David McCallum has long been a much-loved actor and TV icon. From his early days as the pin-up secret agent, Illya Kuryakin, acting alongside Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., through to the excellent Colditz, the wonderfully, bizarre Sapphire and Steel, The Invisible Man and now “Ducky” Mallard in today’s NCIS.
But what is perhaps less known about this talented actor, is the fact McCallum is a classically trained musician of the highest caliber, and for a long time the blonde-haired Glaswegian seriously considered a making his career in music, as he explained to 16 magazine back in 1966:
The wonder was that David ever became an actor at all—for he was trained to be a musician from the age of four, playing the oboe with classic clarity. An appreciation of music ran deep in the McCallum family. David’s father, a famous violinist and leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was taught classical music at his mother’s knee.
The McCallums came from a little Scottish mining village, Kilsyth in Stirlingshire, where David’s paternal grandfather was the village grocer. It was a deeply religious community, and David’s grandmother hoped her son would learn the harp. But no one there could play the instrument, so young David Fotheringham McCallum was taught violin instead. And his own son, David Keith McCallum—born on September 19, 1933, at 24 Kersland Street, Glasgow—inherited this musical tradition.
When the family moved to Bracknell Gardens, Hampstead, in London, David went to University College School, and musical evenings became a feature of this childhood. He was taught violin and piano, but it was the oboe that he mastered. However, David secretly harbored a longing to become an actor, so when one of his uncles needed an oboe, David offered his—cheap!—and started out on his acting career. Though he laughingly calls the oboe “...an ill wind nobody blows good,” David still admits, “I always knew that I could turn to music if I failed as an actor.”
McCallum was given a recording contract, and between 1966 and 1968, released four albums on Capitol Records: Music…A Part Of Me, Music…A Bit More Of Me, Music…It’s Happening Now!, and McCallum. However, rather than singing his way through these discs McCallum, together with producer David Axelrod, created a blend of oboe, French horn, and strings with guitar and drums, for musical interpretations of hits of the day. These included “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, “Downtown”, “Louie, Louie”, “I Can’t Control Myself” and his own compositions, “Far Away Blue”, “Isn’t It Wonderful?” and “It Won’t Be Wrong”.
The best known McCallum tracks today are “The Edge,” which was sampled by Dr. Dre as the intro and riff to the track “The Next Episode,” and “House of Mirrors,” sampled by DJ Shadow for “Dark Days”.
“The Edge” - David McCallum
“House of Mirrors” - David McCallum
David McCallum introduces TnT Show with ‘Satisfaction, while Ron and Russell Mael (Sparks) watch from the audience
Bonus clips (with Nancy Sinatra) and tracks, after the jump!...