By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) -
British jazz-age trumpet maestro
Humphrey Lyttleton, fondly known as "Humph" who later made a
seamless transition to radio presenter and quiz-master has died
at the age of 86, his website has announced.
The master of the innuendo, whose ready smile and quick wit
won him an army of admirers in his many other incarnations as a
cartoonist, writer and radio host, had been admitted to
hospital earlier this week for heart surgery.
"Humph died peacefully with his family and friends around
him," it said on Friday. "We would like to thank everyone for
The BBC, where Lyttleton spent much of his later career as
a host for both radio music shows and television quiz programs,
added its voice to the tributes to one of the stalwarts of
"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," said BBC director general Mark
"One of the towering figures of British jazz, he excelled
too as a writer, cartoonist, humorist and of course as a
broadcaster on television and radio.
"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."
Lyttleton, born on May 23, 1921, had a privileged
upbringing but did not let that get in his way as he moved into
the seamy world of jazz.
The son of a senior Eton schoolmaster and educated at the
same upper crust school, Lyttleton discovered jazz at an early
age, inspired by trumpeters like America's Louis Armstrong.
His first, inadvertent, broadcast recording is still in the
BBC archives when he took to a wheelbarrow with his trumpet to
celebrate the end of World War Two on May 8, 1945.
From the barrow he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist at
the same time as following a burgeoning career as a jazz
His Bad Penny Blues became the first British jazz record to
enter the top 20 in 1956. That same year his Lyttelton Band
supported Louis Armstrong in London.
The program regularly attracted audiences of two million.
A father-of-four Lyttleton, who was a long-standing
president of the Society For Italic Handwriting, married twice,
first in 1948 and then again following divorce in 1952.
(Reporting by Jeremy Lovell)