Thursday, 26 January 2017 14:54

Who Played Trumpet on the Bond scores 1962-1974?

Written by Geoff Leonard
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You Only Live twice - John Barry giving notes
You Only Live twice - John Barry giving notes

Volker Rippe kindly drew my attention to a recent correction made to Derek Watkins' Wikipedia profile as concerns his James Bond music career and the corresponding "Talk" to explain or justify the correction.

Whereas I believe the person concerned is correct to say that Derek did not play on the early Bonds (despite his boast of playing on all of them up until Skyfall), the explanation that the same four trumpeters -- Stan Roderick, Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen and Eddie Blair played on all the films from Dr. No to The Man with the Golden Gun -- is just as unlikely.

For a start, there is the photographic evidence from You Only Live Twice in which only Greg Bowen appears. Leon Calvert (a favourite player of Barry’s) and Ray Davies are also present on these sessions. Then there's the claim from several other well-known players that they played on some early Bond sessions.

One of these, Ron Simmons, told me he played on a couple of the early Bonds, and I found his story very convincing. Here it is:

A member of the West Side Story string section was violinist Sid Margo, who booked me one day for a film session. When I got into the studio the first guy I saw was a young trumpet player called John Barry.

My first thought was — what the hell is he doing here? He was a reasonable player, and ran his own small combo, but I couldn't imagine that he was going to sit with us in the trumpet section.

I'd known John Barry Prendergast for a long time. His dad owned a theatre in York which we used to visit quite often. Every time we went up there Jack Parnell called a rehearsal, something that we hated after the long bus ride, and we had to run through some of John's arrangements.

This we did grimly, handing them back afterwards without comment. They were generally lengthy and pretty boring.

Bill Russo told me later on that he vaguely remembered John begging him for a correspondence course in arranging, and sending him lengthy scores from time to time which he corrected and returned.

To my surprise he now mounted the podium and conducted the orchestra. It was music for the very first James Bond film, Dr. No.

There were four trumpets on this first session, as far as I remember: Bobby Pratt, Albert Hall, Freddy Clayton and myself. I was booked by Sid Margo on first trumpet. What neither he, nor John Barry, knew at the time was that poor Bobby Pratt was, by then, well into the alcoholic problems he'd been having for several years. During this period I'd had to dash into the Aeolian Hall, Bond Street studios many times at the last minute to replace him on a broadcast with Ted Heath and eventually joined Ted permanently in his place. He was still being booked on sessions in those days, though, and we were telling him not to play, keep his head down and get the money. We were covering for him all over the place.

On this first John Barry session Bob was already well under the influence, and hardly fit to play. He insisted upon doing so, though, and as a result the trumpets did not sound good. Not long afterwards I heard that another session had been scheduled and that I had not been booked on it. To my query on this Sid Margo told me that the trumpets had not been good enough on the first session, and that after we had all left the studio John had found an empty bottle of whisky under my chair. So he told Sid not to book me any more.

When I told Freddy Clayton and Albert about this they immediately told Sid what had really happened. It may not have been deliberate, but it certainly left a nasty taste at the time. At any rate: Bob was taken off the next session and we made the title music again with someone else, possible Frank Thornton, on fourth trumpet. Every time I see a James Bond film, and hear myself on that title music it brings back the sad memories.

I returned from Munich in the summer of 1963 to play on From Russia with Love or Goldfinger - I forget which one it was, this time with Albert Hall and I believe it was with Ronnie Hughes and Stan Reynolds or Bert Courtley on the other trumpets. You must remember that we were doing three sessions a day then, and working with up to a hundred musicians a time. Hard to remember names.

I have always been very pleased at John's outstanding success in the film scoring business. He has written some outstanding music. I'm afraid we didn't have much time for him when he was a boy, bringing his scores for us to try out in his Dad's theatre. He certainly proved us all wrong. Please give him my regards (and apologies) if you see him.

Bobby Pratt’s widow, Tina, says he also played on Goldfinger, and Bert Ezard, another fine trumpeter, is listed elsewhere as playing on the original James Bond Theme, as are the aforementioned Albert Hall & Ray Davies.

We may never know the names of all the very fine musicians who played on the early Bond scores, but writing on Wiki Talk that Stan Roderick, Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen and Eddie Blair were on all of them as though it is a proven fact, is not very helpful, in my opinion.

Geoff Leonard.

Read 5095 times Last modified on Monday, 13 February 2017 12:58

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