Max Bygraves was the last of the music hall-style stars, a working class East Ender-made-good who performed at the ends of piers and filled the summer seasons. Cheesy, corny and yet strangely charming, his success was based on hard work and the ability to communicate easily. He became Britain’s top performer, and a legend.
Many years ago I was sent to interview him, a T-shirted long-haired yoof who regarded Bygraves as an old-school relic. He could easily have dismissed me; instead he took me to his club for luncheon, where they brought me a tie on a silver tray so that I’d not look out of place – and over the next two hours he utterly charmed me, even after I rather rudely asked him why he never changed his repertoire.
Max told me; ‘I certainly tried a few times, but whenever I sang something new, the old dears at the back of the stalls would bellow out, ‘Sing ‘You Need Hands’!’ And so we say goodbye to another lovely part of London history.