'I wanna tell you a story': English entertainer Max Bygraves dies at age 89

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Monday, September 3, 2012

English television presenter and variety performer Max Bygraves died Friday at his home in Australia. The comedian, who was born in Rotherhithe in the British capital London, was 89 years old. Johnny Mans, Bygraves' agent, confirmed Bygraves had died as he slept in his home of Hope Island, in the Australian state of Queensland, Friday night.

"We have lost one of the best entertainers that Britain has ever produced", said Mans, calling his death "a great loss to the entertainment profession and a great loss to all of his friends in the industry."

Bygraves, whose catchphrase was "I wanna tell you a story", was born Walter William Bygraves in 1922. He received the first name Max for impersonating Max Miller, another English comedian, while entertaining at the Royal Air Force [RAF]. He became an entertainer there having been prohibiting from joining the RAF for having inadequate eyesight. Bygraves became notable for performing various self-composed comedic songs, as well as for his appearances on the Royal Variety Show. He was at one time the presenter of ITV game show Family Fortunes.

"He as a person never dated," ex-radio broadcaster Ed Stewart said of Bygraves, who was his friend. "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 an entertainer through and through." His works provided "a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and were huge sellers," Stewart said.

During 2005, Bygraves emigrated to Australia from his UK residence in Bournemouth, in the south west of England. His family reported that he was experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia, earlier this year. Bygraves is survived by six children, three of whom he conceived with his wife Blossom Murray, whom he married in 1942. Murray died in 2011.