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Variety and TV favourite Max Bygraves dies
Max Bygraves hosting Family Fortunes
Comedian, singer and variety performer Max Bygraves has died aged 89, his agent said.
The veteran entertainer died peacefully in his sleep on Friday at home in Hope Island, Queensland, Australia. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for a number of years.
Agent Johnny Mans said: "His death is a great loss to the entertainment profession and a great loss to all of his friends in the industry."
Max, whose wife Blossom died in May last year after battling a long illness, is survived by three children with his late spouse, and three other children. He also had several grandchildren. One of them, Christine Green, was with him when he died.
Max Bygraves moved to Australia to take advantage of the warm climate.
The world of showbiz loves a rags to riches story, and this is one of them. Born Walter Bygraves in south London in 1922, the young star adopted the name 'Max' after his hero, variety legend Max Miller.
Bygraves was one of six children; the son of an East End docker, he grew up in poverty, but his talent changed his life.
Singing and dancing eventually led to a profession on the stage, radio and television. Enormously popular in post-war Britain, Max released hit after hit, recording evergreen favourites such as Mr Sandman and When You're Smiling. He also penned his own songs, including the one that was most associated with him: You Need Hands.
Little wonder everyone wanted to 'sing-along-a-Max' and he became one of the highest paid stars in Britain.
Over the years, Max enjoyed stints at the London Palladium and the Royal Variety Performance where audiences were guaranteed to hear his much-mimicked catchphrase: "I wanna tell you a story".
His engaging persona and easy manner was well suited to show business; it won him millions of fans.
Paying tribute, Liverpudlian comedian Jimmy Tarbuck said: "He's one of the all-time greats of British showbiz. He'd walk on the stage and have the audience in the palm of his hands quicker than anyone I've ever seen; he was a good singer, he was a good comic. You don't get that love very often; Eric Morecambe had it, Tommy Cooper had it and Max had it in handfuls."
A top entertainer
Max appeared in films, stage shows and hosted gameshow Family Fortunes during a long-running career. Even he was surprised to still be in show business after so many decades: "I didn't dream that it would last this long. I'm almost like a boxer going into the ring. That's what I enjoy; it's a challenge," the variety favourite once said.
Broadcaster Ed Stewart said his friend was a "unique talent" who "gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people". The former radio presenter told BBC News: "He as a person never dated. He was a great character with a great sense of humour, a lovely family and it's just a shame that he's gone, but at nearly 90, he had a good run. He was an entertainer through and through."
Max Bygraves had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago. "He had become confused and often wasn't sure where he was," he said. "He was in good health otherwise, but would have turned 90 on October 16. We were hoping to do a big concert for him soon."
How will you remember Max Bygraves? Share your memories of the great entertainer.
Walter William Bygraves; 16 October 1922 - 31 August 2012
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