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Max Bygraves

Max Bygraves

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Max Bygraves OBE  is an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 comedian, singer, actor and variety performer. He appeared on his own television shows, sometimes performing comedy sketches between songs. Shows he presented included the gameshow Family Fortunes
Family Fortunes
Family Fortunes is a British game show, based on the American game show Family Feud. The programme ran on ITV from 6 January 1980 to 6 December 2002 before being revived by the same channel in 2006 under the title of All Star Family Fortunes...


Early life

Max Bygraves was born the son of poor parents in Rotherhithe
Rotherhithe is a residential district in inner southeast London, England and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and the Isle of Dogs on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area...

, southeast London docklands. His father was a professional boxer
Boxing, also called pugilism, is a combat sport in which two people fight each other using their fists. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of between one to three minute intervals called rounds...

 known as Battling Tom Smith, and a casual dockworker. Bygraves attended St. Joseph's Primary School in Rotherhithe
Rotherhithe is a residential district in inner southeast London, England and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and the Isle of Dogs on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area...

. He showed talent as a child singer and performed a solo in Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral in London is the mother church of the Catholic community in England and Wales and the Metropolitan Church and Cathedral of the Archbishop of Westminster...



He left school at 14 to become a messenger for W. S. Crawford, an advertising agency in High Holborn
High Holborn
High Holborn is a road in Holborn in central London, England. It starts in the west near St Giles Circus, then goes east, past the Kingsway and Southampton Row, and continues east. The road becomes Holborn at the junction with Gray's Inn Road....

. When World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 broke out, the advertising business collapsed and Max learned the trade of a carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....

 and then volunteered for the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

. His impression of Max Miller earned him the nickname Max from other airmen. He was increasingly called upon to perform in concert parties wherever he was posted.

After the war, the BBC asked him to perform in a demobilisation show called They're Out with other wartime new talent such as Frankie Howerd
Frankie Howerd
Francis Alick "Frankie" Howerd OBE was an English comedian and comic actor whose career, described by fellow comedian Barry Cryer as "a series of comebacks", spanned six decades.-Early career:...

, Benny Hill
Benny Hill
Benny Hill was an English comedian and actor, notable for his long-running television programme The Benny Hill Show.-Early life:...

, Jimmy Edwards
Jimmy Edwards
Jimmy Edwards DFC was an English comedic script writer and comedy actor on both radio and television, best known as Pa Glum in Take It From Here and as the headmaster 'Professor' James Edwards in Whack-O!-Biography:...

, Harry Secombe
Harry Secombe
Sir Harry Donald Secombe CBE was a Welsh entertainer with a talent for comedy and a noted fine tenor singing voice. He is best known for playing Neddie Seagoon, the central character in the BBC radio comedy series The Goon Show...

 and Spike Milligan
Spike Milligan
Terence Alan Patrick Seán "Spike" Milligan Hon. KBE was a comedian, writer, musician, poet, playwright, soldier and actor. His early life was spent in India, where he was born, but the majority of his working life was spent in the United Kingdom. He became an Irish citizen in 1962 after the...

. This opened the way to a career in light entertainment. In 1951 he appeared at the London Palladium
London Palladium
The London Palladium is a 2,286 seat West End theatre located off Oxford Street in the City of Westminster. From the roster of stars who have played there and many televised performances, it is arguably the most famous theatre in London and the United Kingdom, especially for musical variety...

. Comedian Eric Sykes
Eric Sykes
Eric Sykes, CBE is an English radio, television and film writer, actor and director whose performing career has spanned more than 50 years. He frequently wrote for and/or performed with many other leading comedy performers and writers of the period, including Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Peter...

 became his scriptwriter. He got the part of the tutor in the BBC radio comedy show Educating Archie, where Archie was a ventriloquist's dummy. This made his name nationally and he appeared in a Royal Variety Show. Judy Garland
Judy Garland
Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. Through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years and for her renowned contralto voice, she attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist and on the concert stage...

 invited him to support her for a season in New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...


He acted in several films, notably as Charley Moon
Charley Moon
Charley Moon is a 1956 British film directed by Guy Hamilton. It stars Max Bygraves, Dennis Price and Shirley Eaton.-Cast:* Max Bygraves as Charley Moon* Dennis Price as Harold Armytage* Michael Medwin as Alf Higgins* Florence Desmond as Mary Minton...

 in the film of the same name.

He was awarded the OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 in 1982.

For many years Bygraves, his wife, and his son Anthony lived in the Alum Chine area of Bournemouth
Bournemouth is a large coastal resort town in the ceremonial county of Dorset, England. According to the 2001 Census the town has a population of 163,444, making it the largest settlement in Dorset. It is also the largest settlement between Southampton and Plymouth...

, Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

. Whilst living there he noticed a guest house named "LingaLonga" and from this got the idea for his series of "SingaLonga" albums.

He also hosted the Christmas morning programme from the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital for a number of years.

Personal life

Max Bygraves married WAAF
Women's Auxiliary Air Force
The Women's Auxiliary Air Force , whose members were invariably referred to as Waafs , was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force during World War II, established in 1939. At its peak strength, in 1943, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000, with over 2,000 women enlisting per week.A Women's Royal Air...

Sergeant is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term Sergent....

 Gladys (known as Blossom) Murray in 1942. The couple have three children: Christine (born 1943), Anthony (born 1947) and Maxine (born 1951).

Max has a son, John Rice (born 1946) by landlady Margaret Garriock, and a son, Stephen Rose (born 1961), by actress Pat Marlowe, who committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 in 1962.

During the 1990s he bought an 84 acres (339,936.2 m²) property in northern New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 called Attunga Park.

Max and his wife moved from Bournemouth to Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, Australia, in 2008. She died there in 2011, aged 88. Bygraves has Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

. Bygraves son Anthony now spends a great deal of time with, and cares for him.


  • "Whack-O!" (1960)
  • "The Royal Variety Performance"(1963)
  • "It's Sad About Eddie (1964)
  • "Max" (1969-1974)
  • "Family Fortunes" (1983-1986)
  • "The Mind Of David Berglas (1986)
  • "Call Up The Stars" (1995)

Selected filmography

  • The Nitwits on Parade (1949)
  • Bless 'Em All (1949)
  • Skimpy in the Navy (1949)
  • Tom Brown's Schooldays
    Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951 film)
    Tom Brown's Schooldays is a 1951 British drama film directed by Gordon Parry and starring John Howard Davies, Robert Newton and James Hayter. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Hughes. The screenplay was written by Noel Langley....

  • Charley Moon
    Charley Moon
    Charley Moon is a 1956 British film directed by Guy Hamilton. It stars Max Bygraves, Dennis Price and Shirley Eaton.-Cast:* Max Bygraves as Charley Moon* Dennis Price as Harold Armytage* Michael Medwin as Alf Higgins* Florence Desmond as Mary Minton...

  • A Cry from the Streets
    A Cry from the Streets
    -Cast:* Max Bygraves as Bill Lowther* Barbara Murray as Ann Fairlie* Colin Petersen as Georgie* Dana Wilson as Barbie* Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Farrer* Sean Barrett as Don Farrer* Mona Washbourne as Mrs. Daniels* Eleanor Summerfield as Gloria...

  • Bobbikins
    Bobbikins is a 1959 British film directed by Robert Day. It stars Shirley Jones and Max Bygraves.-Cast:* Shirley Jones as Betty Barnaby* Max Bygraves as Ben Barnaby* Billie Whitelaw as Lydia Simmons* Barbara Shelley as Valerie* Colin Gordon as Dr...

  • Spare the Rod (1961)


  • Sing Along With Max
  • Sing Along With Max Volume 2
  • Sing Along With Max Bygraves
  • Sing It Again Max
  • Singalongamax
  • Singalongamemory
  • Singalongapartysong
  • You Make Me Feel Like Singing A Song
  • Singalongachristmas
  • Singalongamovies
  • Viva ! Congalongamax
  • Singalongabroadway
  • Smile
  • Singalongawaryears
  • Singalongawaryears Volume 2
  • I Wanna Sing You A Story
  • Discolongamax
  • Ling A Long A Max
  • Ling A Long A Max Volume 2
  • 100 Golden Greats
  • Focus On Max Bygraves
  • The World Of Max Bygraves
  • The World Of Max Bygraves Volume 2
  • Max Bygraves Sings
  • Strolling
  • Max Bygraves: At His Very Best
  • The Best Of Max Bygraves
  • I'm Moving On
  • Spotlight On Max Bygraves
  • Goldenhouramax
  • Around The World
  • Something Old, Something New
  • Happy Hits
  • The Wonderful World Of Max Bygraves
  • Max Bygraves Rolls On
  • Songs For Young In Heart
  • Hits Of The Twenties (with Ted Heath)
  • Hits Of The Thirties (with Ted Heath)
  • Max And Ted
  • The Song And Dance Men (with Victor Silvester)
  • Max Bygraves: The Collection
  • Max
  • Unbeatable Bygraves
  • Nursery Rhymes For Grown Ups
  • The Best Of His Hits Of The 50's
  • Big Head
  • Showstoppers
  • Do Re Mi
  • You're My Everything
  • The Best Of Max
  • Twogether (with Acker Bilk)
  • Max A Million: Golden Greats Of The 20's
  • Max A Million: Golden Greats Of The 30's
  • Max A Million: Golden Greats Of The 40's
  • Max A Million: Golden Greats Of The 50's
  • Max A Million: Golden Greats Of The 60's
  • Maximemories
  • Party Sing-Along
  • True Love
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • You Need Hands
  • What A Wonderful World
  • Wandrin Star
  • The Old Fashioned Way
  • Max Bygraves Classics
  • Max Bygraves Collection
  • The Singalong Collection

External links