Musician Derek Scott has worked with many showbusiness “greats”. Artistes like Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Liberace... the list is seemingly never ending.
But it is his latest – and unseen – television role which is causing the biggest stir. For Derek, a freelance musician and composer, is musical associate on the popular ATV Muppets Show. He also plays the piano for the character of Rowlf, the canine pianist.
Apart from fringe benefits of getting Muppets T-shirts for his children and an exclusive Kermit tie for himself, his association with the cult comedy show has raised his standing in the community.
When introduced as “the man who had just finished working with the Muppets” at a local dancing school prizegiving, he was greeted with rapturous applause.
With 24 Muppet shows in the can, he is all set to start work on a further 24 at ATV’s Elstree Studios this May.
When we met at his Northwood home recently, he explained what his role as musical associate on the programme involved.
“It means the whole responsibility of the music is yours until it gets played,” says Derek.
“You have to sort it out, arrange it and sometimes play it too.”
The quick turnover – they made one show a week – did cause problems for Americans suffering from jet lag and having to get down to serious musical work. But, he says, it was fun to make.He had previously worked with about 60 per cent of the big names who guested on the Muppets’ first series.
Derek describes himself as a musician “because it covers everything I do,” adding: “You name it, I have done it, from a royal command performance at the Palladium to scores for films.”
He bgean studying the piano at the age of 4½. “They tell me it was because my sister started to learn to play but I did not really think of doing anything else. I do not think it was ever thought about, the subject never came up,” he says.
At 16, he was an associate of the Royal College of Organists and went on to play in West End theatres and clubs.
His first job was on the last show Sid Field did and he played in the orchestra for many big West End musicals like Kismet and Kiss Me Kate.
“Those theatre jobs were good because they left you free during the day to do anything that took your fancy,” he adds.
With the decline of the big musical, he moved into the musical side of television.
In recent years he has worked mainly for commercial television and, in particular, ATV.
It began with live shows like Saturday Spectacular and Sunday Night at the London Palladium. He met his wife, Sidonie, at the Palladium – he was the pianist and she was a dancer. Now she is well-known as a producer and choreographer of amateur musicals to the Watford area.
Before the Muppets, Derek worked on many of ATV’s made-for-America spectaculars with people like Streisand, Liberace and Ray Charles. He has written themes for series like General Hospital, Hunter’s Walk and the forthcoming Parables. He scored one of the late Tony Hancock’s films, Punch and Judy Man.
There are, he says, few people around who specialise in his sort of job. It means keeping abreast of all the current developments in music – which, no doubt, accounts for the equipment in his work room at home.
“Whatever comes up you are supposed to know something about it. Now, for instance, you have to know all about electronic music,” he explains, referring to the room as looking like something out of Star Trek.
Despite his classical training, he sees nothing wrong in more modern music.
"Eventually everyone finds there is another side to music. It is all part of the same thing. I do not like music being pigeonholed. I work on everything from opera to hard rock.”
[From the Watford Observer of March 11, 1977]
NOSTALGIA NOTE: Derek Scott was born in Biggleswade, Beds, on December 25, 1921. During the Second World War, he served in the RAF and toured Europe and North Africa with a scattering of aspiring comedians including Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock. In 1948, he formed a double act with Tony Hancock in a show billed as Hank and Scott at the Windmill Theatre. Among other achievements not mentioned in the article above, he also wrote the music for the Captain Birdseye commercials. He died in May 2006, aged 84.