WITH the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival less than six weeks away, it’s time to start looking at some of the acts who will be heading to Colne over the August bank holiday weekend.

Ma Bessie & her Pig Foot band mix classic blues and jazz tunes from the inter-war years, with a selection of original songs and hand-picked covers from the last 50 years of popular music.

Here we chat to Ma Bessie about performing on stage as a child, her new album release and… pig feet.

Tell us one thing we may not know about you.

I am one of 11 children

What is your musical background (and are you self-taught)?

I have been singing from the age of four, I was tutored by an opera singer at the age of 10, and I used to sing to my dad’s music collection as he was a DJ. I had a singing tutor but I have developed all my different sounds and appreciation of many genres including gospel, jazz, blues, reggae, ska and soca.

What kind of music were you brought up listening to?

Reggae, ska and country music.

When it comes to writing songs, what circumstances or events give you inspiration?

My own life events and disasters. A lot of my songs are from my personal story, past loves and events that have changed things for the better or worse.

Which one of your songs means the most to you?

‘I Forgot To Say I Love You’ because I wrote it for the victims of the Twin Towers disaster as a poem and turned it into song after my cousin was murdered in Jamaica by a police officer and I had to sing it at his funeral. It is a universal song.

What’s been the most memorable time of your musical career?

When I first sang on a professional stage along with Mary Hopkin, Allan Love and Michael Cashman, among others, in a show called the Rock Nativity – I was only but knew that is where I wanted to be. Ted Green (choreographer) said “my eyes sparkled every time I am on the stage”.

What else do you have in store for the rest of this year?

Lots of shows with the Blues Troupe telling the Bessie Smith Story and I want to start performing more of my own songs. I am just about to release an album “No Faith” which takes my music in yet another direction.

What’s the history/story behind the name Pig Foot?

A friend who has a band called The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band suggested it at first. It comes from Bessie Smith’s song called “Gimme A Pig Foot And A Bottle of Beer” recorded in 1933 and it was one of her songs from her last recording date.

When and why did you fall in love with Bessie Smith, the Empress of The Blues?

Andy Wilkin from Beggars Belief introduced me to ‘Careless Love’ when I studying for my Performing Arts Degree over 20 years ago. The rest is history.

Ma Bessie plays the Mini Muni on Saturday, August 24. The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival features Mike Sanchez, Anthony Gomes, Rufus Black and Sari Shaw. Full details from www.bluesfestival.co.uk