Max Bygraves ~ Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be

I Wanna Tell You A Story!

Walter Bygraves was born one of six children in the docklands of south east London and his father was a boxer, he came from a poor council estate background and his is a story of  rags to riches steeped in music hall tradition. When he joined the RAF he used to impersonate Max Miller and that is where he picked up his nickname Max. My nan & grandad once told me he started his career singing in the Beacon pub in my home town Dagenham. Wonder if that is true!

Max had been making a name for himself on the BBC radio show “Educating  Archie” with the catch phrase “Good Idea, Son!” but in 1954 the British Hit Parade came into being and that year was a stellar year for young comic Max with hits with the Tanner Sisters ” Friends & Neighbours” and on his own with “Heart Of My Heart” and the classic ” Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellen Bogen By The Sea” which became a firm family favourite in our house. Also making her UK chart debut that year was Petula Clark with her song “The Little Shoemaker”.

One of my favourites as a kiddie was ” You’re A Pink Tooth Brush” which was on the radio a lot and I  met one of the writers of the song in the mid 80’s who was a fine old gentleman by the name of Bob Halfin who was working as a music publisher for a company called Campbell &  Connelly which sounded like a firm of solicitors but was one of the oldest music publishing companies in Britain.

Over the next couple of years Max appeared in the charts with “Heart” & “Meet Me On The Corner”. In May 1958 he hit No.3 big on the chart with “You Need Hands’ c/w “Tulips From Amsterdam” which became his theme tunes, both songs staying on the charts for 21 weeks that summer and selling over a million copies. At Christmas ’59 Max returned with the Christmas song “Jingle Bell Rock” .                    

In 1960 Bygraves bought the rights to an unknown song that he liked one of the songs from ~ The musical was “Oliver” written by Lionel Bart and the song was “Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be” and after that he never had to count his pennies again!

In the 70’s Max Bygraves enjoyed huge success with his Sing~Along~With Max albums on Pye Records which drew heavily from the nostalgia of music hall of the family medley sing~song! and he dented the charts again in 1973 with the Wink Martindale classic “Deck of Cards”.  Few British all round entertainers have been more loved.                     

I was lucky enough to meet Max Bygraves when one day he parked his beautiful Rolls Royce next to my wreck at ATV House in Marble Arch and he got out said hello and shook my hand.

I will never forget the number plate on the Rolls ~ it was MB 1. Years later Mercedes Benz offered Max one million pounds for that number plate and he turned them down.

When he was awarded the OBE his friend Eric Skyes rang him to asked him if he knew what the intitals OBE stood for! “No” said Max ~ “Over Blinkin’ Eighty” replied Eric.

Great little story from 2003 was that an Oxfam charity shop in Kent banned Max Bygraves records from the shop because they had too many of them already! Good Idea Son!

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