Elkie Brooks heads for Norfolk show

Propelled to superstardom in the late '70s and early '80s, popular singer Elkie Brooks continues to play to sell-out crowds around the country. Ahead of her outdoor performance in Holt, north Norfolk, next month, she tells Carolyn Bowden why she still enjoys performing as much as ever.

Propelled to superstardom in the late '70s and early '80s, popular singer Elkie Brooks continues to play to sell-out crowds around the country. Ahead of her outdoor performance in Holt, north Norfolk, next month, she tells Carolyn Bowden why she still enjoys performing as much as ever.

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While many stars are one-hit wonders, Elkie Brooks has been singing for almost half a century, and in a few weeks' time she'll be in north Norfolk belting out many of her best-known numbers such as Lilac Wine, Don't Cry Out Loud, Fool If You Think It's Over and, of course, Pearl's A Singer.

One of the most successful and popular singers the UK has ever produced, Elkie, 64, is still busy performing, with a sell-out tour in Ireland one of many in the past few months. On August 8 she'll be at the Theatre in the Woods at Gresham's School in Holt, a magical outdoor auditorium which should prove a complete change from the usual theatres and concert halls she frequents.

So what can the Norfolk audience expect? Elkie says: 'Well, I don't disappoint. I always do some of the hits, but we try every year to change arrangements or tart them up a bit so that it's interesting for all concerned. I've spent the last four years doing a new album with my elder son, Jay, and I'll be doing quite a few songs from that, also some old blues favourites that always seem to go down very well with the die-hard Elkie fans.'

In fact, Elkie Brooks' fans are a mixed bunch, some of whom have followed the star since the height of her career in the late '70s and early '80s, while some are in their teens and twenties, which Elkie attributes to the power of television. She explains: 'When I did that dreadful reality show, Reborn in the USA [in 2003], in a lot of ways it was positive because a lot of young people now come to the concerts, which is great.'

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And as her Norfolk performance will be outside, Elkie confides that she's prepared for all eventualities: 'I'm sincerely hoping that we've got good weather but I always find that when I go on in the evening, it's a bit chilly. So I'll probably put something woolly-ish on, even though I'll try to make myself look as respectable and glamorous as possible!'

Born Elaine Bookbinder in Salford, Manchester, Elkie Brooks can boast a career that spans five decades. She says: 'I sang from a very early age, from as far back as I can remember - I'd get asked up at weddings and bar mitzvahs. My uncle Nat had a dance band and so he'd let me get up and sing with the band.'

Her first big break came when Sharon Osbourne's father, the music promoter Don Arden, was in Manchester scouting for new talent and Elkie went along to audition at The Palace Theatre. She recalls: 'I suppose it's a bit like the X-Factor is now; they'd hold all these auditions. I was chosen out of about 50 other people and Don put me in a show that night. My parents didn't know I was going - I just went along.' When Elkie was 16 she got an audition with the Eric Delaney band and also sang with the late British jazz great Humphrey Lyttelton, and her career took off from there.

Interestingly, Elkie's parents weren't musical at all; her father took over from his father at a bakery ('the best bagels in Manchester!' laughs Elkie) and her mother helped him in the business. However, as a young girl, Elkie loved music: 'I had so many musical influences as a child - Billie Holiday, Ellie Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Sinatra, Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray... and today I like listening to all sorts, Nickelback and Amy Winehouse.'

After signing to the famous Decca label, Elkie released her first single, Something's Got A Hold On Me in 1964. At the time, however, chart success proved elusive and so she spent the next few years on package tours with various artists including The Animals and The Beatles.

It was in 1970 that her career took a new turn when she met guitarist Pete Gage and they formed the rock fusion band Dada. Later future star Robert Palmer joined the group, the band became Vinegar Joe, and Elkie and Robert's raunchy live performances became legendary.

However, the band dissolved in the mid-70s when their live appeal failed to translate into record sales and it wasn't until Elkie's 32nd birthday that she was truly propelled into the limelight with the release of Pearl's A Singer, her most popular and enduring hit. Further hit songs followed and when the Pearls album was released in 1981, Elkie became a superstar; at the time of its release, Pearls became the biggest-selling album by a British female singer in the history of the UK charts, selling over 1.2m copies and earning Elkie a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

She performed at all the major venues in the country and somehow also found time to get married to her sound engineer husband Trevor Jordan and to have two sons, Jay and Joey, who will be 30 and 23 this year. These days Elkie and Trevor live near Woolacombe in Devon with their Golden Retriever, Shadow, where Trevor likes to hang-glide and Elkie practises the martial art Aikido.

But singing remains Elkie's first love, as she confirms: 'I enjoy it and people can see that, it comes over on the stage.' No doubt we'll see this for ourselves when she performs in Holt in August.

SOMETHING FOR ALL AGES AT THE HOLT SUMMER FESTIVAL

The first-ever Holt Summer Festival is now just a few weeks away, with this new event scheduled from Monday 3rd to Saturday 8th August 2009 inclusive.

Little ones will love the enchanting puppet show Pinocchio at The Auden Theatre on Tuesday 4th August at 4pm (tickets �5), while older members of the family will enjoy Marie, the Olivier-nominated show about music hall star Marie Lloyd, which will be performed at The Auden on Monday 3rd August (tickets �15). Other events include jazz by The Gwilym Simcock Trio on Wednesday 5th August (tickets �18); Is Everyone Okay? by contemporary drama group Nabokov on Tuesday 4th August (tickets �10) and modern dance by ACE Youth on Friday 7th August (tickets �12.50; under 18s �8). Meanwhile, legendary artist Sir Peter Blake will be in Holt on the famous Sir Peter Blake Art Bus on Friday 7th August (entrance free) and all sorts of other free street entertainment and family events are planned.

For more details contact the Holt Summer Festival Box Office on 01263 712635 or via email at: boxoffice@holtfestival.org. The Box Office is based at Cockertons Chartered Surveyors, 1a Market Place, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 6BE. Website: www.holtfestival.org.