12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Sussex Life today click here

Derek ‘Nick’ Nicholas on working with Norman Newell, playing to famous guests at the Dorchester Hotel and windmills

PUBLISHED: 11:37 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:37 24 April 2017

Photo by Sue Jackson

Photo by Sue Jackson

Archant

As honky tonk pianist Nick, Bexhill’s Derek Nicholas sold more than 500,000 records. Duncan Hall learns about his other on-going obsession

In 1969, the same year The Beatles recorded their final album, young nightclub pianist Derek ‘Nick’ Nicholas stepped into Decca’s recording studio for the first time.

The resulting album, Warm Red Sentimental Blue, was the first in a series of instrumental releases which sold more than half a million copies over the next decade. Derek has just rereleased that initial recording of piano, choir and orchestra as Get Back To The Sixties under his own NML label.

Born in Shirley, Surrey, in 1946, Derek had trained as a classical pianist from a young age. But he was soon drawn to the fertile music scene of the 1960s — working as a music copyist and arranger with a London music publisher by day and a club pianist by night under the name Nick Nicholas when Decca’s A&R man spotted him. “The album cost something like £3,000 in those days, with a full orchestra of session musicians,” he says today, from Bexhill’s seafront members-only club The Waterfront. “The piano part took three days — I did it live with the rhythm section and some of the brass and strings.” His later releases came through Polygram, who encouraged him to move to the honky-tonk style made popular by Mrs Mills and Russ Conway, as well as releasing an album of popular TV themes and jingles. His take on the What’s My Line theme came out as a single, one of two 7ins he was to release — the second, Royal Event, coinciding with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Through the 1970s and 1980s Derek worked with songwriter Norman Newell, arranging and transcribing material for stars including Barbara Cartland, Geoff Love and US film star Bette Davis. “Norman used to phone at 2am and say: ‘I’ve got an idea for a song,’” he remembers. “I would have to come and play passages while he wrote the lyrics. I was there when he wrote Never, Never, Never and This Is My Life.” Many of the songs were based on European tunes, with Norman, who died in an East Preston nursing home in 2004, writing new English lyrics. “He wrote them all longhand,” recalls Derek. “They were like poetry. He was a perfectionist, he wouldn’t stop until he was happy.”

In 1982 Derek began a 20-year residency at the Dorchester Hotel, playing to guests including Tony Curtis, Bruce Forsyth, Judith Chalmers, James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli, Rosemary Clooney and West Chiltington’s own Norman Wisdom, whose favourite was Don’t Laugh At Me. “I always played things from memory,” says Derek who admits to being a quick sight-reader. “There was never any sheet music in front of me.”

The second track on Get Back To The Sixties, The Windmills Of Your Mind made famous by Noel Harrison, links to Derek’s other major passion. In 2015 he released a book, Windmills of Sussex, the result of a decade’s research into more than 200 windmills across the county. It carries on an obsession which began as a teenager, when he would explore the derelict buildings, and now into retirement in Bexhill. “When I was touring in the 1960s I saw many of the last working windmills,” he says. “The structure of the buildings always fascinated me.” A keen traveller, he has visited windmills in San Francisco, South Africa, Perth and Barbados, but counts the nearby Polegate and Stonecross windmills as two of his favourites, both of which have been restored. He is a member of the Oldland Mill Trust.

“I feel like the book is an unfinished historical document,” he says. “I’m always finding new details. I have requested a revision — I’ve got enough material to update a second edition!”


Find out more

For the Get Back To The Sixties album visit www.nicknicholas.co.uk. Windmills of Sussex by Derek Nicholas is published by Stenlake Publishing and available for £20 at all good bookshops and online. Call 01290551122; sales@stenlake.co.uk.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Sussex Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Sussex Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Sussex Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Some of Sussex’s best known personalities have revealed in the magazine what they most love about the county. Here, we compile their stories, favourite restaurants, pubs, shops, views and places to visit

Read more
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Swbcounselling is now offering counselling in Brighton and Hove for a variety of issues.

Read more
Friday, June 16, 2017

Until he was exposed in a 2014 Telegraph investigation Saltdean’s David Henty had sold more than 1,000 forged art works through internet auction sites. As his reproductions of old masters go on show Duncan Hall glimpses the forger’s world

Read more
Friday, June 16, 2017

With his new series of time-travelling adventures Shoreham’s Martyn Blunden is allowing his imagination to take flight, as he tells Duncan Hall

Read more
Friday, June 16, 2017

Brighton author and psychologist Mick Finlay has written a book about Sherlock Holmes’ rival – a working class detective called Arrowood. Even before publication it was slated for television adaptation, with Kathy Burke signed up as executive producer. Jenny Mark-Bell finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Up-and-coming chefs from Northbrook College went head to head in a MasterChef style evening, cooking up some exquisite food for 80 guests whilst raising an incredible £2184 for the Starr Trust

Read more
Monday, June 12, 2017

Bovine portraitist Veronica van Eijk is exploring new worlds this summer in her Hailsham studio, as Duncan Hall discovers

Read more
Monday, June 12, 2017

Sport and dance helped Sir Rod Aldridge overcome early academic disappointment – and now his foundation has turned his former Portslade school around. Duncan Hall finds out how he wants to use both to help the city’s young people

Read more
Friday, June 9, 2017

The next general election in the UK takes place on Thursday 8 June 2017. We’ve put together a handy Sussex guide to polling day including the candidates for each constituency

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Goring girl Francesca Hayward, 24, had her first role in a ballet school recital at Worthing Pavilion Theatre. Now she is principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. It has been an intense journey, as Nione Meakin finds out.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Sussex Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Sussex's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search