Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Bygraves thrilled his audiences to the Max

Another childhood great gone ...

Max Bygraves, even when I was growing up, was an entertainer from another era.

Even the look - and, let's face it, you could see that he was a good-looking man - was a mixture of World War II spiv and teddy boy.

It didn't recall the summer of love, the '68 riots or the three- day week but rather Macmillan and coffee houses, black and white cathode tubes and variety shows.

Was he a comedian? A singer? An actor? A gameshow host?

To which the answer was, of course, all of the above.

No one - least of all Bygraves - took SingalongaMax LPs seriously. The stand-up routine was a mixture of innocent banter and self-aware corn, with himself more often than not the butt of the joke. The films from the 40s, 50s and 60s were not the stuff of Oscars.

But that really wasn't the point. Max was warm, not anodyne. We liked his act because, well, we liked him.

A bit like Des O'Connor, when he sang we enjoyed it as a three- minute entertainment. It wasn't Dylan, it wasn't Frank, it wasn't even Tom Jones. No, it was a souped-up version of your father doing a turn at a family get together.

When he told a terrible joke we groaned - but it was a groan with genuine affection, not disappointment, in it.

Yet that's not to say that he couldn't tell a joke, sing a song or act an role. Far from it. He could. (In comparison with today's 'talent' Bygraves was near-genius).

But the essence of his act is, well, we liked him. A working-class Londoner, he had no airs and graces. He was one of us. If you wanted your mind taken off your troubles for a few minutes, he was your man. And there's no finer tribute than that.

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