Elkie Brooks presents Pearls – The Very Best Of live in concert this July, including a date at Worthing’s Pavilion Theatre on Saturday, July 14.
It’s the latest step in a remarkable career so far lasting 58 years.
“I was 15 when I started,” says Elkie, who is currently working towards her 21st studio album.
For Worthing, Elkie and her band will perform songs that feature on her latest hits collection Pearls – The Very Best Of Elkie Brooks, which includes all the hits that made Elkie into one of the UK’s most successful singers. Songs will include Lilac Wine, Fool If You Think It’s Over, Sunshine After The Rain, No More The Fool and her signature hit Pearl’s A Singer.
Elkie began singing professionally in 1960. Born Elaine Bookbinder to a Jewish baker in Manchester, at 15 she won a talent contest at the Palace Theatre, Manchester judged by Don Arden (manager of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and The Small Faces, and father of Sharon Osbourne).
“I started when I was 12 or 13, semi-professionally. But then I went for this audition. I had seen it in the paper, and I went along with lots of other people. He thought I was very talented and put me in the show that night. But it took me a few years to establish myself – a very, very long time. It wasn’t until I was with a band called Dada and then Vinegar Joe that I got some direction.
“I was doing a lot on the northern cabaret circuit, and I didn’t like a lot of the material that I had to sing and a lot of the bands couldn’t play the music anyway. That’s one of the reasons I got to learn the piano, but it took its toll. I was really not sure if I wanted to stay in the business.”
In the event, it was Humphrey Lyttelton who persuaded her – and the rest is history: “I stayed with Humph’s band for quite some time. But I had been thinking that I should go back to school, do something else.”
Her point is that she had to be happy musically, doing material that she believed in. And perhaps it is that apprenticeship, plus the integrity of her musical choices, which has meant she has enjoyed such a long career: “I can say that most of my material, certainly 80 per cent of it, is music that I really wanted to do.”
It helps, of course, that there have been some great songs along the way: “I always thought that Pearl’s A Singer was a good song, and also Sunshine After The Rain. They have been very successful for me. Just singing them night after night for all these years, you can get a little bit tired, but we do try to change the arrangements.”
And of course, she simply has to include them: “I suppose I tend to go a little bit on autopilot – and then you are suddenly thinking do you know the words! But I did an amazing show in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. They were all singing along. They know the words. It took me back a bit.”
The point is that the songs mean so much to people: “I get lots of lovely letters from people.” But she never takes it for granted. “I practise and I keep my voice. Just because I have come off the road for a week or two, I won’t stop practising and working and writing. It is what I do. I am working on a new album. I am hoping that we will finish it before the end of the year. It will be my 21st studio album, but there have been lots of greatest hits albums over the years. But I will just keep going. I never think about it. I just keep writing…”