Paul Buckmaster is, along with his contemporary Richard Hewson, one of a relative handful of classically trained musicians who have managed to exert a huge influence on the shape and direction of rock music. As an arranger and conductor, and as a solo cellist, he has made notable contributions to hundreds of albums by dozens of major artists since the late '60s. Born to a musical family in London, Buckmaster showed natural musical aptitude at an early age, taking up the cello at age four. By six he was winning prizes for his musicianship, and at 11 he earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, from which he graduated at 16. Although his training on the cello was focused on classical music, Buckmaster was open to rock, jazz, and avant-garde music, and during the late '60s began playing with such progressive and experimental groups as the Third Ear Band, Suntreader, and Nucleus. As a serious musician with thorough classical training, he became known in popular music circles for having his feet in both the rock and classical camps, and for being willing to work with the former. As rock music became more ambitious late in the decade, Buckmaster suddenly found his skills in demand, and offers came his way as an arranger and orchestrator.
By 1969, he was working with a struggling yet promising would-be rock star named David Bowie on a track called "Space Oddity." That same year, he also crossed paths with the Bee Gees, playing the solo cello on "Odessa" from the double-LP of that name. And that same year, he made the acquaintance of Miles Davis -- a longtime idol -- and played on as well as contributed to the songwriting on the Big Fun album. Buckmaster was even busier the following year, playing the cello on albums by Chris Farlowe and Mick Farren, but it was in March of 1970 that he made a decisive career move, when he was engaged to play the cello on Elton John's self-titled second album. The latter LP was the artist's first to be released in America and it yielded the first hit of Elton John's career in "Your Song." Buckmaster's collaboration with the pianist/singer proved satisfying to them both, and was expanded to include arranging and orchestrating the subsequent albums Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water; and by Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, Buckmaster was the arranger, conductor, and general music director for the project. Meanwhile, he also conducted and arranged the strings on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers album and was serving in similar capacities for Carly Simon (No Secrets), Harry Nilsson (Son of Schmilsson, Songwriter), Shawn Phillips (Second Contribution, Faces), and the Grateful Dead (Terrapin Station). He continued to employ his skills on the cello as well, on behalf of Yvonne Elliman, Mott the Hoople, Caravan, and Chris Barber, and played electronic keyboards on records by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chi Coltrane, and Leo Sayer. In the midst of a career that had him working both sides of the Atlantic, Buckmaster also found time to take Miles Davis up on an invitation to come to New York and study and collaborate with him.
Buckmaster was no less busy in the 1980s, working with Mick Jagger, Belinda Carlisle, Nick Heyward, and John Miles, among others, as well as working in recording gigs with old acquaintances like the Third Ear Band and Elton John. The 1990s saw him working with Celine Dion, John Wetton, and Patti LaBelle. Buckmaster has also worked on numerous movies as a musician, composer, and arranger of their soundtracks, including 12 Monkeys, Midnight Crossing, and The Spy Who Loved Me. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi