Jazz legend Lyttelton dies at 86
April 25, 2008 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Humphrey Lyttelton has died. Musician, cartoonist, journalist and chairman of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue
posted by verisimilitude (33 comments total)

I saw Humphrey Lyttleton and his band supporting Radiohead in a huge open air gig in Oxford in 2001 (he had played trumpet on one of the tracks on Amnesiac, which had come out earlier that year).

Sigur Ros, Supergrass and Beck were also support acts that day, but you know what? None of them got the crowd moving more than Humph did. 50,000 or so hipsters in a muddy field, totally rocking out to this octogenarian jazz musician. Respect.
posted by afx237vi at 3:55 PM on April 25, 2008

He'll be missed.

Humph's own website has some clips from ISIHAC, for those not familiar.
posted by liquidindian at 4:01 PM on April 25, 2008

Oh crap!! Someone i really really admired - especially on I'm sorry i haven't a clue! Well, that just sucks! Godspeed, good man. I hope you make them laugh up there as much as you made me laugh down here!
posted by ramix at 4:04 PM on April 25, 2008

You're kidding me. Just last week I was trying to find clips of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" since I loved what little I've heard of it. Great show, great guy.

posted by flatluigi at 4:08 PM on April 25, 2008

Also on Youtube an episode of The South Bank Show about him from a year or so ago.

I hadn't listened to anything he's done in a while, though I used to listen to his Jazz Show when I was a teenager, and ISIHAC was a staple in our house, as most radio 4 used to be.
Seemed like one of those people who was just going to keep going forever.

Sad news.
posted by opsin at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2008

Hopefully the powers that be can arrange some kind of tribute event when the summer season of Morning Crescent kicks off. Maybe the players could all wear black armbands, or something?
posted by tapeguy at 4:19 PM on April 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

I owe my marriage, and I guess my kids owe their births, to Humph and ISIHAC. When I started hanging out with this attractive Canadian girl in London in the mid-90s, it was listening to ISIHAC that broke the ice between us. My future wife fell big time for the parched-dry humour and bitterly understated wit of Mr Lyttelton. I'm fairly sure any initial attraction I had for her was only by association with that radio show!
posted by standbythree at 4:24 PM on April 25, 2008

posted by 15 step at 4:30 PM on April 25, 2008

Erm, not knowing which thread will stay, I'll post this in both: Life in a Glass House, live at the BBC.
posted by jokeefe at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2008

posted by motty at 4:41 PM on April 25, 2008


he finally got to play Wobbling Bunnies.
posted by scruss at 5:35 PM on April 25, 2008

posted by WPW at 5:45 PM on April 25, 2008

Someone observed that Humph's immaculate comic timing came from starting sentences not on the beat but on the half-beat--a deliberate interruption of rhythm. A jazzman's trick, and a good one.

A fitting obituary and tribute would be a round of Mornington Crescent with RMT doubled and pre-Beeching sleepers in oblique, so as to make Kensal Rise (and thus Kensal Green Cemetary) a necessary part of any winning pre-move. A little contrived, perhaps, but I feel it would serve.

He'll be missed.
posted by Hogshead at 5:58 PM on April 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

Hogshed, I hear that Mrs Trellis has written in with an offer to make the cucumber sandwiches ;-)

I'm so sorry to hear about his death. He was a wonderful man, has given millions of people across the world many, many hours of entertainment and is irreplaceable.

We're adopting a lovely big hairy rescue old english sheepdog tomorrow, I think we have call him Humph in his honour.
posted by ceri richard at 6:23 PM on April 25, 2008

(sorry, Hogshead).

A collection of Bushisms from ISIHAC and a live recording of ISIAC.
posted by ceri richard at 6:31 PM on April 25, 2008

Holy crap -- I am listening to an old recording of ISIHAC at this very moment. What a terrible loss for all of us.

I guess given the circumstances a bit of black comedy might be appropriate: "Bring me the headstone of Alfredo Garcia!"

R.I.P., Humph.
posted by armage at 7:39 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


because the tribute is not to finish the sentence, and instead wait for the horn that will come when you least [honk].

Humph may have bemoaned the fact that more of my generation knew him as the ISIHAC host who played a trumpet, but he probably introduced plenty of them to jazz out of sheer curiosity. RIP.
posted by holgate at 8:50 PM on April 25, 2008

What will Samantha do now?

(Answer: Sven)
posted by unSane at 8:53 PM on April 25, 2008

Lyttelton's "Bad Penny Blues", (a #19 hit in England in 1955, as he says in the YouTube vid) bears an almost too-close-for-comfort resemblance to the intro and piano part of the Beatles' "Lady Madonna", penned by McCartney. I'm certainly not the first one to point this out, but if you haven't heard it, check it out. Those separated octaves, even the brushes on drums as Ringo did it, etc. Almost makes your hair stand on end...

posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:14 PM on April 25, 2008

Aw man. That hurts even worse than Robert Anton Wilson did.
posted by rifflesby at 11:57 PM on April 25, 2008

Let's cheer up with some ISIHAC double [scroll down] entendres, all of which were delivered by Humph of course. Humph's explanation of how they got away with it (from here):

The secret of it is to read what you've got in front of you. Don't, if you suspect that something has a double meaning, don't pause. Don't put on a leery vocal expression if you know what I mean on radio. Don't sort of do anything other than read it. And if people see something rude in it well, very few of them write into the BBC because to do so, they would confess that they saw something rude in it. So they don't do it. Just read it out.
posted by tomcooke at 12:50 AM on April 26, 2008

Well crap, that's a singularly rubbish piece of news to wake up to. Rubbish enough to spur me into de-lurking here so I can pay my respects.

Like others I know who grew up in "Radio 4 households" Humph and ISIHAC, along with the shipping forecast and the Archers (thankfully that never became a habit), were something that crept into my conciousness and punctuated daily and weekly life at home from as early an age as I can remember . . .

What amazed me about Humph was that he was able (and allowed) to come out with the most unspeakably filthy jokes on a show that was broadcast hours before the watershed.

Samantha's model boat-builder friend having a little tug in the bath and a down-on-his-luck Lionel Blair asking Christopher Biggins if he could bum him for a fiver are paraphrases of the first two of many that spring to mind. A kindly old uncle voice and, as others have said, a jazz musician's timing made for the most subtle and witty delivery of out and out smut I've ever heard.

I have a mental image of me age 13 or so, listening in the kitchen with my parents, utterly clueless of the subtexts that they must have been pissing themselves at. Perhaps the best ever example of the adege that "to the pure, all things are pure".

I'd actually registered a few months ago for updates on the ISIHAC recording schedule, hoping to finally get to a show live and see for myself just what knowing twinkle Humph had in his eye behind that deadpan delivery. Sadly the first update I received a few days ago was notification of the postponement of the next series due to this operation, and now one minor ambition of mine can never be fulfilled.

BBC online has an obituary up now.

And so, as the jazz trumpeteer of time blows the blues of eternity . . .

(There's potential for something in there about Oxbridge sportsmen, but I'm sure far wittier people than I will be putting their own take on that one in tributes to come).

posted by protorp at 1:02 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope Samantha isn't taking it too hard.
posted by randomination at 1:13 AM on April 26, 2008 [8 favorites]

Humph has been on Radio 4 for my entire life.

His obituary from the Today program this morning is worth listening to. It's half an hour long, which tells you how much he meant to people.
posted by pharm at 1:24 AM on April 26, 2008

(OK: 15 minutes in fact.)
posted by pharm at 1:26 AM on April 26, 2008

posted by athenian at 2:15 AM on April 26, 2008

I hope they don't try and replace him with another chairman. ISIHAC just wouldn't work without him (as Tim Brooke-Taylor says in the Times articles linked above).
posted by athenian at 2:22 AM on April 26, 2008

They've been touring ISIHAC as a stage act in the uk lately. Some friends saw it in the week. Rob Brydon stood in for Humph who sent a recorded message from hospital. Probably the last thing he recorded.

He will be hugely missed
posted by devon at 2:35 AM on April 26, 2008

I haven't a clue what to say...

Funniest man on radio. I'll miss his voice and his trumpet.
posted by davehat at 5:02 AM on April 26, 2008


Theydon Bois

*A Triple Helsinki, opening up all options below the diagonal (but only on weekdays).
posted by flashboy at 5:40 PM on April 26, 2008

Barrow Lane

(Using the Keflinger 98 Ruling)
posted by slixtream at 12:09 AM on April 27, 2008

slixtream - pah! Aldgate East. Aldgate East and Aldgate East.

Get out of *that*.
posted by Jofus at 3:43 AM on April 27, 2008

A fitting obituary and tribute would be a round of Mornington Crescent with RMT doubled and pre-Beeching sleepers in oblique, so as to make Kensal Rise (and thus Kensal Green Cemetary) a necessary part of any winning pre-move. A little contrived, perhaps, but I feel it would serve.

Sorry, i know this isn't the place, but the 3rd Edition Rules can suck my dick. I hate the fact that the Overground is now considered valid for tournament play.

I know it speeds it up for TV audiences and casual players but it completely changes the dynamic of a West London sweep.

The whole game has gone to crap since Wizards of the Coast bought the rights. They might as well turn it into a fucking CCG now and get it over and done with.

(gonna miss you humph)
posted by garius at 4:05 AM on April 27, 2008

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