As I was digging through my WDW personal music collection looking for some special aural candy to make my Saturday at home more magical, I began to recall an haunting tale from a time long ago…
Once upon a time there were many entertaining musicians who lovingly shared their talents in some of the most magical places on Earth. Pirates and wenches, visitors and pilgrims, lords and ladies would come to these most magical places and line the streets every day to listen, sing, and dance to their music. And oh what music it was- sounds and timbres from all over the world, brought together in one happy place to be savored and celebrated for many performances to come. With the musical strains from these great musicians, these places became truly magical.
But alas! Evil forces unseen by the eyes of their audience members caused these great musicians to disappear, leaving us to wonder if they will ever return? Will we ever recoup the magic lost by the disappearance of these musicians? (Dun dun duuuunnnn….)
J.P & the Silver Stars was one such group whose music used to entertain Magic Kingdom audiences on a regular basis. (Not to be confused with Disneyland’s Trinidad & Tobago Steel Drum Band that used to perform regularly as well.) Their music would weave in and out of attractions and smells along the winding corridors of Adventureland from the 1970s until 2002. (Although the date of their last performance in Adventureland seems to be in some discrepancy among the sources I was able to find.)
The group, first called The Adventureland Steel (Drum) Band, was led by writer/arranger J.P. Pouchet, and regularly had around six members performing. Five of the six performed on the steel drums (or pans), while one would perform on various percussion instruments (trap, bongos, set, etc.). If you never had the chance to dance to their Caribbean grooves live, never fear: the group did make a few recordings. They recorded a track called “Adventureland Delight” for A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (1973), as well as cut an album in 1976 entitled Walt Disney World’s Adventureland Steel Band. YouTube is also great for a few old videos of their performances- it’s a hoot to see how the hair styles and costume/uniforms have changed over time.
Interestingly enough, group leader J.P. Pouchet was at least still performing as of relatively recently. I was able to find his name as the leader of “Steel Fantasy”, a group with anywhere from 1-6 members available for hire in the Orlando/central Florida area. The video is dated 2009, but here’s hoping that he’s continuing to make some great music for audiences: Steel Fantasy Video
So how does the story end? Time will tell. For now, there are still a number of live performers/performing groups throughout the Disney Parks, but the absence of J.P. & the Silver Stars (among others) certainly leaves a place in our memory and hearts for some of the great talents whose live performances used to make The Most Magical Place on Earth even more magical.