Humphrey Lyttelton

Humphrey Lyttelton

Date of birth: 23-05-1921
Date of death: 25-04-2008
Humphrey Lyttelton, a cousin of the 10th Viscount Cobham, was born in Eton College where his father was a housemaster and where he was subsequently educated.

After leaving school, Lyttelton spent some time at the steel plate works in Port Talbot in South Walesm, and during the war, he served as an officer in the Grenadier Guards. On discharge, studied for two years at Camberwell Art School.

In 1949, he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist, one year after forming his first trad jazz band

A self-taught trumpet player, he pioneered New Orleans jazz in the UK, and his greatest hit Bad Penny Blues which, in 1956, was the first British jazz record to get into the Top 20. That same year, he quit his cartoonist jon and supported Louis Armstrong's All Stars in a string of London concerts.

In the late Fifties, Humphrey Lyttelton upset some fans by enlarging his band and his repertoire to include mainstream and other non-traditional material. In 1984, he founded his own record label, Calligraph. His band continued to tour right up until his death.

He presented The Best Of Jazz on Radio 2 from 1967 until April 2007, and, as a journalist, his articles appeared regularly in Punch, The Field and the British Airways Highlife magazines. He has written seven books and more than 120 original compositions for his band.

In 1972 he was chosen to host I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue on Radio 4, a job he also held until his death. The first producer, David Hatch said: 'The notion was that we should go off-piste and not have words written down, and the equivalent was jazz. I think it was from that kind of conversation that Humphrey Lyttleton's name emerged - over the third pint.’

In the first series, Lyttelton alternated in the role of chairman with Barry Cryer, but from the second series he took the position full time. The programme won the Sony award for best radio comedy in 1995, 2002 and 2004. And in 1993 Humph himself won the Sony Gold Award for services to broadcasting.

The show's latest producer, John Naismith, said Lyttelton had ‘the most exquisite timing in British comedy’.

He had honorary degrees from Wawick, Loughborough, Durham and Keele Universities anf won lifetime achievement awards at both the Post Office British Jazz Awards in April 2000 and at the first BBC Jazz Awards in 2001.

His hobbies included birdwatching and calligraphy, and he was president Of The Society For Italic Handwriting.

He died in April 2008 following surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm.

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