Charlie Chester, MBE (26 April 1914 – 26 June 1997), was an English comedian, radio and television presenter and writer, broadcasting almost continuously from the 1940s to the 1990s. His style was similar to that of Max Miller.
Life and career
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" 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.
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.
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. On 5 October 1970 he started his weekday show which from 1 October 1972 became his long-running radio show Sunday Soapbox, which in later years came from the BBC's Birmingham studios (previously from Manchester). 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 Chester suffered a stroke, after which he could not walk or talk, in November 1995. Its opening and signature tune was called Music To Drive By by Alan Moorhouse.
Chester presented brass band music in the series Listen to the Band and also featured in the BBC Radio 2 show The Gag Cracker's Ball. In his leisure time he enjoyed painting. He was awarded the MBE in 1990.
- 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)
- Holiday Camp (1947) as himself
- The World Is Full of Charlies (Autobiography) published NEL (1974)