Queen of the blues Elkie Brooks to reign over Berwick

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SHE has enjoyed a career much longer than many chart stars of today have been alive but with a sell out tour and an autobiography hitting the shelves this year, at the age of 67, Elkie Brooks is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.

Her sultry, bluesy tones recogniseable on hits such as ‘Pearl’s A Singer’ and ‘Fool (If You Think It’s Over)’, Brit Award-nominated Elkie has been one of Britain’s finest female singers for over 50 years and speaking to ‘The Guide’ last week it was immediately obvious her passion for her profession is still going strong.

“I just love music, always have, always will,” she professed.

“Playing live is great; the travelling around and time on the road not so much, but it’s all part and parcel of the job.

“I’ve always said that if I’m fit and well enough and my voice is still good enough I’ll keep going. The day I start to warble I’ll call it a day; I want to bow out gracefully not like some other singers- not mentioning any names- who are still going just to satisfy their own egos!”

Elkie, who will grace The Maltings stage on Thursday, December 6, has been recording albums since 1964, with her most recent, 2010’s ‘Powerless’ produced in collaboration with her son.

“It was five years in the making- let’s hope it doesn’t take another five years to make the next one,” she joked.

“I’d like to think I’ve got another album in me and it would be fantastic to have one out before my 70th birthday.

“I remember when I was in my 40s I put on a tour and seats weren’t selling as well as we’d hoped so my management said ‘we’ll call it a farewell tour’. Well if that was the case I’ve been saying goodbye for the last 20 years!”

Starting out in an era of music where female singers didn’t necessarily have to be picture perfect waifs, Elkie said she looked up to the more mature performers amongst her peers and hoped that she might too have a career where age wouldn’t serve as a barrier.

“I come from a time when people really came into their own when they were in their 40s such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday so to me age wasn’t an issue.

“I always strive to do things better and that’s why I still enjoy performing songs that were hits for me 35 years ago. It all comes down to attitude. It would be out of order for me to do a show and not include most of my hits.

“I try and beef them up a bit more and put a different slant on them but they’re still the same songs.”

One thing Elkie has noticed as time has gone by is that the people who come along to her shows are getting younger which she attributes in part to the ITV show ‘Reborn in the USA’ which was screened in 2003 and saw Elkie tour America with the likes of one time UK Eurovision entrant Sonia, Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley and Go West’s Peter Cox.

“In retrospect it’s maybe something I shouldn’t have done,” she admitted.

“But the powers that be seemed really keen for me to do it and I have to say I made some good friends in Lee, John, Tony and Michelle Gayle.

“It was a very interesting experience. We were treated quite badly; the venues weren’t all that nice and neither was the accomodation.

“But those of us who were used to life on the road just put up with it; a few others chucked their toys out of the pram a bit though!

“One thing the show did get me was a whole lot of new fans so I’ve got to be grateful for that.”

Her experience on ‘Reborn in the USA’ has made it into Elkie’s recently released autobiography ‘Finding My Voice’, the writing of which she said was an enjoyable but challenging experience.

“It felt like a necessity as I thought someone else was more than likely going to end up doing one and get their facts wrong.

“One big advantage I had when trying to pull everything together was the fact I had kept all of my press cuttings from over the years.

“I also have a good memory which meant that the book ended up being longer than expected and had to be edited down a bit- I had a tendancy to dwell on some things!”

She’s undoubtedly inspired a fair few artists herself and in addition to covering some of her favourite songs, including ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and ‘Purple Rain’ for her ‘Powerless’ album, Elkie also keeps a keen ear to modern music.

“I’m a huge fan of Joe Bonemazza and I’m looking forward to seeing him live and I also love the girl group Stooshe.

“They’ve really broken into the mainstream this year and for me it’s always heartwarming to hear naturally gifted talent.”