Derek Wadsworth: Trombonist and campaigner for musicians' rights

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The Independent Online

Derek Wadsworth played his trombone on numerous recordings in many different genres; he also wrote film and television scores and conducted orchestras. He developed new sounds for science-fiction programmes and maintained that there was always something new to learn about orchestration. In recent months, he had received much media attention for arguing for the extension of copyright legislation on recorded works.

Wadsworth was born in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire in 1939. He was a musical child and he specialised in the trombone, playing in both the Spenborough and the Brighouse and Rastrick brass bands. He moved to London in 1960, intent on playing jazz, and worked with the musician Teddy Foster for a time before joining Ronnie Aldrich and the Squadronaires, often playing at Butlins holiday camps.

A leap forward for Wadsworth came in 1963, when Dusty Springfield left the folk-based group the Springfields, with the aim of establishing herself as a British soul singer. Her producer supplemented a beat group called the Echoes with strings and a brass section, which included Wadsworth. The resulting recording, "I Only Want To Be With You", duplicated the Tamla-Motown sound and was a Top 10 hit. Wadsworth was Springfield's musical director on many tour dates, and he also worked with Georgie Fame, appearing on his album Two Faces of Fame (1967).

Wadsworth entered the psychedelic world by playing on the Rolling Stones' album Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967). "Although it was their least successful album," joked Wadsworth, "it wasn't my fault." He contributed to sessions with Billy Preston and Doris Troy for the Beatles' Apple label, and was part of the orchestral arrangements for George Harrison's No 1 album All Things Must Pass (1970).

Once the Lord Chamberlain's role in script licensing was abolished in 1968, UK theatres were able to stage experimental and controversial productions. Wadsworth became the musical director for the hippie musical Hair, which opened in the West End in September 1968. It ran highly successfully, until the theatre's roof collapsed in 1973. The original London cast included Floella Benjamin, Tim Curry, Marsha Hunt, Paul Nicholas, Richard O'Brien and Elaine Paige.

Wadsworth undertook many sessions during the day, working in jazz with Neil Ardley (Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe, 1969), jazz-rock with Colosseum (Daughter of Time, 1970) and blues with Savoy Brown (Blue Matter, 1968), as well as playing on many pop and rock recordings. He worked with Manfred Mann and they combined their talents in 1971 for the score of a sex film, Swedish Fly Girls. He arranged Alan Price's music for the films Alfie Darling (1975) and Britannia Hospital (1982) and orchestrated Price's autobiographical album, Between Today and Yesterday (1974), which contained the hit single "Jarrow Song".

In 1975, Gerry Anderson, the director and producer of Thunderbirds, created Space:1999, a science-fiction TV series in which nuclear waste is stored, with disastrous consequences, on the moon. Wadsworth wrote and arranged the music for the second series, in 1976.

Wadsworth also enjoyed the challenge of 30-second commercials and his work included the first television commercial for Cadbury's Flake. For another advert, he had to conduct a symphony orchestra while the camera highlighted a musician in pain. As Mozart's music swelled, the musician realised that he should have taken Imodium Plus for his diarrhoea.

Wadsworth continued working on studio sessions and he played with Nina Simone, Tony Bennett and Simply Red. Using the pseudonym Daniel Caine, he released several albums of TV theme music, and in the early 1990s, he encouraged the Coronation Street actor Bill Tarmey to forge a successful singing career. In 1997 Wadsworth conducted the Czech Symphony Orchestra for incidental music in a documentary about Woody Allen, Wild Man Blues.

Wadsworth was interested in musicians' rights, and in recent times he campaigned on behalf of the PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd) for the extension of the copyright on recorded works, which is currently 50 years, meaning that many expire during a musician's lifetime. He wanted parity with songwriters and composers and was dismayed that the Government was choosing "to kick us in the teeth".

Spencer Leigh



Derek Wadsworth, trombonist, composer, conductor and arranger: born Cleckheaton, Yorkshire 5 February 1939; married 1965 Betty Garner (died 1987; one son, one daughter); died Aynho, Northamptonshire 3 December 2008.

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