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April 26, 2008

Humph - obituaries

From the BBC

Veteran jazz musician and radio host Humphrey Lyttelton has died aged 86.
The chairman of BBC Radio 4's comedy panel show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue recently had surgery in an attempt to repair an aortic aneurysm.
The latest series of the quiz programme was cancelled after Lyttelton was admitted to Barnet Hospital in north London on 16 April.
Lyttelton retired from hosting Radio 2's The Best of Jazz last month after more than 40 years presenting the show.
He hosted I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue - the "self-styled antidote to panel games" - since 1972, appearing alongside regulars Graeme Garden, Barry Cryer and Tim Brooke-Taylor.
In 1993, he received a Sony Gold Award for services to broadcasting.
Lyttelton began playing the trumpet in 1936 and was still touring with his band up until his admission to hospital.
Best known for the song Bad Penny Blues, they became the first British jazz act to enter the top 20 in 1956.
He was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at both the Post Office British Jazz Awards in 2000 and at the first BBC Jazz Awards in 2001.
Humphrey Lyttelton was perhaps the UK's most influential jazz performer.
Beyond this, he was a noted raconteur and wit and chairman of BBC Radio 4's long-running I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.
He was the unlikeliest of jazzmen. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he was schooled at Eton and commissioned in the Grenadier Guards.
Yet Humphrey Lyttelton - Humph to his many friends and fans - was also a life-long socialist and a performer and composer whose commitment to his music shone through for more than half a century.
And to the younger generation, he was the avuncular and razor-witted chairman of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, who more than held his own with comedians including Tim Brooke-Taylor, the late Willie Rushton and Barry Cryer.
Humphrey Lyttelton was born in 1921 and his father was a housemaster at Eton.
Both of his parents were amateur musicians and he began playing the trumpet in 1936, forming a school quartet later that year.
On one occasion, when he should have been watching the school's annual cricket match against Harrow at Lord's, he was in London's Charing Cross Road, buying a trumpet.
His long-running love of making music had begun, although on leaving school he worked for a time in a steelworks in South Wales.
He was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards during World War II and saw action, most notably on the beach at Salerno.
But it was said that he arrived at the beach-head with a revolver in one hand and a trumpet in the other.
By 1948, he had formed a band with the clarinettist Wally Fawkes. That year he went to France's Nice Jazz Festival, where he met his idol, fellow musician Louis Armstrong.
Armstrong always spoke warmly of the man he called "that cat in England who swings his ass off."
In the early '50s, he opened the Humphrey Lyttelton Club in a basement in Oxford Street in London, and during the next 35 years or so he became the elder statesman of British jazz.
He composed more than 120 original works for his band, although some of his best-known numbers were When The Saints Go Marching In, Memphis Blues, High Society and the self-penned Bad Penny Blues.
His band has also backed several singers, ranging from New Orleans songstress Lillian Boutte to Helen Shapiro, and more recently, Stacey Kent.
In 2000 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Post Office British Jazz Awards.
The following year he joined rock band Radiohead for a seven-hour session during the recording of their new album, Amnesiac.
The legendary trumpeter went into the studio with the band after they wrote to him asking for help as they were "a bit stuck".
He said the session, for experimental track Living In A Glass House, left him exhausted.
"When we finally got a take that sounded good to me, they said: 'Good, we'll go and have some food, then we'll come back and do some more,'" he told Q magazine. "I said: 'Not me.' It was a very heavy day."
But playing was just part of Humph's life.
He also presented and performed in many jazz radio programmes - Jazz Scene, Jazz Club and The Best of Jazz, which started in 1968 and only ended last month.
He was also chairman of BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue, which billed itself as the antidote to panel games.
The show, which began in 1972, gained a huge and loyal following of listeners, delighted by games like One Song to the Tune of Another, Swanee Kazoo and the sublime, if unfathomable, Mornington Crescent.
Its spring series was cancelled in 2008 when its presenter had to undergo an operation to repair an aortic aneurysm in his heart.
Humphrey Lyttelton - who turned down a knighthood - had yet more talents, too.
He worked for the Daily Mail as a cartoonist, wrote for left-wing papers and for magazines and was the author of several books about music. He excelled at each of his contributions to British life.

From The Telegraph

Humphrey Lyttelton, the jazz musician and presenter of Radio 4 comedy panel show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, has died. He was 86.
Known as "Humph", the jazz band leader, trumpet player and master of innuendo died following surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm after being admitted to Barnet General Hospital in north London on April 16.
A statement released on his website said: "Humph died peacefully with his family and friends around him on April 25 at 7pm following surgery.
"We would like to thank everyone for their support and express our deep gratitude to the staff of Barnet General for the care that they gave Humph."
Lyttelton had hosted the "self-styled antidote to panel games" from 1972, but was perhaps best known over his lifetime as a musician.
Lyttelton was born on May 23, 1921 at Eton College, where his father was a housemaster. It was while at Eton that he developed a love for jazz and, in 1936, having taught himself the trumpet, formed his first quartet with schoolmates including journalist Ludovic Kennedy.
After leaving school he served with the Grenadier Guards during the war before going to Camberwell Art College in central London.
It was from here that the extent of Lyttelton's versatility started to become clear.
In 1949 he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist, working, among other projects, on the popular Flook strip, and stayed there until 1956.
He was also emerging as a key figure in the British revival of traditional jazz forms.
In 1956, he became the first British jazz artist to enter the top 20 with Bad Penny Blues.
That same year his Lyttelton Band supported jazz legend Louis Armstrong in London, while 45 years after that he worked with the rock group Radiohead, and the following year advised Jamie Cullum on his album.
He began his four-decade stint hosting Radio 2's The Best Of Jazz in 1967, beginning I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue five years later.
As chairman, he became legendary for his ability to deliver the smuttiest of innuendoes with apparent innocence.
Lyttelton announced in March that he was to stop presenting BBC Radio 2's Best of Jazz after 40 years.
Jon Naismith, the producer of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, last week announced the cancellation of the upcoming series because of Lyttelton's hospitalisation.
Father-of-four Lyttleton, who was long-standing president of the Society For Italic Handwriting, married twice, first in 1948 and then again following a divorce in 1952.

From The Times

Humphrey Lyttelton, the presenter of the Radio 4 comedy show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, has died aged 86. The jazz musician, journalist, cartoonist and much-loved radio host, who had chaired the self-styled “antidote to panel games” since 1972, was admitted to hospital this week for surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm.
Said to be “otherwise fine and in good spirits”, his ill health had already prompted the cancellation of the spring series of the show. The BBC confirmed his death last night.
As chairman of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, “Humph” was famed for his ability to deliver the smuttiest of innuendoes with apparent innocence, keeping the humour rude, but rarely offensive. But the man who frequently reduced listeners to hysterics with the fictitious sexploits of his scorer, “Samantha”, had talents far beyond keeping a straight face.
Over more than six decades in public life, Lyttelton also found time to indulge his passion for calligraphy and write more than half a dozen books.
Lyttelton was born on May 23, 1921, at Eton College, where his father was a housemaster. After leaving school he served with the Grenadier Guards during the war before going to Camberwell Art College in Central London. In 1949 he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist, working, among other projects, on the popular Flook strip, and stayed there until 1956.
He was emerging as a key figure in the British revival of traditional jazz forms. His Bad Penny Blues became the first British jazz record to enter the Top Twenty in 1956. That year his Lyttelton Band supported the jazz legend Louis Armstrong in London.
Perhaps the key moment in Lyttelton’s comedy career was becoming the surprise choice as chairman of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue in 1972. It proved to be an inspired move by the producers, as his deadpan delivery supplied the perfect foil to the bizarre games being played by regular panel-lists including Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and the late Willie Rushton. Last year Brooke-Taylor was asked to contemplate the future of the long-running radio show without its presenter. He said: “Humph is the most important component. Willie Rushton and I talked about it once and we agreed that if Humph isn’t there it’s not worth doing.”
The programme regularly attracted audiences of two million. Asked to explain its enduring popularity, Lyttelton said: “It’s chronically unpredictable. It doesn’t get stale because nobody knows what’s going to happen next, least of all us.”
In 1993 Lyttelton was awarded the radio industry’s highest honour, the Sony Gold Award, and received lifetime achievement awards at the Post Office British Jazz Awards in 2000 and the BBC Jazz Awards in 2001. He continued touring with his band until well into his 80s.
Lyttelton, a father of four, married twice, first in 1948 and then again after a divorce in 1952. In 1995 he was reported to have been offered a knighthood by John Major’s Government, but turned it down.

from The Press Association

Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz musician and presenter of Radio 4 comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, has died aged 86.
Lyttelton, who had hosted the "self-styled antidote to panel games" since 1972, was admitted to hospital earlier this week for surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm.
Best known as a musician, Lyttelton began playing the trumpet in 1936 and still toured with his band up until recently. In 1956, Lyttelton's Bad Penny Blues was the first British jazz record to enter the top 20.
In 1993 he received a Sony Gold Award for services to broadcasting. In 2006 he published an 'autobiographical scrapbook' called It Just Occurred to Me.

From The Guardian

Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz trumpeter and presenter of the long-running BBC Radio 4 comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, died in hospital last night. He was 86.
Lyttelton, who celebrated 60 years as a bandleader in January, was admitted to hospital on April 16 and had undergone surgery on Monday morning to repair an aortic aneurysm, but died following complications.
After his admission to Barnet general hospital in north London, the spring series of his show, of which he was chairman since its inception in 1972, was cancelled, prompting a wave of goodwill messages from Radio 4 listeners.
Last night his family paid tribute in a statement released on his website: "Humph died peacefully with his family and friends around him on April 25 at 7.00pm after surgery. We would like to thank everyone for their support and express our deep gratitude to the staff of Barnet general for the care they gave Humph."
Away from jazz, Lyttelton was also at different times a cartoonist, a restaurant critic for Vogue, and a regular columnist on Punch.
But he became a household name for his broadcasting, most notably his deadpan performances as the innuendo-prone chairman of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, where he genially presided over games such as Mornington Crescent.
Jazz was Lyttelton's first love. Once a month his band played at the Bull's Head, a small pub in Barnes, south-west London.
Lyttleton was born on 23 May 1921 in Eton college, where he was subsequently educated. He fell in love with jazz at an early age and in 1936, having taught himself the trumpet, he formed a jazz quartet at school. During the war, he served as an officer in the Grenadiar Guards. Lyttelton turned down a knighthood in 1995.

From The Daily Mail

Humphrey Lyttelton, British jazz legend and presenter of Radio 4's 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, has died aged 86.
The host of the famous 'antidote to panel games' - which he had presented since 1972 - was hailed by the BBC director general Mark Thompson 'a unique, irreplaceable talent'.
Lyttelton had been admitted to hospital earlier this week.
A self-taught trumpet virtuoso, he had made history in 1956 when his Bad Penny Blues was the first British jazz record to enter the top 20.
He was also a cartoonist, a journalist and even found time to indulge his passion for calligraphy and write more than six books.
Lyttelton was born in 1921 at Eton College, where his father was a housemaster.
It was while at Eton as a pupil he developed a love for jazz and in 1936, having taught himself the trumpet, formed his first quartet with schoolmates including journalist Ludovic Kennedy.
After leaving school he served with the Grenadier Guards during the war before going to Camberwell Art College in London.
It was from here that the extent of Lyttelton's versatility started to become clear.
In 1949 he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist, working, among other projects, on the popular Flook strip, and stayed there until 1956.
He was also emerging as a key figure in the British revival of traditional jazz forms.
Lyttelton signed a contract with EMI, and produced a string of now much-sought after recordings, including original compositions and versions of classics.
His Bad Penny Blues became the first British jazz record to enter the top 20 in 1956. That same year his Lyttelton Band supported jazz legend Louis Armstrong in London.
By the 1960s his attention was turning to presenting, and he began a four-decade stint hosting Radio 2's The Best Of Jazz in 1967.
Perhaps the key moment in Lyttelton's comedy career was becoming the surprise choice as chairman of Radio 4's improvised show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue in 1972.
It proved to be an inspired move by the producers, as his deadpan delivery supplied the perfect foil to the bizarre games being played by regular panellists including Graeme Garden, Willie Rushton and Tim Brooke-Taylor.
Over the years he honed his grumpy on-air persona to perfection, although his pretence of long-suffering boredom could never disguise the delight he took in the anarchic scenes.
Samantha, the lovely assistant who sat "on his left hand", became the target for many of his best innuendo-laden comments, delivered with an apparent total innocence of their connotations.
The show's resident pianist, Colin Sell, a distinguished head of music at Essex University, also came in for good-humoured abuse.
He was also more than capable of holding his own with the professional comedians in the ad-libbing stakes, and demonstrated an exquisite sense of comic timing.
The programme regularly attracted audiences of two million.
Asked to explain I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue's enduring popularity, Lyttelton said: "It's chronically unpredictable. It doesn't get stale because nobody knows what's going to happen next, least of all us."
In 1993 Lyttelton was awarded the radio industry's highest honour, the Sony Gold Award, and received lifetime achievement awards at the Post Office British Jazz Awards in 2000 and the BBC Jazz Awards in 2001.
He continued touring with his band until well into his 80s, and made a special guest appearance on Radiohead's track Life In A Glass House in 2000.
The collaboration culminated in a performance in front of 42,000 fans at the South Park concert in Oxford. Father-of-four Lyttleton, who was long-standing president of the Society For Italic Handwriting, married twice, first in 1948 and then again following a divorce in 1952.
He used to end every edition of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue with typically surreal sign-off lines.

From The Independent

Humphrey Lyttelton, the jazz musician, journalist and radio presenter, has died at the age of 86.
Humph, as he was affectionately known, was still working and planning a tour with his band right up to his admission to hospital on 16 April for surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. He died at 7pm this evening in Barnet Hospital, north London.
His admission to hospital had forced the spring series of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, the Radio 4 comedy show he presented for 30 years, to be cancelled earlier this week. In an email to members of the show's fan club, its producer, Jon Naismith, had said he was "otherwise fine and in good spirits".
Last month, Lyttelton had given up his role as presenter of BBC Radio 2's Best of Jazz, saying he was leaving to "clear a space for some of my other ambitions". He had been at the helm of the show since 1967, introducing thousands of listeners to many different styles of jazz.
At the time, the Radio 2 controller, Lesley Douglas, said: "Humphrey Lyttelton is not only a giant in the world of jazz, but has also remained a giant of music broadcasting for the past 40 years. The world of music broadcasting will be poorer without his weekly show."
He was still touring with his eight-piece band, performing sell-out shows around the country, although his forthcoming tour had been cancelled due to his illness.
Lyttelton was born on 23 May 1921 at Eton College, where his father was a housemaster, and where he duly became a pupil. He first picked up a trumpet in 1936 and, after spending the Second World War as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, became a pioneering figure in the British jazz scene. On being demobbed from the Guards he spent two years at Camberwell Art School, an experience he later called upon when he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist in 1949. He went on to work as a journalist for Punch, The Field, and the British Airways magazine, Highlife.
Lyttelton formed his first band in 1948 after spending a year with George Webb's Dixielanders, a band that pioneered New Orleans-style jazz in the UK. The Humphrey Lyttelton Band quickly became Britain's leading traditional jazz group, and continental tours gave them a following in Europe.
In 1949, he signed a recording contract with EMI which led to a string of records in the Parlophone Super Rhythm Style series and which have become highly sought after.
1956 was a good year for Humph. Eight years earlier, at the Nice International Jazz Festival, Louis Armstrong had said of him: "That boy's comin' on," and now the King of Jazz asked Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band to open a series of shows in London for him. The same year, Lyttelton became the first musician to enter the top 20 with a British jazz record, "Bad Penny Blues", which stayed in the charts for six weeks.
By the late 1950s he was branching out, enlarging his band and experimenting with mainstream and non-traditional material, and shocking his established fans in the process. In 1959, the band made a successful tour of the United States.
He was a keen amateur calligrapher and birdwatcher, and in 1984 formed his own record label, Calligraph. He composed more than 120 original songs during his career. In 1993 he won the radio industry's highest honour, a Sony Gold Award. He also won lifetime achievement awards at the Post Office British Jazz Awards in 2000, and the inaugural BBC Jazz Awards the following year.
Lyttelton played for the younger generation too: he performed on Radiohead's track "Life in a GlassHouse" in 2000, later joining the band on stage for a concert in Oxford. He said it was one of the most moving experiences of his musical career.
Throughout his life, keeping a sense of humour remained a priority. On announcing his death, his website carried his words: "As we journey through life, discarding baggage along the way, we should keep an iron grip, to the very end, on the capacity for silliness. It preserves the soul from dessication."

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