the GDF steel band at one time, Telecoms Band...”
Dexter Daily and vocalist during a performance
It was through his playing with the phone company’s band that he got employed at the company itself. All this time he was playing steel band, his only ‘academic’ musical knowledge was from the famed School of Hard Knocks.
He says that it was when he went under the tutorship of steel pan veteran, Roy Geddes, in 1990 that he learned the fundamentals of music theory in general and steel band playing in particular.
you would see people doing these things but they wouldn’t tell you like this is how this is being done, that is how that is being done; this is how Roy Geddes used to teach you to play pan.”
Daly stayed with Roy Geddes until 1998. Throughout those eight years, he didn’t have to work other than playing music.
used to earn money on a weekly basis. Say I was with Geddes for eight years, there wasn’t a week that I didn’t earn a salary. As a matter of fact, I got married on steel band money.” Geddes’ steel band was his actual livelihood until they had a parting of the ways.
was a Boxing morning, you could say that my services were terminated from Geddes’ Band”
Whatever conflict caused this split however, Daly still holds the utmost respect for his former mentor, the man who sees as paving the way for his success today. His success in what?
small,” says Daly, “I always used to like singing. I got an Uncle named Clifton Daly…he used to play in a band named Marble and the Stones. He used to always carry me around trying to get me to into the bands…”
He joined his uncle’s band, if a couple of years late, and started playing at various venues. He had already begun to experiment a bit with another musical instrument.
had bought a keyboard for my small son and I used to `fingle’ round with it. If I came home from steel band practice around ten o’clock I would sit down with and play couple tunes.”
When he and his uncle parted ways, he started his own one-man band. He says that one-man bands were gaining increasing popularity at the time, due to the efforts of pioneers like Teaspoon and Lionel Abel. He used to frequent oldies parties where he would stand over the shoulders of Abel and Teaspoon, observing how they played, picking up what he could and practicing at home.
His first gigs were at the Dynasty club on Aubrey Barker Road. He would play his tunes on the club’s keyboard and would be accompanied vocally by a singer named Kim who had defected also from his uncle’s group. People began to notice them and began to ask them to play at other venues.
The problem then was that the keyboard he had was way too small and when he worked out a deal with Dynasty’s manager to use the club’s keyboard, it wasn’t heavily weighed in his favour. He scraped by, however, and ended up buying his own keyboard. Four years and yet another keyboard later (he now owns both a Yamaha 630 and a 6000), Dexter Daly is on top of the game when it comes to one-man bands in Guyana.
He and his partner Body Move, play regularly at venues like Transport Sports Club and Eagle’s Disco. There was a brief stint at Turning Point Snackette. Daly’s Love Connection One-Man Band even went international.
In December of 2002, they played in Barbados. And in October of last year, they toured Suriname and Venezuela.