Wednesday, April 30, 2008

R.I.P.: Humphrey Lyttelton

Humphrey Lyttelton, 86, Host of a BBC Radio Game Show, Dies
Published: April 28, 2008

Humphrey Lyttelton, a jazz trumpeter and broadcaster who was host of the surreal BBC Radio game show “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue,” died here on Friday. He was 86.

The performer’s Web site,, said Mr. Lyttelton died at a London hospital after surgery. It did not give further details.

Born into a prominent British family and educated at the elite Eton College, Mr. Lyttelton was a jazz fanatic who taught himself to play the trumpet as a teenager. He became an accomplished musician — Louis Armstrong once called him Britain’s best trumpeter — and made a series of records for EMI with his Lyttelton Band.

He toured with the band well into his 80s and made a guest appearance on the Radiohead track “Life in a Glass House” in 2001. The jazz trumpeter Digby Fairweather told the BBC that Mr. Lyttelton “was, in the best possible way, a jazz machine.”

But for many he was best known as the host of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue,” a role he had filled since 1972. The program built up a passionate following with its mix of silliness, wordplay and innuendo.

Mr. Lyttelton was a master of ribald double-entendres — usually involving the show’s fictitious scorekeeper, “the lovely Samantha” — delivered in his deadpan, upper-class voice. He was also famous for his imaginative sign-offs, which would begin, for example, “As the delicate mayfly of time collides with the speeding windscreen of fate.”

His varied career included World War II service in the Grenadier Guards and a stint as a cartoonist for The Daily Mail. He also wrote books about music.

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