Sunday, April 27, 2008

Humphrey Lyttelton & Camberwell Jazz

When I was putting together my recent Camberwell mix, I did think about including Humphrey Lyttelton, who died this week. For he did go to Camberwell Art College on being discharged from the army in 1946. The obituary in The Independent covers the crucial South East London phase of his career:

'“When I got out of the army I was 25 and didn’t feel like going back to anything very academic, so I went to Camberwell School of Art for a couple of years and round about the same time started playing jazz in various low dives,” he recalled. “I’m sure there was a buzz in the family going round about me, but I was oblivious, sloping off to places like the Nuthouse on Regent Street with my trumpet and a dirty mac over my uniform.” He soon found the required subjects at the School of Art tiresome and concentrated on the comic drawings that came so naturally to him. But his devotion to the trumpet grew ever stronger. Wearing his army battledress, now dyed navy-blue, and sporting a beard and sandals, he played at jam sessions with professional dance-band musicians and began to travel to the Red Barn, a pub in Bexley in Kent, where the pianist George Webb’s band played every Monday night'.

In March 1947 he joined the George Webb Dixielanders and his professional career as a jazz musician was underway. Also in the Dixielanders was another ex-Camberwell student, Wally Fawkes, with whom Lyttelton formed the first Humphrey Lyttelton Band in 1948. Incidentally another important figure in the post-war trad jazz scene, clarinetist Monty Sunshine, went to Camberwell School of Art too.

(picture shows Lyttelton, right, at the Hammersmith Palais in 1951)

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