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At 79 years old at the time of writing (2001 - I haven't been able to find a birthdate on the web) Humphrey Lyttelton is one of the last great living legends of the British trad jazz boom.

The trad jazz boom was a curious affair in which British teenagers of the 50s became enamoured with the Dixieland music of the 1920s, and propelled many British musicians such as Lyttelton, George Melly, Chris Barber and Acker Bilk to fame for a brief time.

Lyttelton, while a traditionalist, is an exemplary jazz trumpeter, and recorded at least one minor classic, the often-covered Bad Penny Blues. This track was also the inspiration (ie they ripped it off totally) for the Beatles' Lady Madonna. George Martin recently did a TV series for the BBC about music, and as a finish to the first episode, to show the universality of music, he put together a montage of musicians from around the world playing along with this track. (The track also was the inspiration for a Beatles work-in-progress called Bad Finger Blues which became With A Little Help From My Friends and gave Badfinger their name).

Since the early 70s Lyttelton has had a parallel career as a radio presenter. For Radio 2 he has presented a regular jazz show, which sticks to classics but has a far wider scope than Lyttelton's traditionalism would lead one to expect, while for Radio 4 he has been the regular presenter for nearly 30 years of the hilarious I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

This last show has led to Lyttelton having something of a cult following among successive generations who would not otherwise listen to his music, and he has recently been championed by Radiohead, leading to his band playing on the same bill as acts such as Sigur Ros and Supergrass, as well as his guest appearance on Radiohead's recent album Amnesiac.

Editor's note: Humphrey Lyttelton was born in Eton on 23 May 1921 and died in Barnet (London) on 25 April 2008.

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