Hold up, a Glasgow actor was responsible for one of the most famous samples in hip hop history

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
When the Maryhill actor died, Rolling Stone magazine said: “A great character actor, but also a seminal part of rap history.”

During the Super Bowl LVI halftime show in 2022, two of the all-time biggest artists in hip hop performed The Next Episode for a global audience. The instantly recognisable opening notes of the single from Dre’s second album generated the biggest reaction of the night from the stadium crowd.

They probably didn’t realise that one of the most famous samples in the history of hip hop was from a track performed by a classically trained musician from Maryhill, who gained his own worldwide fame as an actor.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The defining hook of The Next Episode, samples The Edge, a track by David McCallum and producer David Axelrod, originally released on McCallum's 1967 album Music: A Bit More Of Me.

David McCallum became a celebrated actor in all its forms, starring in the hit TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS, as well as on the Broadway stage and in memorable movies like 1963’s The Great Escape.

He recorded instrumental music albums as his acting career began to receive widespread acclaim in the 1960s. One of his arrangements, The Edge, became the basis for the sample anchoring Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s 1999 hit song The Next Episode.

McCallum was born into a musical family in Glasgow in 1933. His mother, Dorothy Dorman, was a cellist, and his father, David McCallum Sr., was an orchestra leader who helmed the London Philharmonic starting in 1936. After his father polled friends about what instrument his son should try, young David began playing the oboe.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
McCallum as Illya Kuryakin in The Man from UNCLE (Picture: Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images)McCallum as Illya Kuryakin in The Man from UNCLE (Picture: Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images)
McCallum as Illya Kuryakin in The Man from UNCLE (Picture: Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images)

He is the second son of Dorothy Dorman, a cellist, and David McCallum, Sr, an orchestra leader who headed up the London Philharmonic. He told The Scotsman in 2010: "I was born by the Botanic Gardens, but 65 Clouston Street is where my grandfather lived, and most of the time I'd stay there. Father, way back in the 1930s, was with the Scottish Orchestra, and so he would be working at the BBC there.

"When I was a kid, late at night we would go and get a bag of bits – which is just fat and flour and salt. We've come to our senses in this family now. I have five little grandchildren, the eldest of whom was just seven, and the youngest is four months, so with five little tow-headed boys, both mothers are acutely aware of health and nutrition. I was lucky, during the war, that my father got all the sugar rations for his tea – he was a tea jenny, as we say in Scotland – so I never developed a sweet tooth.

"We moved to Hampstead in 1936, when Father became leader of the London Philharmonic. At the end of 1939 or the beginning of 1940, I was evacuated. I always seem to think it was with one of the little brown boxes with a gas mask and a piece of string and a label tied on my coat, but probably my mother took me up in a more civilised manner. We stayed with her sister, Margaret, for a number of years, then took a house by Loch Lomond, at Gartocharn, called Rose Cottage."

Music was omnipresent, and his parents assumed he'd follow them into the family business. "Father was unique in that his hands were really the centre of his life, and keeping his hands safe and in perfect condition was paramount. I've never said that to anyone before, but that is the way that I remember him. He would practise his violin incessantly, so we had the sound of the music throughout the house all the time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"As a child I would go with him down to the studios where Jascha Heifetz was recording Brahms. I remember Heifetz's G string broke while playing a cadenza, and he handed it to me. And conductor Thomas Beecham, when he was recording The Damnation of Faust, which has that wonderful opening, ending in a huge crescendo. He stopped the whole orchestra and turned to me in the front row, all alone in this huge place, and whispered: 'Let's do it again!'"

While a keen interest in acting was growing, David earned a musical scholarship to University College School, the London day school. Amid his run on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which earned him a fans around the world, McCallum used his musical training to release four albums of instrumental music for Capitol Records with producer David Axelrod between 1966 and 1967. One of those was Music: A Bit More of Me, on which he covered songs by artists such as The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, as well as the theme from the Batman TV show.

The second-to-last track was The Edge - Axelrod’s suspenseful take on a spaghetti western score. It would become the most famous and the basis for dozens of music samples in the decades since. The biggest was 1999’s “The Next Episode,” which enhanced McCallum’s arrangement for its opening sequence and added Snoop Dogg’s “la da da da dah” lyrics. Last year, Snoop was welcomed to Glasgow by a bagpipe player as he arrived in David McCallum’s hometown.

When the Maryhill actor died, Rolling Stone magazine paid tribute: “David McCallum – a great character actor, but also a seminal part of rap history.”

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.