The Blacksocks are an eclectic Leeds based band, formed in 2007 by a diverse group of men, all with a passion for music.
Over the years, members have joined and left the band, but they have continued to play at a range of venues, including community events and gigs for support groups and charities. Dave Parker sadly died in 2019. He loved the empowering nature of music, just as members of the Blacksocks see music as a form of therapy. The band supports Cloth Cat, a Leeds-based charity that seeks to harness the power of music to create community, build potential and transform people’s mental health and wellbeing.
I spoke to Lenny Forbes, a founding member of the band, and the current rhythm guitarist of the Blacksocks, about his background, how the band was formed, and why the band are now working hard to continue the legacy of Dave Parker.
Where it all began
As with every conversation I have on behalf of Leeds Living, I like to start at the beginning – and this conversation was no different. Lenny: “The Blacksocks started out in 2007 or 2008. A Menorcan guy was doing an open mic night, with his guitar. He was really good, but he needed some help on the singing front. That’s what I could offer and so I did. That was the start. We wanted to let our music out. We initially started doing charity gigs. Later Pete Denton joined, bringing his great musical ability. We also had a drummer join and we did some festivals, which were PAYF. They did really well. People sat on bales of hay. That was the start of the Blacksocks.“
Lenny went on to talk about the band’s first tour: “When we started the Blacksocks, it was near my 50th birthday. I wanted to play on stage for my birthday, so we did that. We got the project going. We did a tour. We played one gig outside of a garage, one in a place just outside of Wakefield, and one in Dave Hall’s cellar. We called it the ‘Garage land tour’. That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to play mandolin and sing for my birthday.“
The Blacksocks seemed to be a pretty random name for a new band. Lenny explained: “We didn’t have much in common musically or culturally. The only thing we had in common was that we were all wearing black socks. So that is where we got the name.“
The band takes off
Whilst the band started out as a way to ‘let our music out’, The Blacksocks did pretty well. One of their big breaks came in 2014, when the guys organised a festival in conjunction with the start of the Tour de France. Lenny: “We organised a festival called the ‘Tour de Ferme’ – ferme means farm in French. We had 200 people there and we got some big reviews. People really liked it. Dave Parker came to it. He was THE music guy. I used to carry his guitar around when we were young. Dave used to play with Pete Denton in the 70’s; that is where the connection was. An organisation called Cloth Cat did the music for us. They do things to help people in the City, like living well for men in the City. They do free music events for men. They are big on expression.“
Initially the band played a lot of covers, especially of songs by bands like the Ramones. But, as their confidence and need for expression grew, they started to write their own songs. Lenny explained: “We now write songs ourselves. We’ve written 8-9 songs. We have a mix of people in the band now. We kind of use our writing as therapy, to get expression out. We also have the rights to play Dave’s original music and we will be playing some of these songs at our events coming up.“
Keeping the band alive is Dave Hall, frontman and vocals. The heartbeat of the band is Deryk Isherwood, drums; wise man and poet is Lorca’s Antonio Martinez Arboleda, bass guitar, and of course Peter Denton, lead guitar.
Supporting Cloth Cat
Lenny said that the Blacksocks have always been big supporters of Cloth Cat. However, after Dave died, the band have really focussed on finding ways to support the Leeds-based charity. Lenny: “Dave’s brother works on musical rights. He made all the proceeds from the sale of his musical rights go to Cloth Cat. Also, a guy in Germany recorded 4 of Dave’s songs. We are now selling these songs. All of the proceeds are going to Cloth Cat. We want to help people and encourage them through music.“
I think that having a band share their music to promote and support a local charity is a pretty awesome way of supporting the community and helping to promote Dave’s musical talent.
Continuing the legacy of Dave Parker
So why are Lenny and the band so passionate about continuing the legacy of Dave Parker? Lenny was quick to explain:
“Dave was an amazing poet, singer songwriter and guitar player. He didn’t get on at school. He went to the grammar school. I went to the comprehensive school. He liked doing things like working with my dad, who is a builder. Dave was very bright. They wanted him to do things he didn’t want to do. But you couldn’t push him anywhere. He had his own opinions. He ended up going to Paris to find his way in life. He married a German girl , Lisa, who he met when he was in France. He lived in Leeds for a while and then moved to Germany full time. He was incredible at languages. His main strength was language and reading. Just soaking up information. He died in 2019. He had such a powerful mind. He believed that music is powerful. He felt that you could change people through what you do, and he wanted to change people, through the empowerment that you get from music. He didn’t have any great success with music in his life. He struggled with alcohol. But this wasn’t on show. He used alcohol to cope. He had a real passion and he passed his passion on to me. He was my friend since I was 4. We want to pass on his legacy. He had a lot to give. I want to continue to share his message.“
If you want to support The Blacksocks, their ambition to continue the legacy of Dave Parker and to enable Cloth Cat to help people across Leeds, then you can see them play at a range of gigs coming up, including:
The Cloth Cat Open Mike Night on March 3rd at The Packhorse in Headingley – UPDATE: A good night, with all donations having been made to Cloth Cat.
A Ukraine benefit gig at The Polish Centre, Chapel Allerton, on Sunday 13th of March.
A Fifth Friday Evening at The Polish Centre in Chapel Allerton. The next event will be on Friday 29th April
To keep up to date with the Blacksocks, check out their website: http://www.theblacksocks.uk/