Bygraves OBE is a legend, an entertainer in the fullest
sense of the word with a fairytale career in variety, radio, films,
television, song writing and records. It is nearly sixty years
since his first professional appearance at the Roxy Theatre,
Falkirk in 1943 where he earned just £5.10s for three nights.
Max made his entry onto the world stage as Walter
Bygraves in 1922. Born in Rotherhithe by the docks in east London,
he was one of seven sharing a two-roomed council flat. War-time
found him an apprentice carpenter by day and, by night, entertaining
in local air raid shelters. With two younger sisters evacuated,
a brother serving and his docker father often posted to ports throughout
Britain, the flat seemed spacious.
The docks proved to be a magnet for enemy bombers
and took a pasting. Infuriated by a near miss whilst repairing
war damage, he volunteered for the RAF two months before his eighteenth
birthday where he appeared in well over 1,000 RAF concert parties
acquiring on the way the title of the ‘Best Act in Fighter
Command’ as well as being Aircraftsman Second Class 1212094
and doing his share of guard duties on draughty airfields.
It was then that he met and married WAAF Sergeant ‘Blossom’ Murray
in 1942. They eventually produced three children, Christine (1943),
Maxine (1951) and son Anthony (1947) who is now Max’s personal
manager in between pursuing his own career as a songwriter.
After the war, Max returned to his trade as a
carpenter to support a young family on £6.00 a week - but
then came his first break, a radio broadcast with the BBC an opportunity
he shared with a very nervous Frankie Howerd. That broadcast led
to a job in a touring revue ‘For the Fun of It ’ which
lasted 61 weeks.
Learning his trade in the 200 variety theatres
then flourishing throughout the land, Max gradually worked his
way up the bill. He was already a star when food, sweets, petrol,
and furniture were still rationed after the war.
There followed a dazzling career spanning over
50 years in variety, records, television, and film, winning many
awards on the way and earning a reputation as a consummate professional
and master of stagecraft.
Max now spends much of his time at his
holiday home in in Australia with a move to a 14th storey apartment
in Twin Towns in New South Wales imminent. He is contenting himself
with sallying forth for selected concerts throughout the world
where the name ‘Max Bygraves‘ on the bill still guarantees ‘Sold
Out ’ notices.