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Performer Max Bygraves dies aged 89

The former Family Fortunes presenter died peacefully in his sleep at home in Hope Island, Queensland, Australia. Photo: Neil Munns/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Comedian, singer and variety performer Max Bygraves has died aged 89, his agent said.

The veteran entertainer died peacefully in his sleep at home in Hope Island, Queensland, Australia, yesterday.

Helen Callaghan looks back at his career.

His agent Johnny Mans said: "His death is a great loss to the entertainment profession and a great loss to all of his friends in the industry."

Bygraves, whose wife Blossom died in May last year after battling a long illness, is survived by one son and two daughters.

Max Bygraves (left) and Johnny Speight (Right) with Erik Sykes. Credit: Press Association/PA Archive/Press Association Images

One of them, Christine Green, was with him when he died, Mr Mans said.

He also had several grandchildren.

The couple moved to Australia several years ago to take advantage of the warm climate.

Born Walter Bygraves in south London in 1922, he adopted the name Max after his hero Max Miller.

Entertainer Max Bygraves. Credit: Tony Harris/PA Archive/Press Association Images

He appeared in films, stage shows and hosted gameshow Family Fortunes during a long-running career.

Thirteen year-old singing star Lena Zavoroni getting a lift from entertainer Max Bygraves at the London Palladium in 1976. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Broadcaster Ed Stewart said his friend was a "unique talent" who "gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people". He told BBC News:

He as a person never dated.

He was a great character with a great sense of humour, a lovely family and it's just a shame that he's gone, but at nearly 90, he had a good run.

He was a unique talent, and everything he sang and everything he did, just about, made money for him and the family.

Like everybody else in those days, he was viewed with a lot of respect. He was an entertainer through and through.

There were one or two others at the time but Max was the doyen of them all, and this likeable lad was just on everybody's radio sets in the days of the BBC when you only had the live programmes.

Those programmes and those records of his gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and were huge sellers.

– Broadcaster Ed Stewart
Max Bygraves performing at the Theatre Royal in London. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, a close friend of Bygraves, has paid tribute to "one of the greats of British entertainment".

"I have nothing but lovely memories of him. He was a big, big influence on me, " he told BBC News.

Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck pays tribute to Max Bygraves. Credit: Press Association

Mr Tarbuck added: "He had the audience in the palm of his hand quicker than any other comedian I have seen.

"They loved him and you don't get that love very often.

"He had a great deal of charm.

"He could be very cheeky - he was a rascal.

"He would stroll on and just wow them. He was one of the all-time greats of British entertainment - a king of the Palladium.

"He would have them roaring with laughter, singing along and with a tear in their eye."

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  • Max Bygraves: In pictures

    Performer Max Bygraves has died aged 89. Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck has described him as "one of the greats of British entertainment".