Website last updated: 7-5-2024

Legendary Trumpeter Derek Watkins 1945-2013

By: Anders Frejdh
Derek Watkins James Bond
James Bond film composer David Arnold just revealed some very sad news. The legend that was Derek Watkins - gentleman, musical genius and trumpeter on EVERY Bond score to date - has passed away, aged 68.

David Arnold (our thanks to him for the alert on Derek Watkins' passing although very sad news), who knew Derek well, remembers him:

"Renowned as one of the finest Trumpet players in the world (LA session players often asked me about him) but he was mainly a lovely man.

He played on pretty much all of my scores and records....sublime playing, tasteful, supreme, and could hit notes others couldn't get near!

That will be a chair in the Trumpet section that will remain permanently empty - an irreplaceable musician and a down to earth and funny man."

Sky TV video about Derek Watkins:

About Derek Watkins: (from his official website)
Derek Watkins has an international reputation as one of the best all-round trumpet players. He has played for Johnny Dankworth, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Ted Heath and Frank Sinatra and the James Last Orchestra.

He regularly plays for TV shows and has also given concerts and made recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recent recordings include a solo album 'Increased Demand' and sound tracks for the Batman and ALL 23 James Bond movies.

He has worked with Richard Smith on instrument development since 1974, and has helped to test every aspect of the new Smith-Watkins designs.

Born Reading, Berkshire (2 March 1945) he is a British trumpeter and session musician renowned for his mastery of the trumpet and flugelhorn. He is best-known for his signature high-note "screamers" on the James Bond themes.

Born into a musical family, Watkins' great-grandfather was a brass player in Wales with the Salvation Army, while his grandfather taught brass at Reading University and became a founder member and conductor of the Spring Gardens Brass Band in Reading, until succeeded by Watkins' father. Watkins was initially taught to play the cornet by his father at the age of 4, and went on to play that instrument in the brass band, winning several awards. He also played with his father's dance band until he turned professional at the age of 17.

Derek rose through the ranks of dance bands to become one of the most sought-after session players in the UK. He has recorded and worked with a wide range of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Tom Jones, Count Basie, John Dankworth, Stan Tracey, the Ted Heath Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Henry Mancini, Maynard Ferguson, Kiri te Kanawa, the London Symphony Orchestra, Oasis, Robbie Williams, James Last, Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, The Beatles, Elton John, Natalie Cole, Eric Clapton, and Kylie Minogue among others.

Derek became acquainted with Dr Richard Smith - Doctor of Acoustics, at Boosey & Hawkes, where Derek had an association with them with regard to the manufacture of their instruments.

Following this period, Richard and Derek went on to set up their own manufacturing company, Smith-Watkins Instruments, where they initially manufactured and supplied both trumpets and cornets to the specific requirement and need of each individual.

Their association has lasted many years and has resulted in many of the top flight players both in the studio world and also in the Brass Band and Military world using the Smith-Watkins instruments.

Watkins has also played key roles in many film scores, including Mission Impossible, The Mummy, Basic Instinct, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, Johnny English, Superman 1 & 2, Bridget Jones Diary and Chicago, where his trumpet solo opens the movie.

Watkins has the unique distinction of having played on every one of the James Bond films, his high-note "screamers" being especially notable in Goldfinger (1964) (which Watkins recorded at the age of 19).

Watkins has recently branched out into composition, in collaboration with Colin Sheen and Jamie Talbot, and their work can be heard in the incidental music for the ITV Drama series Midsomer Murders and library music for KPM Music.

Watkins is currently Visiting Professor for trumpet to the Royal Academy of Music, and gives master class clinics at music colleges around Europe.

Editor's note:
A discography of Derek Watkins playing career can be found here.

Photo above:
Trumpeter maestro Derek Watkins (1945-2013). © 2011 Derek Watkins, the trumpet Legend.

If you can, please support Derek Watkins' charity by clicking below:



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Founder & Managing Editor: Anders Frejdh