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 their support.”
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 popular broadcasting.
“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 Thompson.
“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 trumpeter.
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.
For 40 years from 1967 to 2007 Lyttleton was a frequent presenter on BBC radio’s “The Best of Jazz,” and in 1972 he added the radio quiz program “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue” — a program he led until a week before his death on Friday.
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