- Mar 02, 1945
- Mar 22, 2013
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Derek Roy Watkins (2 March 1945 – 22 March 2013) was an English jazz, pop, and classical trumpeter. Best known for his lead trumpet work on the soundtracks of James Bond films, Watkins recorded with British jazz bandleaders as well as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and The Beatles. Dizzy Gillespie called him “Mr. Lead”.
Life and career
Derek Watkins was born on 2 March 1945, in Reading, Berkshire England. His great-grandfather had been a brass player in Wales with the Salvation Army. His grandfather taught brass at Reading University and was a founding member of the Reading Spring Gardens Brass Band, which he conducted until he was succeeded by Watkins’ father. Watkins learned to play the cornet when he was four years old. He played in the brass band and with his father’s dance band at Reading’s Majestic Ballroom until he became a professional musician at age 17.
Beginning his professional career in London, Watkins was a member of Jack Dorsey’s band at the Astoria Ballroom for two years (1963–65), and then joined Billy Ternent’s orchestra at the London Palladium. He then became a freelance musician.
Watkins played in dance bands and big bands led by Ted Heath and John Dankworth, and in 1969 he toured and recorded with Benny Goodman. From 1970 to 1974 he worked as a studio musician in Los Angeles and recorded with The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand. He often performed at Dante’s jazz club with Louie Bellson and Don Menza, and he played with Count Basie, Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie, who nicknamed Watkins “Mr. Lead”. He was a longtime member of the James Last Orchestra.
In classical music he recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra and accompanied opera singers, including José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Kiri Te Kanawa.
His discography included the 1988 solo album, Increased Demand.
Film and television scores
Watkins is most notable for his soundtrack performances on James Bond films beginning with Dr. No and ending with Skyfall just before he died. In addition to the Bond film soundtracks, he played on the soundtracks Bridget Jones’s Diary, Basic Instinct, Johnny English, Gladiator, Made in Dagenham, Superman and Superman II. His solo opens Chicago, the Academy Award-winning Best Picture of 2002.
Together with Colin Sheen and Jamie Talbot, Watkins composed incidental music for the TV series Midsomer Murders, and production music for KPM Music Ltd. He co-wrote and performs the music heard in the title sequence for “Murder Is Corny”, a 2002 episode of the A&E TV series A Nero Wolfe Mystery. […]
Derek Watkins played the trumpet on The Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever“.
Last updated on January 3, 2023
Albums, EPs & singles which Derek Watkins contributed to
By The Beatles • 7" Single
Contribution: Trumpet • 1 songs