DJ Derek

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DJ Derek
DJ Derek cropped.jpg
DJ Derek in 2007
Background information
Origin Bristol, England
Genres rocksteady, reggae, ska, dancehall, soul music
Years active 1977–2013

DJ Derek (real name Derek Serpell-Morris, born 1941) is a Bristol-based DJ. In a DJ career that has spanned over 40 years, he is known for playing a blend of 60s rocksteady, reggae, ska, dancehall and soul music.

Early Life[edit]

Son of a carpenter and raised close by to St Andrew's Park, off Bristol's Gloucester Road. Derek was a washboard player in a skiffle group in 1956 and later a drummer in a rock 'n' roll band, after which he spent 10–18 years working in the accounts department of the confectionery firm J. S. Fry & Sons (Cadburys).[1]

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, DJ Derek began his DJ career "by accident" in his mid-30s, as a reggae DJ at the Star and Garter pub Montpelier inner city area of Bristol.[1][2][3] He moved to the adjacent St Pauls area in 1978.[4] DJ Derek became a well known regular and respected feature on the Bristol's music scene, referred to as a "legend" by many sources including the city's elected mayor George Ferguson. He has also been nicknamed as “Britain’s oldest DJ”.[5][6][7][8] In 2012 he received the Bristol Lord Mayor's medal for an "outstanding" contribution to music in the city.[7] 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."[9] He MCed in Jamaican Patois while DJing.[2][5]

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.[2][4] In June 2006 he released a compilation of his favourite tracks 'DJ Derek Presents Sweet Memory Sounds' on Trojan Records.[10] He appeared in Dizzee Rascal's video for Dirtee Disco.[11] In 2013 he played his final set before retiring at Notting Hill Arts Club in London on New Year's Eve.[12] He has a passion for travelling long distances to visit newly opened Wetherspoon pubs by bus.[4][13]


In July 2015 Derek's family announced that he had been missing for three weeks, appealing for information related to his whereabouts.[14] Police confirmed that he had not used his bank account since the beginning of July, and could not have gone abroad given that he has no passport.[11] He was last seen leaving the Criterion pub in St Pauls, later his bus pass was used, probably by Derek himself, on a bus to Thornbury 12 miles north of Bristol, on the night of 10-11thJuly.[15][16][13] Daddy G of Massive Attack played at a club night in Bristol to raise funds for the search for Derek, having described him as a "walking musical encyclopaedia".[17]


  1. ^ a b "Meet DJ Derek". Bristol Evening Post. 7 February 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "The legendary DJ Derek". Inside Out - West. BBC. 20 February 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Niece launches social media campaign as well-known DJ goes missing". Irish Independent. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Missing DJ Derek: Police make national appeal". BBC News. 12 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "POP / DJ Derek and the dominoes". The Independent. 18 November 1994. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  6. ^ "DJ Derek – 'Britain's oldest DJ' – missing". The Guardian. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "DJ Derek: Police hunt for missing 73-year-old Bristol man". BBC News. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Bristol club night will help fund the search for missing DJ Derek". 12 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Police confirm reported sightings of missing DJ Derek". NME. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "DJ Derek Sweet Memory Sounds". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "DJ Derek: Family and friends to search Bristol for missing 73-year-old". BBC News. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "DJ Derek spins his discs for final time in Bristol". Bristol Post. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "Inside Out West". BBC. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "Bristol's DJ Derek missing for three weeks". ITV. 24 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "DJ Derek search: Further CCTV footage tracks journey". BBC News. 31 July 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "Leaflet campaign in search for missing DJ Derek". 14 August 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "Member of Massive Attack to play set at DJ Derek fundraiser". ITV. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 

External links[edit]