Comic Jimmy Tarbuck has led the tributes to Max Bygraves following the legendary entertainer’s death at home in Australia at the age of 89.
In a statement Tarbuck described Bygraves as “the king of the Palladium. He ruled it when he was on there, it was a joy to watch him win an audience and he would have them roaring with laughter, he would have them singing along, he could have them with a tear in their eye if he did a sentimental song, just a great, great all round entertainer.”
The London-born singer, comedian and actor grew up in East End poverty to become the UK’s highest-paid entertainer during a career that included hosting his own television programmes, appearing in 20 Royal Variety shows, and sales of 31 million copies of his long-running Singalongamax recordings. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for some time.
After seeing wartime service in the RAF, he found fame with the popular radio comedy Educating Archie, which he co-wrote with Eric Sykes. Adding a hefty dash of sentiment and nostalgia to an act that was part music hall, part crooner, part cheeky chappy, borrowing his stage name from Max Miller, he became one of the UK’s most popular entertainers over much of his five-decade-long career.
He appeared in serious drama on television and film, enjoyed success as a songwriter, and was thought to have made a fortune from ownership of the rights to Oliver Bart’s Oliver!
He retired to Australia in 2005, where he died in his sleep, in Hope Island, Queensland, on August 31.
A full obituary will appear in the print edition of The Stage.