-- Dizzy Gillespie

Derek Watkins had 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, and recorded on many Films and TV Themes.

Derek Watkins had an international reputation as one of the best all-round trumpet players.

He has played for Johnny Dankworth, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Ted Heath, Frank Sinatra and The James Last Orchestra, he recorded on many Films, TV Themes, adverts and albums.

Derek Watkins regularly played for TV shows and had also given concerts and made recordings with The London Symphony Orchestra and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recordings include his solo albums ‘Increased Demand’ and ‘Over The Rainbow’.

He played on the sound tracks for many blockbuster movies, including Batman, Shrek, Indianna Jones, Star Wars, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Shirley Valentine, Basic Instinct, Mission Impossible, Gladiator, The Mummy, Chicago, Superman, Frankenstein, plus many more, including  of course the James Bond movies.

He worked with Richard Smith on brass instrument development since 1974, and tested every aspect of the new Smith-Watkins designs.

Born in Reading, Berkshire on the 2nd of March 1945, he was a session musician renowned for his mastery of the trumpet and flugelhorn.

The Watkins’ family is certianly a musical family, Derek’s great-grandfather William Watkins was a brass player in Wales with the Salvation Army, 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.

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.

Derek was a Visiting Professor for trumpet to the Royal Academy of Music, and presented master class clinics at music colleges around Europe.