Sunday, 28 September 2014

East Play Elland Road New Police Station

Well, Debs, Harehills is behind us, now over to Beeston. Today we are me, Bex, Wanda, Kirsty, Anne, Lynn, Sophie and Trish. Trish is nervous cos this is one of the places that she works at, and Lynn's nervous cos her daughter works here, and is in fact here in person.

John drumming for us
After our wonderful playing yesterday, we are braced for today, and again are outside on concrete and in front of a large obelisk. Buses and cars constantly passing on the busy main road; today's bouncy castle is safely at the back of our pics.
John as Conductor
We don't have a formal drummer so it's me and Bex again, of which Bex is a really drummer and I just beat time, nervously contemplating fills that I never pull off!
But hark, what do we setting up opposite ready to play after us. T'is the Police Band! To cut a long story short, John their conductor becomes John our drummer for a few tunes. And what a lovely supportive drummer he is.

East Steel rocks Coldcotes Avenue Harehills Leeds

setting up
Well, I kinda wondered what sort of fine mess we were letting ourselves in for. Three hours in a church in Harehills. It seemed like a long stretch on your day off. Well, I need not have worried. Apart from the fact that Coldcotes Avenue is nowhere near Coldcotes Terrace, Coldcotes Circus, or Coldcotes Every other Street.
I said to a postie I saw trying to catch up on his round, "I bet you know where Coldcotes Avenue is", and, Debs, he did. Yes I was late.
We were at St Cyprian and St James Church. The church grounds on this bright September morning were empty apart from the rest of the band and a bouncy castle. Why don't they fit more naturalistically into their surroundings? Do the castle-makers assume children won't bounce unless they are bright orange and purple? Or blue, as it today?

Lynn meets fellow ex-ambulance driver
Well, Debs, I should have had more faith [atheist that I am!]. This was indeed the gig from heaven. It was one long stream of mugs of tea, plus buns and sandwiches, and more buns. Children paused on their way to the big purple blob and asked us if they play on it; Chris the care-worker became Chris the Photographer.
It was so warm we could play outside, had a nice little paved around a cross, with brick walls to amplify us cleanly.
We sold 2 CDs and a couple of people said they would go to Natalie's class at East Leeds Music centre.


Having no drummer until we harassed Ashley long enough on the mobile, Bex and I swapped kit for tune; Pippa and Sophie managed a few tunes each; Wanda, Lynn and Anne enjoyed some passive smoking. We got excited when Ash appeared on his bike, leathers and helmet, moaning about a hangover. Who cares! It was time for The Flood, We Nah Goin' Home and Clocks.
Sophie texting by cross
Unable to cope with the dropped packets and bottles, at the end, Anne suddenly appeared with a bin liner, and a small group of them [East Steel] litter-picked. Nice.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Foxwood Steel play one last time for Sonny

Well, on Sunday evening Margaret decided she would like us to play one last time for Sonny, and by Thursday we had myself, Vicky, Bex, Sophie, Katie, Daisy, Stewart and Natalie herself until Tim cycled over from the last school of his day in Bramley! Besides all the pics which ex-student, Peter took for us, here below are the tributes from Yorkshire Evening Post and from Pan Podium.
We played Always On My Mind [for obvious reasons], Three Little Birds [to some dancing!], a couple more Bob [Marley], Electricity and then  
some Trinidadian calypsos.
This time I forgot the drum irons bag, so we upturned the new drum chair to be a snare cradle again [as Bex remarked, "It's getting too easy to recover from now . ."]. Still Natalie seemed quite pleased to see Tim scooting across the floor in his red shirt, and Tim didn't seem at all surprised to see what passes on this particular occasion for a drum-kit.

Tributes to Leeds steel band musician with a ‘heart of gold’

Sonny  Marks pictured (centre back) with members of The Caribbeans.
Sonny Marks pictured (centre back) with members of The Caribbeans.
TRIBUTES have been paid to a Leeds car mechanic turned professional musician whose life was transformed after he appeared on a TV talent show.

Sonny Marks, who died last week aged 73, was a founder member one of Leeds’s first steel band combos The Caribbeans. The band performed in working mens clubs in Leeds before getting their big break on Opportunity Knocks in the late 1960s. They went on to tour Europe and the Middle East.
Mr Marks of Seacroft, who travelled to Leeds from Caribbean island Saint Kitts in 1957, worked as a car mechanic as a teenager while playing with The Caribbeans in his spare time. He was a professional musician from his early twenties until the first of a number of stroke five years ago left him struggling to walk and unable to use his right arm.
But his musical legacy lives on as his daughter Natalie Marks. 34, of Little London, now teaches steel pans at schools across Leeds and granddaughter Chloe Marks, 11, is also a talented steel band musician. Natalie Marks said: ”My fond memories always touch my soul when remembering my very first drumming experience which makes me the talented drummer I am today.” She added: “He was loved by many and had a heart of pure gold.”
Mr Marks’ widow Margaret, 59, said: “He was so kind to everybody and he always helped people. A lot of people loved him.” The Caribbeans band leader Wilfred Alexander, of Little London, Leeds, said: “He was a good singer and he learned very quickly. He was a very nice person.”

YEP Letters: September 25

It was good to see your article (YEP, September 19) about the passing of Sonny Marks.

Sonny was one of those remarkable unassuming unsung Leeds heroes, who contributed so much to the Leeds steelband scene from the late fifties to the present day. And he did that while still being a great family man.
What singled Sonny out in Leeds and indeed in the UK was his total commitment to both music and to his family, and his dismissal of petty politics. There have been times in Leeds and indeed in UK when it was either suggested that only black people or only West Indians could play steelpan. When we met I was running a steelband from Foxwood School, which was necessarily entirely white apart from Sonny’s own daughter, Natalie (who, at the time was the only non-white student at our school).
Sonny and wife, Margaret, invited us time and time again to play for us - at his 60th birthday party, and for many a family barbecue at home. They lived, a mixed race couple in Seacroft, but such was Sonny’s sunny nature, they never encountered any racism.
A car mechanic by training, Sonny was forever fixing people’s cars, mending the local kids’ bikes, making steelpan stands for me. One minute he was spraying your bodywork silver, the next minute he was on tour in the Middle East. The success and fame of his band, the Caribbeans, never went to his head.
Unsurprisingly St James Church was packed to say goodbye to this wonderful man. So sad to lose him, but so very glad to have known him.
Victoria Jaquiss

UK Sonny email                
Published on September 21st, 2014 | by Victoria Jaquiss

Sonny Marks – drummer, singer, car mechanic extraordinaire, husband, father, grandfather.

This month sees the passing of Sonny Marks, drummer, singer, car mechanic extraordinaire, husband, father, grandfather. Sonny came across from St Kitts to Leeds in 1957 and he was a founder member of one of Leeds’ first, possibly and longest- lasting West Indian steelband combo (using pans, vocals, keyboards, percussion).
In the daytime Sonny trained and worked as a car mechanic, and in the evenings he joined up with fellow Kittitians: Wilf, Willie, Irvin, Shaun and Robert for a bit of Caribbean music making. Wilf and the others played pans, Irvin played keyboards and Sonny at that time played bongoes and sang. First they played just for pleasure, and to bring back sounds of home,  then some of their neighbours, who had been enjoying the sounds through the walls, suggested they took their act to a wider public. Later Sonny played full drum-kit.
After a number of years they all quit their day jobs, and went professional, touring round the UK and round the world, mainly in Europe and the Middle East,  for a while spending every Sunday in Scotland doing a children’s tv programme. At one point they went on tv talent show, Opportunity Knocks, and won The Caribbeans have continued to tour, with slightly different line-ups to this day.
Sonny had two successful marriages and leaves seven children, of whom daughter, Natalie and granddaughter Chloe are both also musicians and pannistes.
I met Sonny in the nineties when daughter Natalie appeared in my music class at Foxwood-East Leeds High School. Shortly after that Sonny began mending my car, and then cutting down the tenor basses that were too tall for primary school kids, and making metal steelpan stands for us. He was also at this time fixing the bikes and scooters of the local kids who would call at his door, and whatever the weather, he would go out and oblige.
He always painted the stands he made silver, and he took to spraying bodywork repairs the same colour, sometimes with bizarre results. Once he mended a baby buggy for me as I turned it into a steelpan trolley. Yes, it came back silver!
It was at this time that  on a family holiday in Skegness, Sonny came top in a talent contest, singing. The prize was another family holiday! Where he won the contest again. This was probably unfair on the other contestants but it kept them in family holidays for years to come. In fact after five years, they asked Sonny if he would still sing for them, but stop entering the competition. Back in Leeds Sonny then made a CD of songs with steel pan backing.
Sonny died on Thursday September 4th 2014, two weeks short of his 73rd birthday, and 6 years after the first stroke which took this extraordinary, talented, generous and modest person away from the world of performance.
What singled Sonny out in Leeds and in the UK was his total commitment to music and to his family, and his dismissal of petty racist politics. There have been times in Leeds and indeed in UK when it was either suggested that only black people or only West Indians could play steelpan. When we met I was running a steelband from Foxwood School, which was necessarily entirely white apart from Sonny’s daughter ( who, at the time was the only non-white student at our school)
Sonny and wife, Margaret, invited us time and time again to play for us – at his 60th birthday party, and for many a family barbecue at home. They lived, a mixed race couple in the Seacroft Estate and, as Margaret reflected this week, they never encountered any racism. Perhaps it was that Sonny was, as was often noted, Sonny by name and sunny by nature. He is already sorely missed.
Sonny in cap Sonny Nat MargaretCaribbeans

Monday, 15 September 2014

East Plays Middelton Park, Leeds,September 2014

This time I forgot the cymbals so Bart [and Bex, at first] played on a cowbell instead of a hi-hat. Bart wasn't so sure; we're all too used to improvising. At Mirfield, Tim placed the snare on an upturned drum stool; once, in Morley Town Centre, John kicked the bass drum instead of pressing on the pedal.
Anyway, it's our first gig of the autumn term, and what a lovely still day. We play by the lake, and Tingley Brass Band is on the bandstand. it's a mixed blessing as the brass band gets the shelter and the acoustics and we get a constantly passing audience. And we are next door to the vegetarian Asian food stall. Yummy. [That's dinner sorted].
This is Middleton produce Show. There's a sheepdog rounding up geese, a birds of prey display, zumba, home made jam and buns. [That's dessert sorted], flowers [that's the garden sorted]. It's lovely, well-organised day. We love playing this one.
There's some great games for the kids. See kids - big and small.
We were me, Bex, Vicky, Lynn, Anne, Trisha, Andy [who arrives in some style. see pic above], Kirsty, Sophie, Bart and Wanda.
Later on I lit the fire and put all music back into folders.
Next: Harehills and Beeston in two weeks time.