Derek Hilton

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As the longtime musical director for Britain's Grenada Television, composer Derek Hilton authored hundreds of TV themes. He also served as an arranger for singers including Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett,…
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As the longtime musical director for Britain's Grenada Television, composer Derek Hilton authored hundreds of TV themes. He also served as an arranger for singers including Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, and Tom Jones. Born February 3, 1927, in Whitfield, England, Hilton began piano lessons at age six, and by 14 was leading his own band, the Rhythmic Blue Notes. In 1945 he was called for duty in the King's Own Yorkshire Infantry, but ended up playing piano in the entertainment revue Stars in Battledress behind performers including Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. Hilton also served as an arranger for singers Gracie Fields and Kay Kendall before returning to civilian life, where he toured with orchestra leaders Johnny Dankworth and Sonny Rose. In 1953 Hilton returned to his native Manchester area to teach at the Regional School of Music at Decibel Studios; he moonlighted in a jazz trio that in 1956 was hired to play the press reception for Granada's launch, and there producers of the quiz show Spot the Tune hired him to substitute for the program's regular accompanist. The Derek Hilton Trio was soon a featured element of two daily Granada broadcasts, Sharp at Four and People and Places. From there Hilton began writing themes and incidental music for other Granada broadcasts, among them Coronation Street, All Our Yesterdays, Mr. Rose, The Caesars, Paris 1900, Spoils of War, and A Kind of Loving. By his own count, Hilton penned about 250 theme songs in all, with his efforts for 1973's Country Matters winning an Ivor Novello Certificate of Honour. As his television commitments allowed, he was also a sought-after pop arranger, additionally collaborating with Johnny Mathis, Jack Jones, and Buddy Greco. After receiving a Bafta nomination for his work on 1986's Lost Empires, Hilton retired from Granada, for several years working as musical director for the P&O and Cunard cruise ship lines; he died July 11, 2005.