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  1. ITV Report

Max Bygraves dies

Max Bygraves died at his home in Queensland, Australia. Photo: PA

Comedian, singer and variety performer Max Bygraves has died at the age of 89.

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

Bygraves, whose wife Blossom died in May last year after battling a long illness, is survived by one son and two daughters. One of them, Christine Green, was with him when he died.

He was one of the greats of British entertainment. I have nothing but lovely memories of him. He was a big, big influence on me.

– Jimmy Tarbuck

He was born Walter Bygraves in south London in 1922. As a teenager, he sang at a pub in Dagenham for 10 shillings a night. Later Max was to start work with an advertising agency, carrying copy to Fleet Street. He made his first home in a Romford council house. When the Second World War broke out, he volunteered for the RAF and served five years as a fitter.

During this time he realised he could make people laugh and was christened Max for his impressions of the cockney comedian Max Miller.

After the war, Bygraves's commanding officer tipped him off about some auditions at the BBC for a show for ex-servicemen. He went along and got work, singing, telling jokes and doing impersonations.

He turned professional in 1946 and toured variety theatres throughout Britain and three years later made his West End debut at the London Palladium. Her went on to sell millions of albums, appear in films and present game shows. He also topped the bill at more Royal Variety Performances than any other artist.He was awarded an OBE in 1983 but simply described himself as "just an ordinary cockney bloke who made it."