Max Bygraves retires November 2003

Max Bygraves at home in Bournemouth in 1998 on the steps of his newly painted swimming pool.                      Photo Hattie Miles

Max Bygraves Farewell Concert; The Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth.

Max Bygraves took a final bow, blew the audience a kiss and in a remarkably unsentimental end to a career that has lasted nearly 60 years, walked proudly into the wings. With rapturous applause ringing in his ears veteran entertainer Max Bygraves retired in style last night after showing  a sell-out home town crowd that, at the age of 81, he can still deliver the goods.

In a few weeks time he and his wife Blossom will leave their £1 million cliff-top home in Bournemouth and board a plane for a new life in Australia. Last night marked the end of an era. The 1500 strong Pavilion audience had witnessed a show that had seen Max, one of the last great variety entertainers,  sing, tell jokes and even deliver a little of the old soft shoe. He was on fine form serving up tried and tested singalong favourites like  Tulips From Amsterdam, You Are My Sunshine and of course Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer. His  self-penned signature tune You Need Hands, was saved for the finale.

Along the way he skipped deftly through some decidedly risque comedy  material - the invention of Viagra alone it would appear has provided him with enough jokes to fill an entire new  act. In fact it brought a whole new meaning to the term stand-up comic. Surprisingly perhaps his audience, whose combined age must have  been pushing 100,000, lapped it up. The saucier the joke the louder they howled with laughter.The Main support act, Max’s long time showbiz pals Joy, Babs and Teddy, The Beverley Sisters, found this too when they organised their own spot of audience singalong with Flanders and Swann’s gloriously smutty Pee Po Belly Bum Drawers. It almost brought the house down! The Bevs, still bubbly, blonde and remarkably nimble, did what they do best taking an audience, many of whom were old enough to remember  right back to wartime, with a medley of morale boosters like Roll Out The Barrel, Pack Up Your Troubles, All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor and Bless ‘em All. With Max’s son and fellow entertainer Anthony Bygraves acting as compere,  youngsters from the Big Little Theatre School doing an Abba based song and dance routine and music from gypsy jazz trio Ultraswing, this was an old style variety bill. The kind that Max Bygraves  knows so well. For him it was the absolutely perfect way to sign off.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022