Derek Watkins (trumpeter)

Derek Watkins
Birth name Derek Roy Watkins
Born (1945-03-02)2 March 1945
Reading, Berkshire, England
Died 22 March 2013(2013-03-22) (aged 68)
Claygate, Surrey, England
Genres Jazz, pop, classical, production
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1950s–2013

Derek Roy Watkins (2 March 1945 – 22 March 2013) was an English jazz, pop and classical trumpet player. Best known for his lead trumpet work on the soundtracks of James Bond film from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) to Skyfall (2012), Watkins recorded with every notable British jazz bandleader 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.[1][2]

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.[2]

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".[3] He was a longtime member of the James Last Orchestra.

In the classical realm he made recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra, and also played for opera singers including José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa.[3]

His discography included the 1988 solo album, Increased Demand.[3]

"Derek Watkins enjoyed an international reputation as one of Britain's best all-round trumpet players," wrote The Times. "He embraced jazz, classical and pop music with equal distinction but was probably best known for his work on the James Bond soundtracks."[3]

Film and television scores

Watkins is most notable for his soundtrack performances on James Bond films starting with The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) when Marvin Hamlisch replaced John Barry in composing for one film in the 007 series.[4] In addition to the later Bond film soundtracks he played on is 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.[5]

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.[6]

Teaching and scholarship

Watkins was a professor of trumpet and commercial brass consultant at the Royal Academy of Music.[7] He also began working on instrument development in 1975,[1] consulting with Richard Smith of Boosey & Hawkes on the design of the Sovereign Studio trumpet. In 1985 they set up their own manufacturing company, Smith-Watkins Brass Instruments, which supplies handmade instruments to studio musicians, brass bands and the military.[8]


Derek Watkins died on 22 March 2013, from cancer, aged 68.[2][9]


In April 2013 the Royal Academy of Music announced the creation of the Derek Watkins Chair of Trumpet.[10]


As leader

As sideman

With the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band


  1. 1 2 "About Derek Watkins". Derek Watkins official website. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 "Derek Watkins Obituary". Peter Vacher, The Guardian, 25 March 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Derek Watkins: Versatile trumpeter who played on all 23 James Bond films and was much sought after by jazz performers". The Times, 25 March 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  4. Correction is made here as per the two notes/interviews done with both Tony Fisher and Greg Bowen. Trumpet sections for all John Barry composed Bond soundtracks to 1975 is Stan Roderick, Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen and Eddie Blair
  5. "James Bond Trumpeter Derek Watkins Dies at 68". Lars Brandle, Billboard, 25 March 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  6. Derek Watkins, Colin Sheen and Jamie Talbot, "Cue the Glitz" on YouTube; KPM Music Ltd. KPM 441, Putting on the Glitz (track 6).
  7. "Derek Watkins". Royal Academy of Music, 23 March 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  8. "Derek Watkins (Trumpet Designer): 1945–2013". Richard Smith, Smith–Watkins Brass Instruments, 2 April 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  9. "James Bond trumpet player Derek Watkins dies". Richard Gray, The Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  10. "Mike Lovatt is appointed". Royal Academy of Music, 9 April 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  11. "Derek Watkins | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
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