DJ Derek, born Derek Serpell-Morris (18 December 1941 – July 2015)[1] was an English DJ based in Bristol. In a DJ career that spanned over 40 years, he was known for playing a blend of 60s rocksteady, reggae, ska, dancehall and soul. He was reported missing in July 2015 and his remains were found on 10 March 2016.

DJ Derek
DJ Derek in 2007
DJ Derek in 2007
Background information
Birth nameDerek Serpell-Morris
Born(1941-12-18)18 December 1941
Bristol, England
Diedc. July 2015 (aged 73)
Years active1977–2013

Early life edit

He was born in Bristol, the second son of a carpenter,[2] and raised close to St Andrew's Park, off Gloucester Road. Derek was a washboard player in a skiffle group in 1956 and later a drummer in a rock and roll band, after which he spent 10–18 years working in the accounts department of the confectionery firm J. S. Fry & Sons, later part of Cadbury.[3]

DJ career edit

DJ Derek at into The Great Wide Open, September 2009

Following his second divorce and resignation from his accountancy job in 1977, Derek began his DJ career "by accident" in his mid-30s, as a reggae DJ at the Star and Garter pub in Montpelier an inner city area of Bristol.[3][4][5] He moved to the adjacent St Pauls area in 1978.[6] DJ Derek became a well known regular and respected feature in Bristol's music scene, referred to as a "legend" by many sources including the city's elected mayor George Ferguson. He was nicknamed "Britain's oldest DJ".[7][8][9][10] In 2012 he received the Bristol Lord Mayor's medal for an "outstanding" contribution to music in the city.[9] Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said he finished most sets with the Bob Marley hit "One Love", saying "It's a perfect signing-off record for a reggae set—let's get together and feel all right. So next time, people, let's get together and feel all right."[11] He MCed in Jamaican Patois while DJing.[4][7]

Derek played DJ sets at many major music festivals, including Glastonbury and The Big Chill, and places like Las Palmas (Gran Canaria); as well as regular DJ sets in London and across the UK.[4][6] In June 2006 he released a compilation of his favourite tracks titled DJ Derek Presents Sweet Memory Sounds, through Trojan Records.[12] He appeared in Dizzee Rascal's video for "Dirtee Disco".[13] In 2013 he played his final set before retiring at Notting Hill Arts Club in London on New Year's Eve, though he later played a one-off show in December 2014.[14][15] He had a passion for travelling long distances by bus to visit newly opened Wetherspoon pubs .[6][16]

Disappearance edit

In July 2015, Derek's family announced that he had been missing for three weeks, appealing for information related to his whereabouts.[17] Police confirmed that he had not used his bank account since the beginning of July, and could not have gone abroad as he had no passport.[13] He was last seen leaving the Criterion pub in St Pauls shortly after midnight on 11 July; later that morning his bus pass was used on a bus to Thornbury, 12 miles (19 km) north of Bristol.[18][19][16][20] Daddy G of Massive Attack, who described Derek as a "walking musical encyclopedia", played a club night in Bristol to raise funds for a search.[21]

In December 2015, Derek's family said that a man matching his description had been seen fleeing a pub in Thornbury following an altercation; Avon and Somerset Police said that their investigations into his disappearance were continuing.[22] Later in December, an image taken in London of a man resembling Derek was publicised. While his family noted an "uncanny" resemblance,[23] Avon and Somerset Police later announced that they had located and spoken to the man photographed, and confirmed that he was not Derek.[24] Derek's family began an application for presumed death in March 2016.[25]

On 10 March 2016, human remains were found in undergrowth near The Mall, Cribbs Causeway, Bristol,[26][27] and on 16 March, were confirmed to be those of DJ Derek.[28] Shortly after his remains were discovered, Bristol police said they were not treating his death as suspicious.[29][30]

Tributes edit

During the 6 Music festival hosted by the BBC in Bristol in February 2016, Don Letts and Daddy G premiered a snippet of a documentary they had been working on before his disappearance. Letts said they planned to complete the film as a mark of respect, as they had halted further production until his whereabouts were revealed.[31] In March 2016, Bristol pub The Farm in St Werburghs, one of Derek's regular haunts, revealed they were hosting an auction to raise funds for a mural near his home. On 1 April, contributions from Banksy, Fatboy Slim, Stanley Donwood and other local artists helped to raise over £5000 (US$6,905) towards the fund. Mayor George Ferguson revealed plans for a city tribute to him, with an official announcement to follow.[32]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Fact (10 July 2013). "DJ Derek announces retirement, confirms last ever show". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  2. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (23 March 2016). "The life and death of DJ Derek, an unlikely reggae legend". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Meet DJ Derek". Bristol Evening Post. 7 February 2009. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b c "The legendary DJ Derek". Inside Out – West. BBC. 20 February 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  5. ^ "Niece launches social media campaign as well-known DJ goes missing". Irish Independent. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "Missing DJ Derek: Police make national appeal". BBC News. 12 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b "POP / DJ Derek and the dominoes". The Independent. 18 November 1994. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  8. ^ "DJ Derek – 'Britain's oldest DJ' – missing". The Guardian. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  9. ^ a b "DJ Derek: Police hunt for missing 73-year-old Bristol man". BBC News. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Bristol club night will help fund the search for missing DJ Derek". 12 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  11. ^ "Police confirm reported sightings of missing DJ Derek". NME. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  12. ^ "DJ Derek Sweet Memory Sounds". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  13. ^ a b "DJ Derek: Family and friends to search Bristol for missing 73-year-old". BBC News. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  14. ^ "DJ Derek spins his discs for final time in Bristol". Bristol Post. 31 December 2013. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  15. ^ Jamie Grierson (11 March 2016). "Human remains found in woodland near Bristol believed to be 'DJ Derek'". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Inside Out West". BBC. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Bristol's DJ Derek missing for three weeks". ITV. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  18. ^ "DJ Derek search: Further CCTV footage tracks journey". BBC News. 31 July 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  19. ^ "Leaflet campaign in search for missing DJ Derek". 14 August 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  20. ^ "Missing DJ Derek's family's frustration at failure to find Bristol legend". Western Daily Press. 9 October 2015. Archived from the original on 13 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  21. ^ "Member of Massive Attack to play set at DJ Derek fundraiser". ITV. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  22. ^ "Missing DJ Derek 'was seen being chased from pub'". BBC News. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  23. ^ "DJ Derek disappearance: Photograph 'is of him'". BBC News. 23 December 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  24. ^ DJ Derek disappearance: Police confirm photo is not him (28 December 2015). archive. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  25. ^ "Missing DJ Derek's family 'was sent online abuse'". BBC News. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  26. ^ "Human remains 'probably missing DJ Derek'". BBC News. 11 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  27. ^ Bristol Post[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ "DJ Derek: Tests confirm remains belong to pensioner". BBC News. 16 March 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  29. ^ Michael Yong (14 March 2016). "Death of DJ Derek 'not suspicious' as police call off search". Bristol Post. Retrieved 16 March 2016.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ Lynskey, Dorian The life and death of DJ Derek, an unlikely reggae legend The Guardian. 24 March 2016
  31. ^ Craig Jones, "6 Music Festival DJ Don Letts pays tribute to DJ Derek's Bristol influence", Bristol Post, 12 February 2016[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 6 April 2016
  32. ^ Churchill, L. (25 April 2016). "Life-size bronze statue of DJ Derek being planned for Bristol". Bristol Post. Retrieved 9 September 2016.[permanent dead link]

External links edit