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’
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.
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.