Derek Scott worked as a double act with both Terry-Thomas and Tony Hancock in their early careers before going on to become one of Britain’s best known light entertainment musical directors.
He was MD for many West End shows, including Kiss Me Kate, Kismet, Bridagoon as well as two Royal Variety Shows and from 1976-81 was the musical associate for ITV’s The Muppet Show. He composed many of the Muppet songs and was the sound and voice of the piano-playing dog Rolfe in the show.
Scott was born in Biggleswade on December 25, 1921 and educated at Bedford Modern School where he quickly became known for his musical talent. At the age of 12 he began playing the organ in local churches and he became an associate of the Royal College of Organists at 15.
He played the organ in cine-variety on the Granada Cinema circuit and during the Second World War served in the RAF. A member of Ralph Reader’s Gang Show, he toured Europe and north Africa with up and coming names such as Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock.
On being demobbed, he accompanied the comedian Sid Field in Piccadilly Hayride (Prince of Wales Theatre 1946) and briefly worked as a stooge with Terry-Thomas.
Scott was noted for his poise and dead pan humour and in July 1948 he formed a double act with Tony Hancock. Billed as Hank and Scott they appeared at the Windmill Theatre doing an imitation of a scruffy concert party. The Stage newspaper commented that they needed to do more work on the act. Also on the bill were Harry Worth and another double act, Morecambe and Wise, who were fired by the management for being “unfunny”.
Hank and Scott made their only TV appearance the same year in New To You, a talent show, in which Hancock was spotted by BBC producer Dennis Main Wilson, who later worked on Hancock’s own TV shows. Hancock and Scott parted company as an act but in 1963 Scott wrote the theme tune for Hancock’s ATV series Hancock and also the music for the film The Punch and Judy Man, which featured Hancock and Sylvia Syms.
For much of his later career Scott worked in television, mostly for ATV at Elstree Studios, where he was musical associate for light entertainment specials. He worked with stars such as Barbra Streisand, Bob Hope, Rudolph Nureyev, Tom Jones, Benny Hill and Charlie Drake. Many of the shows were live and Scott was known for his musical expertise and professionalism. He was also one of the first musicians to use an electronic synthesiser.
He wrote theme tunes for many TV shows, including The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971) and the police drama Hunter’s Walk (1973). He also wrote the music for the Captain Birds Eye commercials, complaining that whilst the crew and cast went to the Caribbean for two weeks filming, he only had “a wet day at the recording studios.”
He retired from television in 1982 and moved to Southwold, Suffolk where he became actively involved with St Edmund’s Church as musical director and organist.
He died on May 27, aged 84. He is survived by his second wife and two daughters.
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