NCIS hero David McCallum became an unlikely chart star 20 years ago at the age of 67 with the godfather of gangsta rap.
Dr Dre included a swaggering sample from McCallum’s 1966 instrumental record The Edge on his 2000 single The Next Episode which featured Snoop Dogg.
McCallum, now 87, who has family links to Macduff, played Russian spy Illya Kuryakin in the hit 1960s series The Man from U.N.C.L.E and received more fan mail than any other actor in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s history including Clark Gable and Elvis Presley.
Yet, for a younger generation, McCallum is most famous for his long-running role as Dr Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard in the global smash hit NCIS.
But three years before he took up the role of Ducky he gained renewed international recognition when he was given a writing credit on The Next Episode.
The Next Episode has gone on to become one of the most iconic songs of its decade and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
The Next Episode featured on Dre’s second album 2001 which included some of the most definitive songs in Dre’s catalogue and was integral to Eminem’s ascension as he went on to become the best-selling rapper of all time.
Chas and Dave
Dundee-born DJ and broadcaster Jim Gellatly said Dr Dre’s unlikely co-protagonist in McCallum was probably as strange as the fact that the late Chas Hodges of Chas and Dave played guitar on Eminem’s My Name Is back in 1999.
“A couple of others with a Scottish angle that spring to mind are Texas working with Wu-Tang Clan on Say What You Want,” said Jim.
“They’ve also just collaborated again on the new single Hi.
“Also a bizarre one was Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul doing Fallin’ for the Judgment Night soundtrack.
“That’s an amazing track.”
McCallum’s original song has also gone on to be sampled by Missin’ Linx on M.I.A and No Regrets by Masta Ace and appears on the soundtrack to the 2017 film Baby Driver.
Both Sir Thomas Beecham and Sir Henry Wood wanted his father for the London Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra respectively.
A cartoon appeared in a Glasgow paper at the time showing his father in his kilt, holding his violin case, with Sir Thomas and Sir Henry fencing with their batons above his head.
The caption was: ‘If music be the food of love, what ails these knights?’
Beecham won and McCallum’s father took the role as leader of the London Philharmonic and the family moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb.
McCallum moved back to Scotland to live with his mum when war broke out in 1939 and he went to school on the banks of Loch Lomond.
As a schoolboy, McCallum’s first musical instrument was the violin, then he played the cello for a while before finally taking up the oboe.
He was taught by Leonard Brain, the famous oboe player in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and played for some years, ending up in the Junior Orchestra of the Royal Academy of Music.
But he became hooked on the theatre quite early on and dropped his musical studies.
He joined Actors’ Equity in 1946 when he began working on BBC Radio, followed by several years in repertory theatre.
In 1961, after a year at Glyndebourne, a spell at the Oxford Playhouse and other work here and on the continent, McCallum went to America to play Judas Iscariot in The Greatest Story Ever Told.
McCallum was cast in the role of Illya Kuryakin in the television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., for which he received two Emmy Award nominations.
McCallum never quite repeated the popular success he had gained as Kuryakin and his additional television credits include Colditz, Sapphire and Steel, Kidnapped and The Invisible Man.
His feature film credits include The Great Escape, Mosquito Squadron, Billy Budd, Freud and A Night to Remember.
In the 1960s, McCallum also recorded four albums for Capitol Records, working closely with famed producer David Axelrod and arranger H.B. Barnum, which featured distinctly personal interpretations of classic songs by artists such as The Beatles and Petula Clark.
McCallum and Robert Vaughn reprised their roles of Kuryakin and Solo in a 1983 TV film, Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E..
In 1985 he enjoyed a family holiday in the Bridge of Allan when the McCallum clan attended his Uncle John Abercrombie’s 50th wedding anniversary.
On that trip, they also drove up to Aberdeen and around through Macduff, where his Aunt Kitty lived at the time.
They went to all the places where Macbeth was and then came down by all the lochs and round the Western Isles and back down to Glasgow.
In 1986 McCallum reunited with Vaughn again in an episode of The A-Team entitled The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair.
McCallum said The Man from U.N.C.L.E. remains one of the highlights of his life.
“It’s still ubiquitous,” he said.
“It’s not counter-espionage but tongue-in-cheek, satirical lunacy.
“I was a Russian working for NBC fighting crime.
“It was all crazy, but wonderful.
“I never saw the series at the time because we were always working, but I’ve seen some of them since and they’re very stylish, and also very funny.
“I didn’t realize how good they were.
“I loved doing U.N.C.L.E. – the company and crew were wonderful.
“It was shot in Los Angeles where all the films I’d seen as a child were made.
“So I met all the actors in those films and worked with George Sanders and Joan Crawford.
“All those wonderful people.
“I went through a divorce.
“My wife Jill met Charles Bronson and eventually married him.
“I met Katherine and we got married and I moved to New York.
“It was an extraordinary time.
“Hollywood is a fantastic place and I have good memories of that time.”
McCallum planned a ‘roots trip’ for his American children and grandchildren to go to Scotland following success in NCIS but his Aunt Kitty died after booking the flights.
In March 2019, Ducky retired from his position as NCIS’s Chief Medical Examiner with his former assistant, Dr James Palmer succeeding him.
Following his retirement, he assumed the newfound position of NCIS Historian.