The label was founded in 1983. It was not the first time that Humph had started his own label. In 1948/49, after making a few initial recordings with Tempo, a small independent label, he felt the urge to be independent himself and launched London Jazz.
The result was five 78rpm records during the period, each one a (very) limited edition for distribution to fans of the band. Though the ten titles recorded (see Humphrey Lyttelton's discography) made barely perceptible ripples on the surface of the global music industry, they did draw the attention of Parlophone Records to the band.
Humph and his then manager Lyn Dutton were summoned to the office of Oscar Preuss, who was in charge of artists' bookings. A deal was struck that led to an association with Parlophone that lasted for over a decade. Since Oscar Preuss's style as "producer" was to waft into the studio twice a day, ask "Is everything all right?" and waft out again, Humph's appetite for independence was assuaged and early collaborations with West Indian and Australian musicians are to be found in his discography.
So how come another dash for independence and the founding of Humph's Calligraph label fifty-odd years later? The reasons were much the same as before. The first record for Parlophone sold 4,000 copies in the first month and prompted Oscar Preuss to scrawl over our first statement "Who would have thought this ?".
Today, a return like that would be contemptuously "held over until the next statement" - and the next, and the next... The recording industry has become a monster, prompting many artists to break away from producers, a & r persons and other high-pressure intermediaries and embrace the principle that "small" is best.
So, for the first vinyl album on Calligraph that came out in 1984, (It Seems Like Yesterday, Calligraph CLG 1), Humph chose the studio, the photographer and the printers himself and brought in a guest Wally Fawkes, his old friend and colleague from the early band. The choice was a symbolic as well as a musically happy one.
It links the relative amateurishness of independent record production in the old days to the professionalism of today. For it was Wally who, in the private studio in which we made our DIY London Jazz recordings, lobbed a still smouldering cigarette-end into a bin of highly inflammable waste-product and brought the session to end in a cloud of impenetrable smoke.