Tribute to Humphrey Lyttelton
The first part covers Humph's days at Eton as the son of a master at the school and ends with the question "when did you get your first trumpet?" - in 1936 is the reply.
The second part looks at the early influences on Humph's jazz playing career. Humph says "when I first heard Louis Armstrong play, it was a definitive moment".
The third part reaches Humph's memories of VE Day when he played Roll Out The Barrel on the streets. He then became a cartoonist and joined the George Webb Dixieland band.
The fourth part covers the wild popularity of jazz in the 1950s and then the "purge" or displacement as the pop musicians came in the 1960s. In 1972 a major change came - Humph became the chairman of Clue.
A typical introduction to an edition of Clue: "Hello . . . . . you join us on a visit to Sunderland in the fine county of Tyne and Wear. A settlement first appeared here in the seventh century when Vikings stopped off on their way to Greenland. The town was therefore called "Sund der lundt" which is a word that means "who was reading the bloody map!""
The fifth part covers his masterful chairing of Clue with his deadpan presentation of the introductions and quiz questions together with clips of his playing at Redhill in 2007.
The sixth part touches on the way Humph helped new musicians with their careers - two young saxophone players in his band, Jo Foss and Karen Sharp.
As an introduction to an edition of Clue in Sunderland, Humph continued: "The intrepid BBC reporter Kate Aidie was brought up in Sunderland. Miss Aidie was present at the storming of the Iranian Embassy, the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Tripoli and three Turkish earthquakes, so when she returned here recently to launch a ship, the crew shot an albatross for good luck!"

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, or Clue as Humph and the team referred to it, defied analysis in Humph's view. His mindset remained as it had when he approached the first show in 1972 - not quite sure how long it would continue. The producer of Clue, Jon Naithsmith, said he had heard it said that Humph had to some extent seen Kenneth Horne, the guiding force in an earlier radio show Round the Horne, as a role model. But there is something of the patrician, posh guy amongst a bunch of comedians there, but it's slightly different because you thought that Kenneth Horne was the voice of sanity, you knew that he could possibly redeem the chaos in some way - whereas for Humphrey he is the reason for the chaos!

Tapping his watch Humph exclaims: "Hang on I think my watch has stopped - oh no, it hasn't . . . . I thought we were nearly finished!" Sadly the watch has stopped and we only have the video clips to remind us of the magic that was Humphrey Lyttelton.
Clips from Melvyn Bragg's interview with Humphrey Lyttelton on the South Bank Show
Here we have links to six clips forming part of an edition of the South Bank Show in which Melvyn Bragg talks with Humph about his life and career. For Humph jazz was his passion and the interview is interspersed with clips of jazz players who have influenced Humph's long career. The interview moves on to his chairing I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue which began in 1972. The links with each of the six images alongside take you to UTube where the parts of the interview can be played.

Hump looks back over the early influences on his interest in jazz with Melvyn Bragg and recalls a tune he heard early on and says - "Basin Street Blues, I was absolutely bowled over by that".

Humphrey Lyttelton first formed his own band in early 1948 and played at an international jazz festival in Nice in February. Humph was spotted there and the band took off from that year. He then played in what would normally have been sedate restaurants in London's West End - they were transformed by his music. The clips show the sheer enthusiasm of people enjoying his music and dancing - what a welcome relief that must have been after the years of misery and deprivation during the war just a few years earlier.

Later Humph reflects "Looking back at the 1950s, they always comment on Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard - they ignore the fact that youth culture began with us and jazz!". The music he was playing was revivalist jazz - it started in the US by reviving the style of the 1920 from recordings made at that time. Revivalist jazz was later termed traditional jazz in the UK but some of the established dance band leaders at the time were slightly scornful of it as rather wild and without discipline!


Humph was strongly influenced by Louis Arsmtong and the first time they met in 1956 they struck up a friendship. "If it hadn't been for him, we wouldn't be here today. He became the top trumpeter but became commercial and attracted a terrible lot of criticism from going to Hollywood and films. I sussed his whole motivation was to be in front of the people with a talent like that".

"The sixties were not a high spot in my time - we felt a cool breeze" as jazz was elbowed out a little with the arrival of the Beatles and the like. Their arrival purged jazz from the popular music scene in many ways and after that Humph became more of a specialist artist rather than enjoying the mainstream popularity he had seen in the late 1940s and 1950s. But his following was very strong nonetheless.


Humph and the band playing at Redhill in 2007.

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Posted: 4.5.08
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