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Early British jazz star and BBC broadcasterCopyright © 2008
A ubiquitous figure on Britain's arts and culture scene for more than 50 years, Humphrey Lyttleton was equally accomplished as a jazz musician, broadcaster, writer and cartoonist. He died at 86, following an operation for an aneurism.
The son of a senior schoolmaster at the prestigious Eton college, Lyttleton had a privileged upbringing and began playing jazz while still in school. After service with the Grenadier Guards in World War II he joined the staff of the Daily Mail as a cartoonist and in 1947 became a professional musician with George Webb's Dixielanders. In 1948, he formed his own band, which reflected the influence of Louis Armstrong's early groups. His recording of "Bad Penny Blues" in 1956 became the first British jazz single to enter the top 20 charts.
By the late '50s, Lyttleton was moving beyond Armstrong's influence. He began introducing young saxophonists into his band, and his roster of sidemen included future stars like Joe Temperley and John Surman.
Beginning in 1967, Lyttleton was a frequent presence on BBC Radio, hosting The Best Of Jazz and a quiz program, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, which he continued to host until a week before his death.
Lyttleton also wrote several books of music criticism, an autobiography and three semi-autobiographical books. In 1983, he founded the Calligraph record label.