Charlie Chester

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For the rugby footballer of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, see Charles Chester (rugby).
Charlie Chester in 1954

Charlie Chester (26 April 1914 – 26 June 1997) was an English comedian and TV and radio presenter, broadcasting almost continuously from the 1940s to the 1990s. His style was similar to that of Max Miller.

Life and career[edit]

Chester was born Cecil Victor Manser in Eastbourne, Sussex. His first job after leaving education was as a grocer's errand boy, but he won talent competitions for his musical instrument playing and singing. Working as a travelling salesman for an embroidery company, Chester realised he had the gift of the gab and decided to become a professional comedian. Known as "Cheerful"[1] Charlie Chester, he was well known to British audiences in the 1940s from his BBC radio show Stand Easy. This show was adapted for television as The Charlie Chester Show in 1949 and became a standup and sketch show for the next 11 years. Frequent cast members included Edwina Carroll, Eric 'Jeeves' Grier, Len Lowe, Deryck Guyler, Len Marten, Arthur Haynes and Frederick Ferrari. A later recurring mini-serial in the show was "Whippit Kwik the Cat Burglar", whose whistled signature tune made Chester a national favourite. Tenor St Clair was replaced by Ferrari, known as "The Voice", and for whom Chester wrote the signature song "When Love Descended like an Angel". That was in fact the only fragment written, until listeners' demands forced him to write a full version so that Ferrari could record it.[2]

Chester's radio shows included A Proper Charlie and That Man Chester. Another series – which started out as a section of The Charlie Chester Show in 1950 – was the quiz Pot Luck, the first British TV programme to offer prizes for correctly answering questions.[3]

In 1961, Chester starred in a BBC series called Charlie Chester On Laughter Service, a music and comedy show which visited military bases throughout Britain. Most were co-written by Bernard Botting and Charlie Hart. Late in his career, Chester appeared in the Channel 4 television sitcom Never Say Die.

In the 1960s he began presenting a record show on the BBC Light Programme, later BBC Radio 2. 1969 saw the start of his weekday show and then it became his long-running radio show Sunday Soapbox which came from the BBC's Birmingham studios. He opened the programme each week with the introduction "With a box full of records and a bag full of post, it's radio Soapbox and Charlie your host!" The programme was transmitted on Sunday afternoons until 1996. Its opening and signature tune was called Music To Drive By by Alan Moorhouse.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1961 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.

In 1963 Charlie Chester after being approached by Welsh Casino owner George Alfred James to have his name used as part of a London Clubs rebranding. The Contessa club owned by a Mr. Gazda and Mr.Karini was renamed the Charlie Chester Casino.[4]

Chester presented brass band music in a programme which started in 1984 and also featured in the BBC Radio 2 show The Gag Cracker's Ball. In his leisure time he enjoyed painting.[citation needed]

He suffered a stroke and died in Twickenham on 26 June 1997 aged 83.

TV credits[edit]

  • The Charlie Chester Show (1949) (performer and writer)
  • Christmas Box (1955) (performer)
  • Educated Evans (1957) (performer)
  • These Are The Shows (1957) (performer)
  • The Two Charleys (1959) (performer)
  • Charlie Chester On Laughter Service (1961) (performer and writer)
  • Jokers Wild (1969) (performer)
  • Never Say Die (1987) (performer)


  • The World Is Full of Charlies (Autobiography) published NEL (1974)


  1. ^ per Russell Davies, (Show) BBC Radio 2, Sunday 15 April 2007: common form of nickname "Cheeky" is incorrect
  2. ^ "Obituary: Charlie Chester" by Denis Gifford at
  3. ^ URL retrieved 14 April 2009.
  4. ^ Live Casino and Charlie chester, Live Casino

External links[edit]