Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

April 27, 2008

The Independent on the future of Clue

Millions haven't a clue what they'll do without Humph

That old showbiz cliché 'irreplaceable' may for once be true – cult show may well die with him. David Randall reports
There was a growing feeling last night that I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, widely regarded as the funniest radio programme since The Goon Show, will pass away along with its chairman and innuendo-peddler in chief, Humphrey Lyttelton, who died on Friday at 86.
A BBC spokesman said that it was far too early to comment on the future of the show, which regularly attracts audiences of two million. But last year, when asked about the 36-year-old programme, one of its veteran panellists, Tim Brooke-Taylor, said: "Humph is the most important component. Willie Rushton [a founder panellist, who died in 1996] and I talked about it once and we agreed that if, Humph isn't there, it's not worth doing." When Lyttelton fell ill recently, the show's spring series was cancelled, rather than be recorded with a substitute chairman.
It is certainly difficult to imagine anyone other than the courtly Lyttelton getting away with the outrageous double-entendres that ran through the show like a chorus girl being chased by a stage-door Johnnie – especially those referring to "Samantha", the show's mythical but fun-loving scorer. ("She's looking forward to going out for an ice-cream with her Italian gentleman friend. She says she's looking forward to licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan.") Colin Sell, the show's pianist also came in for weekly stick, as in: "I'm very pleased to announce that the BBC have arranged a special collection of Colin's entire work... they've bagged it up and the council are sending some men round for it on Tuesday."
The enormous affection that listeners had for Lyttelton was evident on the BBC website yesterday. By 6am, less than eight hours after his death, there were no fewer than 35 pages of tributes. David from Towcester wrote: "They better book the biggest church in the country for the memorial service because we'll all want to be there – and get the foundations checked, because the place will literally shake with laughter in his memory." To which Brian Rogers from King's Lynn added: "I trust the memorial service will be held in the true spirit of the programme: Colin Sell at the piano, hymns displayed on the giant laservision scoreboard, 'Nearer My God to Thee' sung to the tune of 'Penny Lane', late arrivals at the undertakers' ball, an empty chair for Samantha, 'Jerusalem' played on kazoo, and one final glorious game of Mornington Crescent!"
Lyttelton was an intensely private man, few of his jazz or radio colleagues even having his phone number. His wife Jill died in 2006. His passions in life were jazz, calligraphy, bird-watching and getting away with ever filthier remarks on his beloved radio show. "And so," as he once concluded a show, "as the still-warm seat of eternity is lifted by the charlady of time, before she brandishes aloft the Toilet Duck of destiny, it's time to go." Farewell.

The gorgeous Josie Lawrence

I haven't seen many interviews with lovely Josie over the years - this is a good one from the Telegraph

Josie Lawrence: why quantum physics holds no fears for me

Josie Lawrence talks to Dominic Cavendish about combining comedy and acting - and starring in Tom Stoppard's 'Hapgood'

It feels curiously apt, a neat happenstance, that Josie Lawrence should have landed the lead in a revival of Tom Stoppard's Hapgood next month at the Birmingham Rep.
For Hapgood, which collides the science of quantum mechanics with the shenanigans of high-level espionage, is one of those dazzling Stoppardian examinations of human nature that revels in, and relies upon, a welter of dualisms and doppelgangers.
As one of the characters explains to our heroine - who runs an all-male British intelligence organisation - as they mull over how a Russian spy is managing to run rings around them: "An electron can be here or there at the same moment.
It can go from here to there without going in between; it can pass through two doors at the same time." They're talking about double-agents, but isn't Lawrence, in her own way, like a miraculous electron - apparently leading a double life?
Consider the evidence. The same Josie Lawrence who is appearing before Birmingham Rep audiences in a high-calibre intellectual thriller by one of our finest playwrights has also found time to nip down to London's Comedy Store during rehearsals to take part in the uproarious rounds of improvisation for which the club - and she - is renowned.
On the one hand, she's the Queen of British improv who became a household name thanks to Whose Line is It Anyway?, the much-loved TV show that took the art mainstream in 1988. And yet she's also a well-regarded, serious actress with a strong list of credits on TV and an even stronger theatrical CV.
Her distinctive ability to combine feistiness with vulnerability has produced a much-admired Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC, an awarded Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing in Manchester, and a memorable Anna in The King and I during its recent West End run.
Meeting Lawrence as someone who grew up on the frivolous delights of Whose Line, I'm torn between quizzing her about her favourite Shakespearean moment and getting her to recall her improv highlights - her favourite request apparently being asked to concoct a Twenties-style "flapper" song about a strobe-lit goldfish.
In person, she looks exactly as she does at the Comedy Store, wearing black leggings with matching smock. Her eyes bright and her hair fabulous, she seems younger than her 48 years.
She bristles slightly at my opening suggestion, though, that few in her profession enjoy such parallel claims to credibility. "There are quite a few of us around who can balance comedy with the serious stuff, aren't there?
I mean what about Julie Walters? She does that brilliantly. And Judi Dench. You wouldn't say of her, 'Oh yes, she does that sitcom.'
"I've always considered myself to be an actress," she says, relaxing, her words unwinding in the warm bath of her West Midlands accent. Hailing, like Lenny Henry, from nearby Dudley, her appearance at the Rep - the third time for her - isn't a sideline; it's what she aspired to do as a kid.
"I used to come here when I was 16, doing amateur dramatics in Oldbury. And I would think, 'I want to work here. I've got to work here.'"
It has taken her a while to have, as she puts it, the best of both worlds. Right now, thanks to a surge of interest in Whose Line, prompted by the release of compilation DVDs, the arrival of YouTube and repeats on cable channels, those japes of yesteryear are finding a new audience.
She likes to watch the re-runs ("If only to see the outrageously horrible fashions"), but, even so, remaining so identified with the show can have its drawbacks.
"A friend of mine was in a meeting about a project, and the executive producers said, 'We can't see Josie for the part - she's not an actress.' And that's after years and years of acting! I suppose they remember Whose Line. I'm not complaining, though. You're always remembered for the thing that first made a mark, aren't you?"
She finds that being able to head down to the Comedy Store during rehearsals acts as a great safety valve - and she'll strive to pop back during the run. "It's so nice to work on Stoppard all week and then go to the Store.
"I did it when I was at the RSC, and I especially did it when I was in Bryony Lavery's Frozen at the National because that was such a heavy play - child murder on Saturday night, improv on Sunday."
By the same token, if the rest of the cast missed their cues, does she reckon she could improvise on the subject of quantum physics? She smiles: "Yes, I do. If I was left alone on stage I could wing it and make loads of things up." And she starts waxing lyrical about the space between a nucleus and an electron.
"They reckon that, if you got rid of all that space, you could fit the entire human race into a sugar cube in your hand. It blows your mind, doesn't it?" I don't know whether or not that's true, but she has me lapping it up.
Is it going to be a battle to sell the play itself? When it opened in 1988 with another much-loved actress, Felicity Kendal, playing Hapgood, it was judged too clever by half. ("The play is both enjoyable and tedious," the Telegraph complained.)
Stoppard himself was rumoured to have muttered, "I don't know how to write plays any more."
This revival uses the amended - clearer - version he wrote for the New York run several years later.
"When I first read it, I did go, 'What?'" Lawrence admits. "But, as soon as I finished it, I started at the beginning again. And, once you get stuck into the plot, it becomes completely intriguing. It makes sense.
"What I love about it is that, in the middle of all the espionage and the theory of doubles, there are these pockets of real humanity. Hapgood isn't just the boss of all these men; she's a mother.
She's a bit of everything - a control freak who yearns to let it all hang out. She is witty and vulnerable. I hope that will come across. It's not being clever-clever. If people think that, they're missing out."
She was rather taken with Sir Tom, who has just paid a flying visit. "What a nice bloke. What a humble bloke. We did all this genning up about the name Hapgood which can mean half-good, or a duality. In rehearsal, he said, 'Actually it was nothing to do with that. I just liked the name.'"
Lawrence is single these days, "but please put down that I have a rich and fulfilling private life," she says, with a twinkle. After more than 21 years in the improv hot seat, she likens the Comedy Store Players to her family, and at the same time regards the theatre as home. Rather like trying to map out the path of an electron, her future career moves will be unpredictable.
"I like challenges. You can get slammed down because of it, but I'm getting too old to care. I'm going to carry on taking risks until I'm 92."

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."

Humph - links

Telegraph - news

Telegraph - obituary

Telegraph - his double entendres

The Times - obituary

Press Association - obituary

The Guardian - obituary

BBC news story

Tribute from BBC's Mark Lamazer

Video report on Humph

BBC obituary

BBC - public comments

BBC pictorial tribute

Tributes on the BBC's main radio news programme Today - a report from their media reporter, some clips and interviews with Barry Cryer and others.

BBC - tributes

Daily Mail - obituary and pictures

The Independent - obituary

The Independent - tribute from Steve Voce

Humph's last interview

Mirror - obituary

Humph - his great lines

Samantha spent many hours in conversation with the BBC gramophone library research staff for this round, deliberating over the fine old 7-inchers they presented for inspection. She says before deciding which she was going to spin she had to think about each one long and hard.

Samantha has to nip out again to see an elderly lord who regularly complains to Radio 4 about their parliamentary coverage. She says she thinks he's even going to start getting a little hard on Today In Parliament.

Samantha has got to go off early to meet an entomologist friend who's been showing her his collection of winged insects. They've already covered his bees and wasps and tonight she's hoping to go through his flies.

Samantha has to nip out to the House of Lords with her constituency friend. He's looking for support for his MP who's facing expulsion, and Samantha says it's important to have a good peer if his member's likely to be out.

Samantha has to nip off to the National Opera where she's been giving private tuition to the singers. Having seen what she did to the baritone, the director is keen to see what she might to for a tenor.

Samantha's just started keeping bees and already has three dozen or so. She says she's got an expert handler coming round to give a demonstration. He'll carefully take out her 38 bees and soon have them flying round his head.

Samantha tells me that she has to nip off to a special Welsh Conservative Association dinner for their most senior MP, whose name is said to be almost impossible to pronounce. She's certainly found the longest standing Welsh member a bit of a mouthful.

Samantha tells me she has to pop out now as she does a few chores for an elderly gentleman who lives nearby. She shows him how to use the washing machine and then goes out to prune his fruit trees. Later he'll be hanging out his pyjamas as he watches her beaver away up the ladder.

As the vanquished charwoman of time begins to Shake n’ Vac the shagpile of eternity, I notice that we have just run out of time.

Samantha has to go now as she’s off to meet her Italian gentleman friend who’s taking her out for an ice-cream. She says she likes to spend the evening licking the nuts off a large Neapolitan.

After tasting the meat pies, Samantha said she liked Mr Dewhurst’s beef in ale; although she preferred his tongue in cider.

In her spare time, Samantha likes nothing more than to peruse old record shops. She particularly enjoys a rewarding poke in the country section.

We've just heard some great news - I'm very pleased to announce that the BBC have arranged a special collection of Colin's entire work... they've bagged it up and the council are sending some men round for it on Tuesday.

We're coming to you from Northampton, described as the Naples of the Midlands - as often as Naples is described as the Northampton of Lombardy

The theatre we're in today is named the Lyttelton in honour of the internationally renowned jazz trumpet player whose glittering performances here, including today's, now total a staggering one.

Now it's time to play a brand new game called Name That Barcode. Here's the first one: "Thick black, thin white, thick black, thick white, thick black, thin white." OK who's going to identify that?

The experts' expert was, of course, Lionel Blair. Who could ever forget the opposing team captain Una Stubbs sitting open mouthed as he tried to pull off '12 angry men' in under two minutes.

Who will ever forget the show's, now famous, commonwealth tour, when Lionel Blair jumped up and displayed his Passage To India for the full two minutes!

The undisputed expert was Lionel Blair, but even he needed the whole two minutes on Harold Pinter's Caretaker!

No one who witnessed the event will ever forget the sparkle in Lionel Blair's eye as he received Free Willy from Michael Aspel for two minutes!

Sound Charades is based on Give Us A Clue, the seminal TV show which put Lionel Blair's name on the map...somewhere off the coast of Belgium

This is run on similar lines to the TV show that put Lionel Blair where he is today...visiting his aunt in Solihull Stratford-Upon- Avon

Sound Charades is based on the erstwhile TV show called Give Us A Clue, starring Lionel Blair, who once worked in this very theatre. Indeed, backstage staff still consider the role he assayed here as the very peak of his professional achievement, when he spoke the immortal line "So, that's two with milk & one with sugar"

Sound Charades was inspired by the popular TV show Give Us A Clue. Sadly, this program is no longer on our screens following an unfortunate, pre-watershed, incident in which one competitor was asked to describe An Audience With Bob Monkhouse using hand gestures alone Wimbledon

Give Us A Clue was made all the better by it's resident expert Lionel Blair, who was particularly good at the films of Richard Gere. Who can forget the gleam of satisfaction in his eye when he was given Yanks by Michael Aspel for two minutes!

In the original version, the players mimed a well-known book, film or song within a strict time limit after taking a card with the title. The master of the game was Lionel Blair. Who could forget the unbridled enthusiasm with which he picked up A Scottish Soldier to finish off against the clock!

This is based on Give Us A Clue, the entertainment show that really was something else. Give Us A Clue was the show where players were given a song or film title to mime in under two minutes. Who will ever forget the grand master himself, Lionel Blair, winning in a world record time of 3.5 seconds, when he brilliantly mimed Anchors Aweigh, by signalling 'First Word', 'Sounds Like', and pointing to himself and Timmy Mallett.

This game is based on Give Us A Clue starring Lionel Blair, the man who's talent made the show what it is today - padding for the schedule on cable channel 47.

The undisputed mime maestro was, of course, Lionel Blair. Who can forget the look of relish on his face when he was given two minutes on The African Queen!

The game is based on the TV show Give Us A Clue, where the teams score points by miming film titles against the clock, & who can forget that breathtaking finish when Lionel Blair came from behind and had Dirty Harry licked in under two minutes?

Who will ever forget the relish in Lionel Blair's eye as he got stuck into Howard's End for two minutes!

In the original, the ever energetic Lionel Blair would mime the titles of TV shows against a strict time limit, and who can fail to remember the occasion he scored double points by using both hands in different actions to finish off One Man & His Dog in under thirty seconds!

The master of the genre was undoubtedly Lionel Blair, and who will ever forget him, exhausted and on his knees, finishing off An Officer And A Gentleman in under two minutes?

The game is based on that TV classic Give Us A Clue. In the original, where the teams had to mime book, song or film titles against a strict time limit, the undisputed master of the genre was surely Lionel Blair. No one who saw it will ever forget the gleam of relish in Lionel's eye as he put everything he could manage into The Talented Mr. Ripley for two whole minutes.

The game is based on that old TV favourite Give Us A Clue, where players had to mime to titles given to them on cards by chairman Michael Aspel. The undisputed mime-master was Lionel Blair who used to get quite emotional at times. Who can ever forget the tear of pleasure in his eye as he bent over the chairman's desk to receive A Man Called Horse?

We all recall how film titles were demonstrated in mime against the clock by the grand master of the game, Lionel Blair, who would use just his hands to delight his teams' members. None of use can forget the relish with which he once gave Melvyn Hayes and Christopher Biggins Yanks for two whole minutes.

The master of the genre was undoubtedly Lionel Blair, who at the height of his powers could mime out a double bill of film titles in record time. No one will ever forget his stunning performance when he managed to knock off The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Their Lover and The Godfather II in under 30 seconds.

The next game is Sound Charades. This is based on the erstwhile television favourite Give Us A Clue, where teams of players used to delight their audience by miming the titles of songs, films or plays against a strict time limit. The most highly skilled of all was Lionel Blair, but how the tears of frustration welled up in his eyes during their Italian tour, at not being allowed the use of his mouth to finish off Two Gentlemen Of Verona.

Sadly Give Us A Clue hasn't been made recently, so we'll never know what team captain Lionel Blair would have done with modern films. Lionel used to get quite emotional, and no doubt after two minutes against the clock, The Talented Mr. Ripley would have put a lump in his throat.

The next game is Sound Charades. This is the teams' fine homage to that TV classic Give Us A Clue. In the original, the teams scored points by miming book, song or film titles against a time limit. The undisputed master of the genre was Lionel Blair who would use every ounce of his mime acting skills. None of use will ever forget the gasps of amazement when he spent a frustrating two minutes trying to fit in the whole of The Man On The Flying Trapeze.

We particularly recall the unalloyed pleasure in Lionel Blair's face as he bent across the chairman's desk to receive Uncle Vanya.

Possibly the most versatile performer was Lionel Blair, and no one will ever forget the occasion he was given A Town Like Alice, when he chose to do a silent impression of the author. Such was the performance, Una Stubbs gasped in amazement when she saw Neville Shute in Lionel's face.

The master of the game for many years was Lionel Blair, who's skills became finely honed over the years. On one occasion, it took him but a matter of seconds to finish off Lucky Jim using only one hand.

Sadly, the show is no longer aired, but its stars still turn out at such events as celebrity cricket matches, which are not without their hazards. At The Oval last week, Una Stubbs nearly fainted in horror when she saw Lionel Blair receive a full toss on the chest from Christopher Biggins.

Who can forget the practiced ease with which Lionel Blair sauntered over to pick up The Virgin Soldiers?

The expert's expert was Lionel Blair, and none of us will ever forget the look of gleeful anticipation in his eyes when he was offered Howard's End across Michael Aspel's desk.

So expert was the grand master Lionel Blair, that he even managed to score points on an obscure TV documentary called Tales Of Thuggery by indicating 'third word sounds like' and calling for assistance from Christopher Biggins.

The undisputed experts' experts was Lionel Blair who was particularly good at Mickey Mouse cartoons. However, he occasionally had to save the day when he was let down by his team. Una Stubbs still recalls how amazed she was when Christopher Biggins failed miserably with Fantasia, and Lionel was straight in behind him with his Steam Boat Willy.

The most accomplished player was, without doubt, Lionel Blair, but on one fateful visit to entertain the troops, even he was caught out. Lionel was quite happy on The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy, but he was hard-pushed to finish off the rest Of Company B in under two minutes.

His biography records how Lionel Blair bent over backwards trying to fit in All The King's Men in under two minutes.

Sadly the show is no longer aired, but regulars Lionel Blair and Christopher Biggins recently appeared on Stars In Their Eyes, where Lionel, singing Maggie May, came second to his old team mate. Biggins said Lionel's Rod was outstanding but he easily had it licked.

This is a popular parlour game whose greatest exponent of the age is little Lionel Blair, the boy wonder, and what an extraordinary child he is, having only just turned forty-seven. In fact, Lionel is best known as a dancer who puts on grand ballroom evenings noted for the excellence of their light snacks. There isn't a fashionable young dandy in town who hasn't been seen enjoying a nibble at one of Lionel's balls.

The grand master of Give Us A Clue was, of course, Lionel Blair, but even he had the occasional day when he was off-colour. However, Lionel could always rely on his loyal team-mate Christopher Biggins to lend a hand whenever he was feeling a little dicky.

The undisputed master of the game was Lionel Blair, whose TV career has sadly waned of late. He did, however, recently audition for I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here!. Lionel's challenge was to sail a raft across a river with a small crew, but sadly the raft hit a rock and sank, and what a look of horror there was on Ant's face when Lionel went down with both hands on deck.

The past master of the game was, of course, Lionel Blair, who regularly amazed and delighted his team mates with his mime portrayals of the songs and movies of the so-called Blacksploitation genre. Una Stubb's eyes were out on stalks as she witnessed Lionel using his hands on Isaac Hayes' 'Shaft' for two minutes.

The show's virtuoso was, without doubt, Lionel Blair, but even he had his off days. His team mates recall their apprehension during one close-run contest when, in the dying minutes, Lionel was given Free Willy by Michael Aspel. Of course, he blew it.

The undisputed grand master of the game was Lionel Blair, but following the show's demise, it seems his fortunes may be at a low ebb. Christopher Biggins was saying recently how he met him in the street, and Lionel asked if he could bum him for a fiver.

The grand master of the genre was, of course, Lionel Blair, who became so renowned internationally he was invited to Paris to work as a mime coach. In fact, when Marcel Marceau was looking to brush up his hand technique, it was Lionel who pointed him to Le Coq.

The undoubted master was Lionel Blair who used to work himself to a frazzle leaping up to be given his films titles on cards. Even when Lionel collapsed over the chairman's desk receiving The Dirty Dozen, he could still cope with The Sting afterwards.

The undisputed master of the genre was Lionel Blair. Hopeful team members used to constantly badger Lionel with pleas to get a place on the show. Lionel relates how he once had Christopher Biggins on his back every night for a month before he finally got the part he wanted.

Give Us A Clue's past master was, of course, Lionel Blair, who's mimes of 1950s westerns were legendary. Lionel even tutored Christopher Biggins on how to do The Big Country actions

The undisputed master of the game was Lionel Blair. His live performances were always loudly praised by his team mates. Una Stubbs recalls listening through the dressing room wall as Christopher Biggins and Melvyn Hayes were still gushing ten minutes after Lionel blew them away on tour.

The undisputed master of the game was Lionel Blair. As a team captain, Lionel's management style operated at a democratic level. Christopher Biggins recalls how, rather than using top-down leadership, Lionel has always been a bottom-up man.

The original programme is no longer aired, bu the undisputed mime-master of Give Us A Clue is still Lionel Blair. He now tours the country doing exhibition performances in bars and restaurants, but sadly, last week's show had to be cancelled . Lionel's van broke down on the M6, and he had to pay £50 to be pulled off into a Little Chef.

Lionel still does demonstration events, and recently guested at the Multi-faith Conference, improvising his mime of Thought For The Day. Eyes were out on stalks as he started his impressions of the lesser known presenters, before Lionel blew the Bishop of Bath & Wells, and the Chief Rabbi.

Sadly, the show is no longer aired here, but there are plans in Los Angeles to revive the show for American TV, so Lionel is to be put on a plane to see how he goes down on the pilot.

The grand mime-master of Give Us A Clue was Lionel Blair, but since the show ended, he's confined to the occasional pantomime appearance, and they say he's becoming difficult to work with due to his mood swings. In this year's Snow White, they said one minute Lionel could be feeling Happy, and the next he'd come all over Grumpy.

The undisputed mime-master of Give Us A Clue was team captain Lionel Blair. When the show was scrapped, his team was devastated to the point of tears, but ever the trooper, Lionel took a video round to Christopher Biggins, and they pulled themselves together over The Fabulous Baker Boys.

The undisputed master of the game was Lionel Blair, who was particularly good at the Rocky series of movies. Christopher Biggins relates how Lionel visited his dressing room to hone his impression of Sylvester Stallone beating his opponent, often going down several times before knocking one out.

The show's undisputed master of the mime genre was Lionel Blair, who was particularly expert at the Victorian novels which he read with alacrity. He liked nothing more than to be tucked up in bed holding a little Hardy, before getting stuck into the Mayor Of Casterbridge.

Humph - tributes

Dr Graeme Garden, the former Goodie and regular on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue: "He was on sparkling form a few weeks ago when we last worked together. We also spoke just before his operation. He was a great guy. He was an immensely loveable man and we are absolutely shattered by the news. You would be chatting to him and he would start telling anecdotes about Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington, both of whom he worked with. He had an amazing energy and get up and go. He only gave up his jazz programme this year, at the age of 86, because he wanted to devote more time to other projects – not because he was scaling back. He was a great advocate of silliness. Last time I spoke to him he had just watched Hell's a Poppin' on DVD – it is a comfort to know his sense of silliness endured till the end."

Mark Damazer, the controller of Radio 4, said Lyttelton encompassed "so many" of the virtues people wanted from Radio Four comedy. "He's just a colossally good broadcaster and possessed of this fantastic sense of timing. It's a very, very sad day but we should celebrate and be very grateful for how much he did for Radio Four because he really was one of the giants over the last 40 years, really terrific."

Jenny Abramsky, Director of Audio and Music at the corporation, said: "Humphrey Lyttelton has been one of the wonders of radio broadcasting for years. He championed British jazz with his weekly programme on Radio 2 introducing millions of listeners to the glories of the British jazz scene. At the same time his deadpan stewardship of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, the unique ringmaster of an anarchic world, ensured the programme became the jewel of radio comedy. Humph was warm, erudite, funny and scurrilous. His audience loved him. He was an irreplaceable voice on British radio."

Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General, said: “Humphrey Lyttelton will leave an enormous gap not just in British cultural life as a whole but in the lives of many millions of listeners. He was a unique, irreplaceable talent. Like his many fans we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. Like them, all of us at the BBC feel a tremendous sense of loss.”

Brian Peerless, 69, a university lecturer and jazz promoter who has been a Lyttelton fan for over 50 years, paid tribute, saying the trumpeter had helped him break into the business. "He was diagnosed with the condition [aortic aneurysm] about a month ago. I went to see him in hospital and he was the same as ever. We had a chat and he was talking about doing some more writing, he was very tough."

The late George Melly wrote shortly before his death last year: "Humph's intransigence, his determination to 'play as I please' was admirable; he was, like Ronnie Scott, the perfect ambassador for jazz."

Barry Cryer: His timing was like a razorblade. He was the only broadcaster I have ever known who could get a laugh from dead air, silence. An amazing gift. We hoped it didn't sound indulgent but we're all old friends and it was more like telepathy than anything else.

Adrian Mackintosh, a drummer in Humph's band: Humphrey Lyttelton was an immense talent, and not only as a trumpeter, but as a band leader. He was a great songwriter and lyricist. I'll remember his wit onstage with the band. It wasn't just I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. He was a great friend. We all loved him.

Digby Fairweather, jazz trumpeter: He was one of my principal inspirations for taking up the trumpet. I think people in a sense looked to Humphrey Lyttelton as their principal spokesman, role model and the man that people regarded as the voice of jazz in Britain. When I started recording in the 1970s, Humph was one of the first people to play my records on the radio. He always encouraged young performers. He really was, in the best possible way, a jazz machine.

Sandi Toksvig: Occasionally, when the great and the good pass away, there is an unsavoury tendency for confessions to begin seeping out of the woodwork. There are those who seem to think the best time to kiss and tell is when one half of the couple in question can no longer refute the matter.
It is in this tradition that I wish to reveal that I was, albeit briefly, Humphrey Lyttelton's lover. I realise this is news that may surprise some people, not least my mother and anyone connected with the Daily Mail. Perhaps even more shocking, Humph and I conducted our sordid liaison in front of several hundred people on a West End stage.
It was Christmas in 2003 and we were recording a festive version of the Radio 4 "antidote to panel games" I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, entitled I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Carol. Everyone played a lot of parts and the absence of any other available women meant that for about 30 seconds I was required to be Humph's lover.
With me at barely 5ft tall and him well over 6ft, we were an ill-matched couple, only able to share a microphone if he sat down and I stood while we exchanged our sighs of love. Sitting utterly relaxed at rehearsal, he giggled at what the tabloid press might make of the news of our unexpected and soon to be broadcast tryst.
Whether engaged in passion or not, sharing the stage with Humph was always an extraordinary experience. Journalists glibly write about "national treasures" as if there are certain people who could at a pinch be sold off to clear government debt. I always thought it a somewhat meaningless phrase until I first stood on a stage waiting for Humph to be introduced.
He stood grinning in the wings, the lights glinting off his glasses as the producer of Clue declared "and here he is… yes, he's still alive, it's the jazz trumpeter's jazz trumpeter… Humphrey Lyttelton". Barry Cryer, a man not noted for his athletic grace, immediately dropped to one knee in obeisance, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor bowed deep at the waist, and the audience rose to their feet with the sort of cheer celebrities of the modern age can only dream about.
Humph grinned like a schoolboy fresh from the tuck shop and began to tell us astonishingly indelicate things about his assistant Samantha, all the while feigning innocence about any double entendres.
There are things about Humph that I knew in the back of my mind - that Louis Armstrong had declared him the greatest British trumpeter and that he was a jazz legend - but he wore his accolades and his musical talent lightly. Whether fronting his band of genuine musicians or playing Winter Wonderland on his trumpet while the rest of us accompanied him on kazoo, he seemed to think that music was fun.
His delight in Jeremy Hardy's inability to hold a single note in his head was half the fun of listening.
Last Christmas the Clue team again recorded a holiday special, this time set in the world of Alice in Wonderland. Anyone who has ever thought showbusiness to be glamorous should have joined us before the show. A buffet had been laid out in a room below the stage. Humph had to mind his head as we descended into the bowels of theatre to eat our high tea. We ate off paper plates and sat on an odd assortment of boxes, folded curtains and plastic chairs.
I had some recollection that Humph had been to Eton and that the road to toffdom had once been open to him. Certainly he was a total gentleman, full of civility and charm, but there were no airs and graces. Everyone said he had once been offered a knighthood, which he declined. I don't know if it's true, but the story fitted the man. At an age when many are staring into the distance, he sat laughing and eating in a dingy hole as, above our heads, we could hear his faithful fans troop in.
Perhaps it was his musicality that gave Humph his glorious comic timing. Here was a man who could get a laugh not just from speaking but from silence. A sketch would conclude and the audience would applaud. Humph would then sit in a silence until he finally declared "Hmmm" as if he had never been more bored in his life and the house would once again rock with laughter. I doubt Humph was ever bored. He did more gigs in his eighties than I do now.
There is a curious connection between Humph and the other man in my life, the also sadly late, great Alan Coren. As a boy Alan was taught ballroom dancing by a retired sergeant in a north London pub. One day the sergeant became incensed because a jazz band in the room above was preventing them from hearing the Victor Silvester record they were dancing to.
He sent Alan upstairs to complain and, dressed in schoolboy shorts, the young Coren duly went to ask Humphrey Lyttelton to tone it down a bit. It is some tiny comfort that perhaps now they are together again cutting a rug somewhere splendid.
Humph never really did tone things down. Just a few weeks ago, aged 86, his mere presence brought a sold-out audience of several thousand at the Hammersmith Apollo to their feet. Did it go to his head? Not once. Will we see his like again? Not ever. Did I love him? Absolutely - and I don't care who knows it.

Barry Cryer: He was one of my oldest friends in every sense. I knew him for more than 50 years; we met in 1955. I was singing with the university jazz band in Leeds and Humph was a mere 34, goatee beard and sideburns, and he came to play. He always remembers us meeting but he didn't remember the year, and in 2005 I said to him, 'It's our anniversary, dear,' and he said, 'What? What are you talking about?' I said, 'Fifty years.' 'Oh, my God.'
I went to see him in hospital, bless him, with tubes in every orifice. They said the hearing's the last thing to go, so keep talking, and we were all saying silly things to him. It was very moving. I was saying, 'This is very inconvenient, you know. I'm a very busy man. I've just been for a walk - where were you?' We were doing all this nonsense around the bed.
The upside, as with my old friend Willie Rushton, is that you can't think of them very long without starting to smile and then actually laughing when you remember something. He was a man of such style. He said to somebody just before he went in the hospital, 'If all goes well, this year's drama is next year's anecdote.'
We've got a stage version of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and did a show without him, the first in 36 years, in Bournemouth last Tuesday, when Rob Brydon deputised brilliantly. What Rob didn't know was our great producer Jon Naismith got Humph to record an introduction in hospital, and what the audience heard was: 'Good evening. This is Humphrey Lyttelton. I can't do the show tonight because I'm in hospital; I wish I'd thought of this earlier. Will you give a big welcome to Rob Brydon?' Rob was very touched by that. It got the show off to a great start.
He was the coolest man I knew. It was the jazz thing; that was the abiding love of his life. If he had come through this op, he wouldn't have been a well man and probably wouldn't have been able to play the trumpet. Now that is just heartbreaking. I don't think he could have stood that, God rest him. It may be a blessing, I don't know.
It's too soon to consider the future of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. There's got to be an agonising reappraisal. He was the very hub of the show: I think it was the Humphrey Lyttelton show, the urbane man in the middle of the idiots. He was the only man I know who could get a laugh with dead air, silence on the radio. Who else would get a laugh with 'Mmmm?'

Jeremy Hardy: Much has been made of Humph's timing, but he has robbed this nation by leaving us so cruelly early at the age of 86. The fact that he would not live for ever has been on the minds of everyone involved in I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue for as long as I have been a part of it. But, somehow, I imagined he would see us all off. I would have liked him to play at my funeral.
Humph was 40 years older than me, but when I saw him in hospital a few days before the surgery that we all hoped would keep him with us his restless energy was visible in every pore and whisker. For someone who could keep such a straight face, he was the least static person I've ever known. Even when perfectly still, he was absolutely vibrant. It's not unusual to leave a hospital infected with something, but rare to leave one infected with such a spirit of fun and mischief as I did that day.
He was a very emotional man, and it's hard to imagine that he was not frightened about the operation – but every time he spoke of it, he would say that, if he didn't survive it, he would not know anything about it, so he was a winner either way. His age was a constant source of humour on the show, but in the last few months we all started to treasure him more dearly, and the jokes had an uncomfortable edge.
We have been touring a theatre show of Clue since August, and, in the Past few months, I found it impossible to go to bed if Humph was still up chatting – about his family, his ancestry and, of course, music. He stopped chatting only if jazz music was being played in the hotel bar, because he had to listen to jazz – it could never be in the background. And it was lovely to see his relationship with his band, who took it in turns to drive him when he was told to stop driving himself.
He started to enjoy being driven, even though he had enjoyed being in the driving seat so much. Barry Cryer and I got a lift with him from Ipswich to Oxford in October. Sitting behind Humph, tall and elegant as he was, in his flat cap and driving gloves, we were like two children on a family outing, only slightly embarrassed when he went round a roundabout twice.
I think everyone who knew him felt both reverence toward him and great warmth from him. He was a true gentleman in the very best sense of the word; he made everybody around him feel special. And he smiled with a twinkle in his eye that would melt a heart of stone.
I loved being on stage with him. Just to catch his eye was a treat. And I loved to be in the presence of so loving a man. He adored his friends, his family, his late wife Jill, and Sue da Costa, his new partner, who had been his manager and rock for many years.
Humph personified the best of English values. He was without a trace of snobbery. His politics were of the left, and he loathed prejudice and discrimination. He was passionate about music and musicians, and was in no way trapped in the past, despite having been working for such a very long time. He was always acquiring new musical friends. Lately, he'd expressed an interest in the work of Amy Winehouse. It's a shame they never met. They'd have made great music. But she'd have fallen in love with him, and she's got problems enough. Still, he'd have turned her down very tenderly, I'm sure.

The Observer: In 1979, a one-hit-wonder pop song confidently predicted that video had killed the radio star. It hadn't.
While the world seems to fill up with ever more media platforms and shows no signs of saturation, radio, a technology originating in the late 19th century, holds its own among all the 21st-century interlopers.
So The Observer marks with sadness the passing last week of Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz musician and broadcaster. Lyttelton's career on air spanned 40 years. From 1972, he chaired I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, the gently absurdist panel game, more comedy collaboration than competition, in which were trained successive generations of aspiring British wits.
For many of its listeners, Clue was much more than a game - it was a reminder of the pleasures of being part of a club with its in-jokes and its ongoing themes, a club that anyone could join.
The benefits of membership were obvious: you could, for half an hour, eavesdrop on a conversation in which old friends were having the time of their lives.
That is a peculiar power that only radio seems to command. It can be enjoyed collectively, unlike a newspaper which, even when shared, absorbs people's attention one at a time. Radio suffuses the environment more completely than television, but without resorting to the seductive and stultifying hypnosis of the screen. It can capture the attention without holding it hostage.
The best spoken-word radio retains an uncanny kind of intimacy. It draws to our mind that other root of the word 'medium': an individual held to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and a world of spirits. Television is a diversion; radio is immersion.
And then there is the internet, which offers many strands of experience. But it so often demands immediate response and interaction. That, of course, is a magnificent innovation - a revolution in media. But we do not necessarily want revolutions to be playing as we fall sleep, or have them wake us up, or keep us company on long car journeys. That sort of relationship is something we generally reserve for radio.
Humphrey Lyttelton called his recent autobiography It Just Occurred to me ... It was a modest reference to the wisdom his voice always carried - that the best kind of broadcasting is not unlike the best kind of jazz: improvised, individual, entirely alive to the moment, something, within playful limits, that you happily make up as you go along.

Steve Voce in The Independent: Humphrey Lyttelton excelled at everything that he chose to do. He was a trumpeter, bandleader, calligrapher, cartoonist, writer, journalist and broadcaster. Well, not quite everything. He admitted to being no good at ice-skating, but attributed his lack of success to the failure of anyone to make size 13½ skating boots to suit his feet.
His career began when he gained fame for his declamatory trumpet style and he ended up contributing more to the British jazz scene than anyone else, bestriding it for more than half a century. His unique humour permeated a long radio career which was capped by his chairmanship of the Radio 4 panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, where he became exalted for the finest dead-pan in radio since Jack Benny.
Lyttelton came from a respected family, filled with eccentrics, that had distinguished itself over the centuries. It was, he said, “a long line of land-owning, political, military, clerical, scholastic and literary forebears. Not a musician amongst them”. His ancestor Humphrey Littleton was notorious for having been, after an atypically bad career move, hanged, drawn and quartered for his part in the Gunpowder Plot.
Lyttelton liked to claim that Littleton was subsequently buried in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire. Sadly, or perhaps happily, the account of the original Humphrey’s fate has subsequently been discredited.Lyttelton was born and educated in Eton College, where his father George was an illustrious housemaster.
“My father often said that his decision to call me Humphrey – a name eschewed in the family since my namesake let the side down in the 17th century – was regarded by my grandparents as a rather perverse joke. But it later emerged that there had been more than one. The 17th century was actually peppered with Humphrey Littletons.”
When the family attended the Eton and Harrow cricket match at Lord’s in 1936, the 15-year-old Humphrey and his mother slipped away from the game to the Charing Cross Road and bought the boy his first trumpet. His interest in jazz had begun a few years before and, though an early failure at piano lessons, Humphrey already had a “band” at Eton, which he led on mouth organ.
The change to trumpet was a matter of moment. He already worshipped the playing of Louis Armstrong and one of the first records he loved was Armstrong’s “Basin Street Blues”: “I had discovered that the chorus of ‘Basin Street Blues’ can be played, without too much drastic alteration, on the bottom three notes of the scale of C. So we played ‘Basin Street Blues’ for a week or two. As my trumpeting became more ambitious we added new tunes – of four, five and even six notes – until I began to acquire some fluency.”
Humphrey Lyttelton’s first interest had been in military band music and at Eton he had been surrounded by it, with the Guards stationed nearby at Windsor and the Eton Officers’ Training Corps regularly marching up and down behind a band. The boy took lessons in military drumming from an ex-Coldstream Guards drum major and was soon appearing as a percussionist at school concerts. His early gift for cartooning also took him to the school stage drawing “Lightning Caricatures”.
On 6 June 1941 Lyttelton enlisted in the Brigade of Guards at Caterham and took his commission at Sandhurst. He landed on the beach at Salerno as a signals officer with a pistol in one hand and his trumpet in the other. He saw some savage fighting before being invalided first to Africa and finally home. He travelled to London for the celebrations on VE Day where he was pushed about in front of Buckingham Palace in a wheelbarrow whilst playing his trumpet. His inelegant blaring on “Roll Out The Barrel” can be faintly heard through the crowd on the BBC recordings of the event.
He finally broke with family tradition in 1946. “When I got out of the army I was 25 and didn’t feel like going back to anything very academic, so I went to Camberwell School of Art for a couple of years and round about the same time started playing jazz in various low dives,” he recalled. “I’m sure there was a buzz in the family going round about me, but I was oblivious, sloping off to places like the Nuthouse on Regent Street with my trumpet and a dirty mac over my uniform.”He soon found the required subjects at the School of Art tiresome and concentrated on the comic drawings that came so naturally to him. But his devotion to the trumpet grew ever stronger.
Wearing his army battledress, now dyed navy-blue, and sporting a beard and sandals, he played at jam sessions with professional dance-band musicians and began to travel to the Red Barn, a pub in Bexley in Kent, where the pianist George Webb’s band played every Monday night.
“The music played by the George Webb Dixielanders was rough and ready, and by the best standards today it was undoubtedly primitive,” he recalled. “Yet it had the spirit of real jazz, which was lacking from the music of the professional dance musicians.” Lyttleton joined the Webb band in March 1947, cementing a life-long friendship and musical partnership with its clarinet player, Wally Fawkes, himself a brilliant cartoonist who worked under the name of “Trog”.
Fawkes was employed by the Daily Mail to draw column-breakers, humorous or decorative drawings that were inserted in the text. When the paper promoted him to produce a full-size strip cartoon, Lyttelton inherited the column-breakers job and, working under the name of “Humph”, was eventually put on the staff. When the demand for cartoons slackened he reviewed jazz and eventually, after having invested in the six volumes of Grove’s Dictionary, classical records, for the paper.
The paper eventually divested itself of the reviews as being “frivolous” and Lyttelton took on the job of providing the storyline for a strip cartoon that chronicled the adventures of a small animal called “Flook”, which was already being drawn by Fawkes. This job lasted until 1953.
Lyttelton left the Webb band and formed his own band in January 1948, taking Fawkes and eventually Webb himself with him. The following month Lyttelton joined briefly Derek Neville’s band to appear at the Nice Jazz Festival, where, for the first time, he was able to hear Louis Armstrong and to play with some leading American jazz musicians like Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines and Rex Stewart. A year later the classic front-line of the new Lyttelton band was completed by the arrival of two brothers from Blackpool, Keith and Ian Christie, who played trombone and clarinet respectively, and the group soon became famous as Europe’s leading traditional jazz band.
“It seems incredible now that we used to play the Royal Festival Hall, just with my band, and sell out within hours of the box office opening,” said Lyttelton.“The first time I really grasped the full extent of my own notoriety,” he wrote in the austere days of meat rationing, “was when I heard that my cousin Charles, 10th Viscount Cobham and lord of Hagley Hall in Worcestershire, had received an under-the-counter portion of steak in a Birmingham restaurant on the strength of being Humphrey Lyttelton’s first cousin.”
In late 1947, the Graeme Bell band, a group of itinerant Australians, came to Europe to look for work. They came to Britain on their way home in early 1948 and stayed for some time. Their music was less hidebound than the British jazz. They used popular songs from outside the jazz repertoire and, to the horror of the local jazz buffs, encouraged dancing to their music in the jazz clubs. Lyttelton found a musical soul-mate in Bell and the bands not only worked together but the Australians, with typical antipodean informality, moved uninvited into Lyttelton’s home. “I had Australians the way other people had mice,” he said.
Keith Christie was the first of a long line of musical giants who matured in the ranks of the Lyttelton band. It also included the saxophonists Tony Coe, Danny Moss, Alan Barnes, Joe Temperley, John Barnes and Karen Sharp, the trombonists Roy Williams, Pete Strange and John Picard and similar lists of pianists, bass players and drummers. Lyttelton treated his musicians well and showed them great loyalty.
As his music moved ahead and outgrew some of them, they left on good terms and returned often as guests. He also welcomed established veteran musicians like Kathy Stobart and Jimmy Hastings into his ranks.After recording for several small companies the band was granted a recording session by the major Parlophone label in November 1949. The resultant 78rpm records, in the label’s “Super Rhythm Style” series, sold so well that a new one was issued each month from then until the advent of the long-playing record a few years later.
The multitude of records the band made for Parlophone remain classics and they sound fresh to this day, with the sublime partnership of Lyttelton and Fawkes presenting a jazz parallel to that of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres in Liverpool’s football team.
In 1949, despite a ban on American jazz musicians playing in Britain, the jazz giant Sidney Bechet, accompanied by the Lyttelton band, played at a London concert and subsequent recording session for the Melodisc label. The line-up persisted for some time until 1951 when the two Christies left to form the Christie Brothers Stompers. From that point onwards Lyttelton himself took up the clarinet and began a gradual movement from traditional jazz to the mainstream style.
“People wrote in and accused us of going commercial when we wore uniforms for the first time rather than moth-eaten turtle-necked sweaters.”The alto player Bruce Turner joined the band in 1955, bringing in the first saxophone to the front line and giving outrage to the “purist” traditionalists upon whom the instrument had the same effect as a crucifix on a vampire. At a concert in Birmingham Town Hall they waved a banner emblazoned “Go Home Dirty Bopper”. “I got fed up with continually being accused of being a traitor, so I just left the whole trad thing behind,” said Lyttelton.
In 1956 his simple riff composition “Bad Penny Blues” became the first jazz record to reach the Top 20. “It climbed to number 19 and then fell back exhausted,” he said. Early on Lyttelton’s skills as a composer became apparent. He wrote well over 200 tunes and was never given proper recognition for this substantial one of his talents.
The band made trips throughout Europe, the Middle East and, in 1959, the United States, where it toured with Thelonious Monk and Anita O’Day and was welcomed with enthusiastic reviews by the New York critics. The British Council sponsored several of the trips.
Lyttelton was now successful enough to begin bringing over American stars to work with his band. They included the gospel singer Marie Knight, blues singers Jimmy Rushing and Joe Turner, tenor man Buddy Tate and trumpeter Buck Clayton. Several were ex-Count Basie musicians, and Lyttelton established a special affinity with Clayton, who made several tours and recordings with the band. The two men became close personal friends and on-stage rivals in trumpet battles.
Although the band never had a regular vocalist, Lyttelton toured with several singers from time to time, including Neva Raphaello, Elkie Brooks, Helen Shapiro and Stacey Kent, all of whom recorded with the band. In 1977 Lyttelton toured as a soloist in the “Salute to Satchmo” package and appeared as a guest with the Alex Welsh band when the show toured Australia.
A spell as the writer of the restaurant guide for Harpers & Queen caused him much unease. “I was never a proper gourmet. I’d come home starving after travelling on a gig with the band and go straight to the kitchen where I’d mash up powdered potato and fish fingers and scoff it, all the time looking guiltily over my shoulder in case someone should see me.
”Unlikely, since Lyttelton, obsessive about his privacy, had built his house in Barnet, Hertfordshire, around a square. The outside walls were blank and the windows faced into the square. No one was supposed to know his home telephone number. At one stage in the late Fifties I rang him on it and he immediately had the number changed. Some years later he explained to me why he liked to use other means of communication. “If you phone me it means that you’ve decided that what you want to talk to me about is more important than what I’m doing at the time. I’d rather keep that decision to myself.”
No matter, for the masterpieces of calligraphy that popped regularly through my letterbox were compensation enough. I was saddened when, much later, our correspondence switched to the more facile but less momentous e-mail and indeed, when he outgrew his grumpy bear stage and became a delightful old buffer, we were all allowed to make free with his mobile phone number.
Lyttelton was famously reticent and guarded about his personal life. One asked at one’s peril if he had ever been approached to accept an honour (he had, by Prime Ministers Callaghan and Major but turned them both down). In 2007, when an edition of The South Bank Show was devoted to him, it was absorbing and colourful but as always it contained little detail about him and less about his family.
His many books, like his radio programmes, have, amongst everything else, explained jazz to the non-musical listener. They include I Play as I Please (1954), Second Chorus (1958), Take It From the Top (1975), The Best of Jazz 1 (1978), The Best of Jazz 2 (1981), Why No Beethoven (1984) and It Just Occurred to Me. . . (2006). Honorary doctorates in were awarded from the universities of Warwick (1987), Loughborough (1988), Durham (1989), Keele (1992), Hertford (1995) and de Montfort (1997).
In 1983 he formed his own record label, Calligraph, and commissioned recordings from many of his musical associates, British and American. He continued to record his own bands whilst rounding up as many as he could of his early recordings for reissue on the new label. The Parlophones from the Forties and Fifties form the diadem of the catalogue, providing relief to collectors who had sought complete collections and great pleasure to younger followers who enjoyed them for the first time. During the Fifties Lyttelton was BBC Radio’s main jazz presenter and he broke new ground when he compered BBC 2’s Jazz 625, a remarkably consistent series featuring the best American jazz musicians of the time. He was the leading light on Radio 2’s Jazz Score, a panel game that also featured George Melly and guests including a newly eloquent Acker Bilk.
“I wasn’t fond of doing that programme,” Lyttelton said. “In the quite early stage I discovered that they gave every contestant the answers to the questions in advance except me, believing that I knew too much about jazz and that it wasn’t fair. The result was that all the other members of the panel were able to come up with carefully prepared or plagiarised stories, while I was left to say something amusing about Fud Livingston or Jimmy Giuffre in a moment’s notice. I wonder if anyone knows anything amusing about Jimmy Giuffre.”
His Radio 4 programme The Best of Jazz began in 1967 and ran continuously for more than 40 years, guiding and profoundly influencing the musical tastes of his listeners, most of whom had been listening to him for half their lives. He had the same producers, Keith Stewart and Terry Carter, consecutively throughout that time.
In the early days with Stewart the BBC atmosphere was more congenial and the programme flourished happily. But Lyttelton was frustrated by the non-jazz trails that he was later forced by the system to make room for each week. He first cut the broadcasts to two 12-week series a year and earlier this year decided to give them up altogether.
It was in 1972 that, against his better judgement, he took on the chairmanship of Radio Four’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. Nobody imagined that his role, somewhat like a naïve and despairing schoolmaster who was forced to read out double entendres that he never understood, would last for the rest of his life. His sharp humour was hilarious and yet without malice.
Ian Pattinson wrote his scripts for him, but they came alive only with the application of Lyttelton’s superb deadpan and his perfect timing. I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue went touring Britain, playing to vast, sell-out audiences, with one London date having an audience of more than three thousand.
“Nowadays when people say to me ‘I enjoy your show’, they’re more likely to mean I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue than the Monday night record programme that I’ve presented for so many years,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the fact that I took out my trumpet and played at the end of each gig, thousands of people would have thought of me as the chairman of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue without knowing that I was a trumpet player.”
He professed to be eternally harassed by the members of the team. “If you hear this noise,” he said at one recording whilst waving a hooter, “it means I’ve lost the will to live.” But the years dropped away from him when he was on air or leading his band. When my daughter moved to live in Barnet he wrote, “If she’s in or near High Barnet, she may well see me one day in Waitrose – I’m the stooping, shuffling human wreck clearly wishing he was dead. That’s what shopping does to me. When people say to me, as they often do, ‘Can I ask you a personal question – how old are you?’ I answer ‘Forty on a bandstand, 120 in Waitrose.’”
In 2002 he played with Radiohead before a crowd of 50,000 and also appeared on one of the band’s records. He continued to develop his band, bringing in new talent like the saxophonists Karen Sharp, Robert Fowler and Jo Fooks, and to tour and record new albums.
The continuing success of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and his devotion to the band meant that he had little free time. What he had he devoted to his writing, latterly working on a book on calligraphy, which, along with bird watching, was a lifelong hobby. The book was to be called “Delivered By Hand”. “It’s written from the shop floor, so to speak,” he said, “from the point of view of someone who enjoys the hobby and is still learning.” The book will include many pieces from his collection of italic writing. He had been elected President of the Society for Italic Handwriting in 1990.
When I told him that I was preparing his obituary in advance, with typical generosity, since he was at the time writing yet another book and arranging the recording of more new CDs for his band, he agreed to help me with it. I read some of it out over the phone to him. “I do wish I could be there to read it when it’s published,” he said wistfully.
Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton, trumpeter, clarinettist, bandleader, broadcaster, writer, journalist and calligrapher: born Eton, Berkshire 23 May 1921; cartoonist, Daily Mail 1949-53; chairman, I’m Sorry I Haven’t Clue 1972-2008; married 1948 Pat Braithwaite (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1952), 1952 Jill Richardson (died 2006; two sons, one daughter); died Barnet, Hertfordshire 25 April 2008.

The Telegraph: Humphrey Lyttelton, who has died aged 86, was a prominent figure in British popular culture for more than 50 years, originally as a jazz musician, but also as a cartoonist, humorous writer, broadcaster, calligrapher and proprietor of his own record label.
For the last 35 years he was the famously deadpan chairman of I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue on Radio 4, giving a panel of four comedians "silly things to do" in what was billed as "the antidote to panel games".
For all his varied talents, Lyttelton was a remarkably modest and unambitious man. He always claimed that his career had simply happened to him as he went around pursuing his interests. But his famously languid manner concealed an immensely agile mind and an inexhaustible capacity for simple enthusiasm.
It was this last quality which prompted one member of his band to remark, on the occasion of Lyttelton's 75th birthday: "Humph is the world's oldest teenager."
Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton was born on May 23 1921 at Eton College, where his father, George Lyttelton, was a housemaster. One of his grandfathers was Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, while the other, according to Lyttelton himself, "owned half of Worcestershire".
Humphrey Lyttelton recalled his life as a child of the landed gentry mainly as a round of visits to stately homes, with endless changes of costume according to the time of day. He found the whole business so irksome that for the rest of his life he avoided pomp and ceremony wherever possible.
When it came to choosing a career, it was proposed that he join his uncle, Oliver Lyttelton (later Lord Chandos), in his City office. When this was turned down, a career in industry was suggested and he was packed off to observe the workings of a South Wales steelworks. The experience turned him into a lifelong Socialist. The problem was finally settled by the outbreak of war and a commission in the Grenadier Guards.
By this time he was already a keen amateur jazz musician, having absconded from the Eton-Harrow match at the age of 15 to buy his first trumpet in the Charing Cross Road. The trumpet went with him throughout his military career, even during the assault and eventual landing at Salerno.
On leave in London, he would sit in with bands at nightclubs, a practice which would probably have been forbidden by King's Regulations had it not been so bizarre as to be unimaginable. As a young Guards officer, Lyttelton was required to fulfil various social duties. These included attending balls at Windsor Castle, at one of which he found himself dancing with Princess Margaret, 13 years old and half his height.
Lyttelton greeted the end of the war by blowing euphorically while being trundled around the West End in a handcart. In the surviving BBC recording of the VE celebrations, presented by Wynford Vaughan Thomas, a distant trumpet rendering of Roll Out The Barrel can quite clearly be made out.
The career problem loomed once more. Taking stock of his talents and interests, Lyttelton identified two: he enjoyed doodling, and had achieved some proficiency on the trumpet. Accordingly, he enrolled at Camberwell Art School and joined George Webb's Dixielanders, a semi-professional band devoted to re-creating the music of the early jazz pioneers. The other members, mainly skilled workers who had worked in munitions during the war, were suspicious of his accent and background and at first he found it difficult to make friends.
Nevertheless, in 1948 the Dixielanders had become Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band, the first in an unbroken line of 60 years. At the same time, the doodling had turned him into "Humph", cartoonist on The Daily Mail.
The rise of "traditional" or "revivalist" jazz was a British post-war phenomenon, and Lyttelton soon became its leading figure. When his name appeared in the press it was usually accompanied by the tag-line "old-Etonian, ex-Guards Officer jazz trumpeter", a fascinating and outlandish combination for the time, and invaluable from the point of view of publicity.
In fact, Lyttelton soon showed signs of restlessness with the strictly revivalist approach and he began a series of bold musical experiments. In the early 1950s he made some of the very first records combining jazz with African and Caribbean music. Seeking variety of texture, he dropped the usual trumpet-clarinet-trombone set-up of traditional jazz in favour of various combinations featuring saxophones.
As early as 1951 Lyttelton exploited the new multi-track recording technology to produce the record One Man Went To Blow, on which he played trumpet, clarinet, piano and washboard. Almost by accident his 1956 record, Bad Penny Blues, became the first British jazz record to enter the pop charts. By the late 1950s, when traditional jazz was enjoying brief mass popularity as "trad", Lyttelton had left revivalism far behind and was leading a kind of pocket-sized big band, playing out-and-out swing in the Count Basie manner.
Of all Lyttelton's excellent bands, this was probably the finest. When it was joined by visiting American stars, such as the singer Jimmy Rushing and the trumpeter Buck Clayton, the band always rose to the occasion, producing performances of superb power and authority. Lyttelton's own playing grew steadily more impressive under the influence of Clayton, and the two men remained close friends until Clayton's death in 1991.
Towards the end of the 1950s the BBC began allowing bandleaders to make their own announcements on air. Lyttelton proved to have an instantly recognisable radio voice and a perfect broadcasting style: friendly, informal and gently humorous. Soon he was a regular broadcaster and, in 1966, began his weekly record programme, The Best Of Jazz, which continued until March 2008.
His elevation to the status of "radio personality", however, came with the spoof panel game I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue, launched in 1972 with Lyttelton as chairman. The most notable feature of this was an incomprehensible game entitled Mornington Crescent, the rules of which were said to be a closely guarded secret, known only to himself.
The show was voted Best Radio Comedy in the 1995 British Comedy Awards, and Lyttelton himself received a Sony Gold Award in 1993 for Services to Broadcasting. Between 1993 and 1996 he held an honorary Professorship of Music at the University of Keele. Unlike most honorary posts, this entailed giving a lecture each term, a task which he relished. Surprise was often expressed that his name had never appeared in an Honours List, although friends believed that he had once been offered an Honour and refused it as a matter of principle. Lyttelton always declined to discuss the matter.
Throughout his career Lyttelton kept up a parallel occupation as a writer. He produced two volumes of lightly humorous autobiography, I Play As I Please (1954) and Second Chorus (1958); three books of assorted memoirs, Take It From The Top (1975), Why No Beethoven? (1984) and It Just Occured To Me (2007); and two books of jazz criticism under the title The Best Of Jazz (1978 and 1981).
He also wrote occasional articles for the press and served for a while as restaurant critic on Harper's & Queen. For several years during the 1950s he wrote the "balloons" for Flook, the Daily Mail comic-strip drawn by his friend and clarinettist Wally Fawkes under the pen-name Trog. He eventually handed the job on to another jazz man, George Melly.
Among the effects passed to Lyttleton on his father's death was a set of calligraphic pens. Lyttelton took up the hobby, becoming so keen and adept that he was elected president of the Society for Italic Handwriting. All his correspondence was conducted in this medium, including his VAT returns. He hated the telephone, and allowed only his manager and members of his family to know his phone number. Letters were always his preferred form of communication, even for such tricky tasks as hiring and firing members of the band.
In 1983 Lyttelton founded his own record label, Calligraph Records, principally to record and release his own work. Among its most successful releases were the many albums, released throughout the 1990s, featuring Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band and the singer Helen Shapiro. This long-standing partnership was good for both of them, bringing added cachet to the band and confirming Shapiro's status as a first-rate jazz singer.
He received lifetime achievement awards at the Post Office British Jazz Awards in 2000 and at the first BBC Jazz Awards in 2001, and continued as a road-going trumpeter until his death . In 2007 he remarked: "The embouchure isn't what it used to be; I'm not as steady (as a player) as I was; my range isn't as great. Not that this matters particularly, as it was never my greatest asset."
Humphrey Lyttelton married first, in 1948 (dissolved 1952), Patricia Mary Braithwaite, with whom he had a daughter. In 1952 he married Elizabeth Jill Richardson, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. His second wife died in 2006.

Humph - RIP

Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz musician and long-time chairman of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue has died at the age of 86.

Humph's unique style of chairmanship, which involved disdain for the show, and deadpan delivery of bad puns and terribly rude double entendres, was just right for Clue and without doubt contributed hugely to the success of the show which remains something of a cult classic despite the death of its funniest star, Willie Rushton, 12 years ago.

Humph was brilliantly talented across many spheres, not just in comedy, but as a broadcaster, a cartoonist, a writer and of course a jazz musician. Tributes today are calling him a giant in jazz.

A loveable, witty, brilliant man. He will be much much much missed.

April 01, 2008

Kenneth Williams remembered

Two weeks away on the 14th April it will be the 20th anniversary of the untimely passing of the all-time master of JAM, Kenneth Williams.

Kenneth's death is being marked on Radio Four by a special part documentary. Narrated by JAM guest Rob Brydon, the documentary will focus on his personality and his sudden death. It's called The Pain Of Laughter - The Last Days Of Kenneth Williams and has been described this way by Radio Four commissioning editor Carolyn Raphael, "A fantastic absorbing and rather sad listen. Certainly the most honest and unsychophantic portrait of the man I've ever heard." I believe the Radio Times is going to have a special article on it. There's also a webpage set up for it - sadly blank at the moment!

The man who compiled the doco, Wes Butters is also writing a book on Kenneth, to be called Kenneth Williams Unseen (this is different from the book I mentioned a week or so ago). It's due for release in October.

He's still a cult! An enormous cult!