A Humph’s eye view

The people who come to dance on Humphrey Lyttleton’s jazz show

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 1 December 1957

HUMPHREY LYTTELTON is more than just the Old Etonian wizard with a trumpet we see in Here’s Humph on Friday evenings. He is an artist, too. In fact, at one time he used to draw for a national newspaper.

Line drawing of Humphrey Lyttleton
Humph – by Humph

And though he may appear to be oblivious of everything except the music when he is playing, he sees more than most of us—as you can tell from the pictures on these pages of his band and the studio audience, drawn by him specially for TV TIMES.

For the studio viewers at Here’s Humph are not like the average audience at television shows. They do not just sit quietly while the show goes on the air. Who could expect jazz fans aged between 15 and 24 to keep still while the Lyttelton beat is at its best? Certainly not Granada.

Line drawing of Johnnie Picard
Johnnie Picard

That is why there is a pear-shaped outline on the floor drawn in red chalk in front of the band dais in Studio One. Within this scarlet boundary the youngsters at the show can dance.

Line drawing of Tony Coe
Tony Coe

And dance they do. A few prefer to watch and keep their seats at the ringside tables, where they arc served with soft drinks. But the others stand at the back of the studio and. as Humph begins a new tune, they ooze — that’s the only word for their concerted shuffle — into the “pear” like blancmange flowing into a mould.

It’s an experience to watch the variations of jive they perform — as seen by Humph from the bandstand. There are:

THE HOPPERS: Boy holds girl’s hand and she hops. Sometimes on both feet, sometimes on alternate feet, matching her speed to the rhythm. Occasionally boy hops. too. Then, with the occasional, lazy flick of the wrist, he sends the young lady spinning.

Line drawing of Eddie Taylor
Eddie Taylor

THE KICKERS: (rather dangerous when there are 30 jiving couples on a night-club-size floor). Boy and girl lean forward until their noses almost touch, as in the first stages of an Eskimo romance. They hold both hands loosely, pump their arms in time to the music and kick their legs behind them. Room is made for them by —

THE INHIBITED: (usually the younger set, a little unsure of themselves and perhaps too formally dressed). They circle the floor in a speedy quickstep attached to a bobbing action.

Line drawing of Brian Brocklehurst
Brian Brocklehurst

THE TWIRLERS: (recognisable at once because the girl always wears a pretty, layered petticoat beneath her full skirt — you can’t help seeing it). This is the most relaxing for the boy — he stands fairly still and holds out his arm while his partner spins round and round, using his tensed hand as an axis.

These jive fans show the degree of their enthusiasm by their dress. Valerie Ralph, 22 years old, of Cheetham Hill, Manchester, and her 21-year-old friend, Norma Davies, a student teacher at a Didsbury college, both wore velvet drain pipe trews and brilliant-coloured, thick-knit sweaters. Their hair was neat and styled so that it could not flop in their eyes.

I was hardly surprised to learn they were crazy about jazz, and that most of their leisure time is spent listening and dancing to the music.

“We go to jazz clubs four times a week,” Norma told me. It was through one of these clubs they got their tickets. “I collect jazz records,” said Valerie, “particularly Humph’s.”

Line drawing of Kathleen Stobart
Kathleen Stobart

Their partners were Trevor Vickerstaff, a 22-year-old in a yellow sweater, who lives at Rusholme. Manchester, and 22-year-old John Corness, who wore a brown sweater with his casual slacks. Like the girls, they had got their tickets through a club, which is the way most of them are distributed.

Trevor said: “This is my fifth visit.” I noticed he and John took their partners to the least crowded part of the floor — the section where one camera was constantly tracking backwards and forwards for close-ups of the band and general shots of the dancers.

This worried some of the newcomers, and they kept away from the camera, but not the Trevor-John quartet. They were adept at ducking out of the way, although John did get his head lightly tapped once, which amused the others.

Line drawing of Jimmy Skidmore
Jimmy Skidmore

Trevor is a member of four Manchester jazz clubs, and he collects records. “I have 12 of Humph’s recordings,” he told me proudly, “and my favourite is Bad Penny Blues

This was not one of the tunes Humph played that evening, but his music certainly pleased 15-year-old Sylvia Palmer, an office worker from Swinton, Lancs, and her teenage friend, Rosalind Lewis, from the same town.

Both members of a jazz club, this evening marked their first visit to a TV studio. At first they seemed overawed and sat, shyly sipping their soft drinks, at a side table. But a few minutes of Humph’s music — he plays to the youngsters for 45 minutes before the show goes on the air — and they were dancing, too.

“I really love his music,” Sylvia told me. “I am saving up for a record player so that I can hear it when I like in my own home.”

Line drawing of Ian Armit
Ian Armit

Jazz club member with a wardrobe of circular skirts — as popular as jeans among enthusiastic jivers — was 19-year-old Dorothy Machen, of Newton Heath, Manchester. The one she was wearing was black wool with huge white felt, diamante-studded guitars sewn on it. “I like to dress up for Humph’s shows,” she told me. “I treat them like a party.”

Indeed, there was quite a party atmosphere in the studio. The people were as happy and relaxed as those dancers who are members of his Oxford-street, London, jazz club. There was not a sign of TV nerves.

The members of the band — including one woman player, tenor – saxophonist Kathie Stobart, who has joined the group for the last weeks of the programme’s scheduled run — had lost themselves in the music.

And so had Humph. He stood, tall, burly and broad-shouldered in front of his band. Humph, the Old Etonian in a high-necked sweater, who is a wizard with the trumpet and his interpretation of free jazz.

Humph enjoys talking to the teenagers who appreciate his music. Many have become his personal friends — and this is not a story handed out by a publicity man. Three years ago Humph married a teenage fan who talked to him during a show. Her name was Jill Richardson.

5 line drawings of young people
They rock… They roll… They swig… And they swing… They’re all Humph’s fans

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