March 22, 2013 – Derek Watkins (Session musician) was born in Reading, Berkshire, England on March 2nd 1945. His horn is heard on the Beatles’ classics ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’, and Dizzy Gillespie called him “Mr Lead”.
The Watkins’ family was certainly a musical family, Derek’s great-grandfather, William Watkins was a brass player in Wales with the Salvation Army band, whilst Derek’s grandfather George taught brass at Reading University, and became a founder member and conductor of the Spring Gardens Brass Band in Reading, England, until succeeded by Derek’s father, Ted.
Derek 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 musical awards. He also played with his father’s dance band until he turned a professional trumpet player 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 business. He 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 amongst many 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 James Bond, 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.
In later years Watkins 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.
Derek was a Visiting Professor for trumpet to the Royal Academy of Music, and presented master class clinics at music colleges around Europe.
He died on March 22, 2013 after a two year battle with cancer.