Monday, April 28, 2008


It's been a hard time lately for people of my vintage, I'm old enough to remember when jazz started to have an impact on our society in the years after the second world war, it seemed to arrive with the word 'cool'
Arguably the 'coolest cat' of them all has just died, Humphrey Lyttleton. He was one of the great entertainers who blossomed in those years and continued blossoming for another 60 Yrs.

He was a great band leader and musician and so much more, he done as much as anyone to popularise what some people called 'the devil's music' because of it's associations with the American black population where so many great players came from. Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lena Horn, Thomas 'Fats' Waller, Art Tatum, 'Count' Basie, 'Duke ' Ellington etc. some got by on one name such was their greatness such as Ella and Satchmo.

These and many more were influences on Humph and he went on to influence so many more, a real musical giant. He was also of course a regular performer on radio, famously as the chair of "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" where he displayed a genius for comedy and a quite scary rapier wit. He did lots of other shows associated with Jazz and general good entertainment, I used to be jealous of him and his guests as it seemed a sublime way to make a living.

He joins some of my late favourites like 'the goons' especially Spike Milligan who was also a great jazz musician, George Melly, Oscar Peterson and many more, it was a golden era.

Humph's background should have been Eton, The Guards and Cambridge and then The City and maybe Tory Politics, he did Eton and The Guards but went off the rails and left all that stuff behind to go on and become loved by millions.
The business world's loss was entertainment's gain and we should be grateful for that, I like to think that these guys will be still jamming somewhere
I would like to crack one of his jokes to end but I can't think of anything suitable and, I couldn't do it like Humph anyway and, nor could anyone else.

Would they allow 'the devil's music' 'up there' ? Spike on the Cornet, Oscar on piano, George strutting and singing and Humph leading with the trumpet and, St. Cecilia doing the 'Cakewalk' along with a few bottles of the 'falling down water'

A line up to die for !


Serpico said...

Louis Armstrong called Humph the greatest jazz trumpeter he'd ever played with...that's some complement.

He was master of the deadpan double entendre, my favourite remains the one about Samantha's wine connoisseur who took her down his wine cellar to show her his Semillon. I was driving home that night and nearly crashed the car.

I miss him already.

Normal hostilities will resume shortly.

David Duff said...

I am, once again, forced to agree with much of your post.

I have, of course, taken to my bed and called the doctor!