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British Comedy

ISIHAC kazoo band might make it into Guinness World Records
27/04/2008 00:30 GMT

Posted by lisa

According to an article in today's Times Online, a record setting kazoo band lead by Humphrey Lyttelton at the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue date in London earlier this month might make it into the Guiness Book of World Records.

Humphrey Lyttelton delivers swansong with giant kazoo band
Maurice Chittenden

Humphrey Lyttelton, the jazz trumpeter who became doyen of the double entendre as chairman of the quiz show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, is to make a bid from beyond the grave to enter the record books as leader of the world’s biggest kazoo band.

Lyttelton, who died on Friday aged 86 after heart surgery, equipped every member of the 3,550-strong audience with a kazoo at a live version of the radio programme earlier this month at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and encouraged them to hum into the simple instrument.

The feat has been logged with Guinness World Records, which is likely to confirm the breaking of the previous official record set by 2,679 people in Rochester, New York, in 2006.

It will be a typical last achievement by a man who defied all logic to succeed in almost every career he put his hand to.

When once asked by an interviewer what was the secret of his success, Lyttelton leant back and said, only half-jokingly: “I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue.”

His radio programme, in which Lyttelton would make outrageous remarks about the erotic exploits of Samantha, the quiz’s fictitious scorer, was described yesterday by Mark Damazer, controller of Radio 4, as the “most successful” comedy show ever heard on the station.

It has run for 36 years and the BBC must now decide whether to relaunch it with a new chairman. The panel of Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden yesterday ruled themselves out of daring to sit in Lyttelton’s chair.

Frontrunners for the role will include Rob Brydon, who hosted a live show in Bournemouth last week after Lyttelton had gone into hospital for an operation to repair a blocked artery; Jeremy Hardy, who frequently guested on the show to sing the words of one song set to the tune of another; and Paul Merton, who appears on television’s Have I Got News for You and Radio 4’s Just a Minute, the Clue’s closest rival in both longevity – it started in 1967 – and success.

Cryer said yesterday: “They are big shoes to fill. Humph was the very hub of the show and it revolved around him. Leading the kazoo band was typical of him.

“Long-running shows become like soaps with clearly defined characters and I don’t think it would work if a panellist became chairman. It would need somebody of stature to be parachuted in.

“Humph was the coolest man I knew. He was a polymath and an amazing man. He was a great ad-libber. A few years ago he suddenly stopped from reading some nonsense in the middle of a show and looked at the audience and said: ‘I’m 78 for chris-sake’. He got a huge laugh for that.”

Lyttelton did the last gig with his jazz band the night before he went into hospital. He even recorded a special message to introduce last Tuesday’s quiz show in Bournemouth: “Humphrey Lyttelton here. I can’t do the show tonight. I am in hospital. I wish I had thought of this earlier.”

Lyttelton was born in May, 1921, the son of an Eton house-master. He claimed he was descended from another Humphrey Lyttelton who was executed for collaborating in the gunpowder plot with Guy Fawkes.

His musical career started when at the age of 15 he slipped away from an Eton-Harrow cricket match at Lord’s to buy a trumpet.

When, as an acting captain in the Grenadier Guards, he stormed ashore during the allied invasion of Italy in 1943, he held a pistol in one hand and a bag containing his trumpet in the other.

Returning from the war, he became a successful cartoonist at the Daily Mail and a writer of books about music.

He was such an accomplished player of traditional New Orleans jazz that when he wrote his first autobiography at the age of 33 he called it I Play as I Please.

Two years later in 1956 he became the first British jazz musician to have a Top 20 hit single when Bad Penny Blues reached number 19 in the charts. Louis Armstrong, who was a friend, said he was Britain’s best trumpeter: “That cat in England who swings his ass off”.

Chris Barber, who was topping the bill at a jazz festival in Germany with his big band yesterday, said: “Unlike some people who talk about jazz eloquently, he played it right and with a great sense of dignity. He will be very much missed but much honoured in memory.”

Lyttelton had almost completed a new album and a new book before he died.

Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor and an avid jazz fan, said yesterday: “He was a delightful, congenial and civilised man. He did a lot for British jazz. He wasn’t just trad. He was very much more sophisticated than that. He could swing. I always enjoyed listening to his band.”

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