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.
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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.”

Mr Marks’ funeral will be held at St James’ Church, Seacroft, at 2pm on Thursday September 18, followed by a wake planned as a celebration of his life at Seacroft Working Men’s Club.