Max Bygraves

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Max Bygraves
Born Walter William Bygraves
(1922-10-16)16 October 1922
Rotherhithe, London, England, UK
Died 31 August 2012(2012-08-31) (aged 89)
Hope Island, Queensland, Australia
Occupation English comedian, singer, actor and variety performer
Spouse(s) Gladys "Blossom" Murray
(m. 1942–2011, her death); 3 children

Max Bygraves, OBE (born Walter William Bygraves; 16 October 1922 – 31 August 2012) was an English comedian, singer, actor and variety performer. He appeared on his own television shows, sometimes performing comedy sketches between songs. He made twenty Royal Variety Performance appearances and presented numerous programmes, including Family Fortunes.

Early life[edit]

Bygraves was born to Henry and Lillian (née McDonnell) Bygraves (who wed in 1919) in London,[1] where he grew up in poverty in a two-room council flat with his five siblings, his parents and a grandparent.[2] His father was a professional flyweight boxer, known as Battling Tom Smith, and a casual dockworker.[3] Raised Catholic, he attended St Joseph's School, Paradise Street, Rotherhithe, and sang with his school choir at Westminster Cathedral.[1]

He left school at 14, working at the Savoy Hotel in London as a pageboy, but was sacked for being too tall. He then became a messenger for an advertising agency in Fleet Street, before serving as a fitter in the RAF in World War II and working as a carpenter.[4] He changed his name to Max Bygraves in honour of comedian Max Miller.[5]

Career[edit]

Bygraves' catchphrase was said to be: "I wanna tell you a story".[5] It was actually Mike Yarwood who made up that phrase, from Bygraves' "I want to tell you a joke". He portrayed the title character in the 1956 film Charley Moon. It was revealed that Bygraves had bought the past and future rights to the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! for £350 to help Bart out of his severe financial difficulties. Bygraves later sold them for £250,000.[6]

In the 1950s and 60s, Bygraves appeared as a guest on several television variety programs both in the UK and United States. These included Ed Sullivan, Jack Benny, and Jackie Gleason, in America, but his place as a broadcasting icon was founded, along with several fellow artists, by appearing as guest 'tutor', to Peter Brough's ventriloquist dummy, Archie Andrews, in the long running BBC radio show Educating Archie.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1961 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews while rehearsing his new show, Do Re Mi, at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre.

From 1983 to 1985, Bygraves hosted Family Fortunes, taking over from his friend and fellow comedian Bob Monkhouse. He would later be succeeded as host in 1987 by Les Dennis.[citation needed]

In 1982 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[7]

Personal life[edit]

Bygraves married WAAF sergeant Gladys "Blossom" Murray in 1942. The couple had three children: Christine, Anthony, and Maxine. Bygraves also had three other children from extramarital affairs: John Rice,[5] Beverly Mayhew-Sass[8] and Stephen Rose.[5]

On 9 August 1974, Bygraves became stuck on a cliff near his house in Westbourne, Bournemouth, when a kite flown by his grandson Michael became trapped beneath the edge of the cliff. He suffered friction burns on his hands and was in shock when police and firefighters helped him to safety.[9]

In 1999, Bygraves underwent treatment for an ear disorder having cancelled a number of performances on his doctor's advice.[10]

Max and Blossom Bygraves moved from Bournemouth to Queensland, Australia, in 2008.[5] She died there in 2011, aged 88.[5]

Death[edit]

Bygraves died on 31 August 2012, aged 89, at his home in Hope Island, Queensland, Australia, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.[11][12]

Television[edit]

  • Whack-O! (1960)
  • The Royal Variety Performance (1963)
  • It's Sad About Eddie (1964)
  • Max (1969–1974)[13][14]
  • Max Bygraves Says "I Wanna Tell You a Story" (1976–77)[15]
  • Singalongamax (1978–80)[16]
  • Max Bygraves - Side By Side (1982)[17]
  • Family Fortunes (1983–1985)
  • The Mind of David Berglas (1986)
  • Call Up the Stars (1995)

Selected filmography[edit]

Discography[edit]

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
UK[18]
1952: "Cowpuncher's Cantata" 6
1954: "Heart of My Heart" 7
"Gilly, Gilly, Ossenfeffer, Katzenellen Bogen by the Sea" 7
1955: "Mr Sandman" 16
"Meet Me on the Corner" 2
1956: "Ballad of Davy Crockett" 20
"Out of Town" 18
1957: "Heart" 16
1958: "You Need Hands" /
"Tulips From Amsterdam"
3
"Little Train" /
"Gotta Have Rain"
28
1959: "My Ukelele" 19
"Jingle Bell Rock" 7
1960: "Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be" 5
"Consider Yourself" 50
1961: "Bells of Avignon" 36
1969: "You're My Everything" 34
1973: "Deck of Cards" 13
1989: "White Christmas" 71

Albums[edit]

  • The World Of Max Bygraves (1969) #6
  • Sing Along With Max (1972) #4
  • Singalongamax Vol. 2 (1972) #11
  • Singalongamax Vol. 3 (1973) #5
  • Singalongamax Vol. 4 (1973) #7
  • Singalongaparty Song (1973) #6
  • You Make Me Feel Like Singing A Song (1974) #39
  • Singalongaxmas (1974) #21
  • 100 Golden Greats (1976) #3
  • Lingalongamax (1978) #39
  • The Song And Dance Men (1978) #67
  • Singalongawaryears (1989) #5
  • Singalongawaryears Volume 2 (1989) #33

[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Guardian obituary. Retrieved 1 September 2012
  2. ^ "Max Bygraves BBC obituary". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Mercer, Laurie. "Max Bygraves bio". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "Obituary. Retrieved 1 September 2012". Daily Telegraph. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Simon Cable, "Agony of Max Bygraves as his wife of 69 years dies three years after they left Britain", The Daily Mail, 24 May 2011.
  6. ^ By:. "Max Bygraves - Obituaries". The Stage. Retrieved 2013-02-15. 
  7. ^ Caitlin Marsh, "Fans send Max Bygraves best wishes from Bournemouth", Bournmouth Daily Echo, 4 April 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  8. ^ Helen Weathers (29 July 2011). "Dad was such a coward to turn his back on me: Max Bygraves' THIRD lovechild bares her pain at being spurned for half a century by the star whose love she craved". Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  9. ^ "Max Bygraves rescued from cliffs". The Glasgow Herald. 10 August 1974. p. 7. 
  10. ^ "Entertainment: Bygraves suffers ear problems". BBC News (BBC). 21 May 1999. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Edwards, Anna (1 September 2012). "Veteran entertainer Max Bygraves dies aged 89 after battle with Alzheimer's". Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  12. ^ "Veteran entertainer Max Bygraves dies". Retrieved 1 September 2012
  13. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | MAX". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  14. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | MAX". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  15. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | Max Bygraves Says "I Wanna Tell You a Story"". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  16. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | The DESERT SONG". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  17. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | Max Bygraves - Side By Side". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  18. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 120. ISBN 0-00-717931-6. 
  19. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Max Bygraves". The Official Charts Company. 5 May 2013. 

External links[edit]