Bristol

DJ Derek: The elderly musician who mastered his own mix

DJ Derek Image copyright Helena Appio

For eight months people have been searching for DJ Derek.

The 73-year-old accountant-turned-clubber was reported missing last summer but this week police have found, in undergrowth, what they believe to be the Bristolian's remains.

Here we turn the light on the musician who provided the soundtrack for so many others.

Track One: Warming up

Derek Serpell-Morris lived in St Pauls - an area of Bristol he became very well known in since leaving Cadbury's in the 1970s to mix music rather than confectionery.

It was actually his performance during a musical interlude of the annual pantomime at Cadbury's that launched that first career in the city.

"Lady Cadbury came up and congratulated me on my drum solo. A week or so later I got a letter asking if I wanted a job here," he told the BBC's Inside Out in 2006.

He accepted and went on to work up the ranks, becoming a senior finance manager before packing it all in after "five years of domestic hell".

Then a DJ job followed at the Star and Garter pub in the city and the rest, as they say, is history.

Image copyright Daddy G & Don Letts

Track Two: Finding the beat

For more than four decades he firmly established himself as a fixture on Bristol's clubbing scene.

He became known for playing a blend of 1960s rocksteady, reggae, ska, dancehall and soul music.

Alongside the music he developed a hobby of visiting each new Wetherspoon pub which opens in the region and further afield.

The chain even took part in the search to find him, circulating a photo of the DJ to managers of 940 Wetherspoon pubs.

Another support of his - DJ Rob da Bank, co-founder of Camp Bestival - tweeted that phone calls with DJ Derek were "some of the most charming interactions I've ever had with a DJ".

"In fact every time I booked DJ Derek I had to phone his landline (no email) and talk through which bus route he'd take to get there, so he could visit a newly opened Wetherspoons en route," he wrote in a series of tweets.

DJ Derek never owned a mobile phone.

Image copyright Other

Track Three: Crowd pleasing

A highlight of his musical career must have been playing at Glastonbury.

He was not a stranger to fame though, playing countless gigs across the UK, releasing his own compilation album and collaborating with stars of the music world.

Among them were Massive Attack, Portishead and also Dizzee Rascal, who invited him to appear in the hit music video Dirtee Disco in 2010.

Documentary maker Helena Appio, who made a film about him, described him as a "kind and gentle man".

Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police

"A real British eccentric in the most wonderful way," she added.

Track Four: Cooling down

His final set before retiring was played at a London show in 2013.

This was a year after being awarded a medal by Bristol's Lord Mayor for his "outstanding" contribution to the music scene in the city.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 after he was given the award, he said he finished most sets with the Bob Marley classic One Love.

He said: "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."

Image copyright Other

Track Five: The music ends

On 23 July 2015 he was reported missing, 12 days after he was last seen leaving a pub in Bristol during the early hours.

A high profile campaign was launched to find the 73-year-old.

On Twitter alone, the hashtag #findDJDerek has been used more than 6,000 times since his disappearance.

In August, at a police press conference, members of his family said he had not taken any money, suitcases or toiletries and they were "losing hope".

But following the latest development about the discovery of human remains, it is his family who are now left facing the biggest silence.

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