Bye Bye Bygraves

The Arts

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.

5 comments on “Bye Bye Bygraves”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    This was the news my husband presented me with at breakfast today. They were great songs.

  2. Aref Dyer says:

    I can recall being taken to see him as a pre teenage young lad, who really wanted to play with Star Wars toys & thinking that I was going to be very bored. It was @ the Winter Gardens in Margate, and like many was utterly charmed by the man. He also had more of a repertoire than I think that he was given credit for, and much like Morecombe & Wise, much more talented than one might initially expect. It is sad to see another figure of British Music hall & light entertainment leave us, as the multitalented performers of yesterday seem to be just whispers in empty chaired auditoriums now.

  3. John Howard says:

    I grew up with the ‘you’re a pink toothbrush, i’m a blue toothbrush” being played on children’s hour and, as we lived abroad from time to time, “you need hands” being played on forces favourites. Definitely part of my childhood and like Morecombe and Wise, part of my memories. Another much missed Londoner, by me at any rate, is Matt Munro, apparently one of Frank Sinatra’s favourite singers.

    The bizarre part of the blog is the fact that you actually interviewed him. Somehow I cant imagine you having the sort of job that would require that. Ah well, another part of the admin life story.

  4. glasgow1975 says:

    🙁 sad news, that hasn’t seemed to filter out to Australia yet, do you think folk today will be reminiscing like this over Jordan karking it? I doubt it . . .

  5. Bob Low says:

    My Dad, who listened predominantly to Classical music, was a huge Matt Munro fan. I remember buying him a boxed set of Matt Munro cds for his birthday one year, and being surprised how good a singer the man was-he seems to have been appreciated more in the States than in his homeland.

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