ENTERTAINMENT
02/09/2012 07:11 BST | Updated 02/09/2012 07:23 BST

Max Bygraves Dead: Showbiz World Pays Tribute To Late Entertainer (PICTURES, VIDEO)

The entertainment world has paid tribute to showbiz giant Max Bygraves.

The 89-year-old comedian, singer and variety performer, whose catchphrase was "I wanna tell you a story", died peacefully in his sleep at home in Hope Island, Queensland, Australia.

Born Walter Bygraves in south London in 1922, he adopted the name Max after his hero Max Miller, going on to appear in dozens of films and stage shows during a long-running career.

His close friend, comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, said: "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."

Max Bygraves died aged 89

Tarbuck told BBC News: "He had the audience in the palm of his hand quicker than any other comedian I have seen. They loved him and you don't get that love very often. He would stroll on and just wow them. He was one of the all-time greats of British entertainment - a king of the Palladium. He would have them roaring with laughter, singing along and with a tear in their eye."

Actress Barbara Windsor told the Sunday Mirror: "The public absolutely loved him. Some people thought he just walked out on stage and did his thing, but he had the whole package. He was incredibly talented. He was one of the good ones and he'll always be remembered."

Comedian Ken Dodd described Bygraves as a "magical performer".

He told BBC News: "He was absolutely brilliant - an excellent comedian, a very good singer and quite a good actor. Yes, he was a giant of showbusiness, a wonderful, wonderful man."

The entertainment world have paid touching tributes to the late star

Veteran entertainer Des O'Connor said Bygraves had been a massive influence on his own career and had given him valuable guidance when he started out. He said he wrote to him asking him for help and he was touched when he replied with a two-page handwritten letter full of advice.

O'Connor said: "I used to use it as a rule book when I was starting out and over the years everything he's said has been helpful to me."

He described Bygraves as a "top, top professional".

He added: "They (audiences) loved him. He had a really homely humour. He had his catchphrase and he sold a lot of records. He was a good all-round performer. He was a lovely man, I can only say nice things about him."

Bygraves had two daughters and a son with his late wife Gladys, known as Blossom. She died in May last year after battling a long illness. He is also survived by several grandchildren. The couple had moved from their home in Poole, Dorset, to Australia several years ago to take advantage of the warm climate.

Chirpy cockney Bygraves, one of nine children, lived in a council flat in Rotherhithe but went on to become a multi-millionaire. He won a school talent competition at the age of 13, and as an altar boy made his first public appearance singing Handel's Largo in Westminster Cathedral.

Bygraves's agent Johnny Mans said he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago.

"He had become confused and often wasn't sure where he was," he said. "He was in good health otherwise but would have turned 90 on October 16 so was pretty ancient. We were hoping to do a big concert for him soon."

Mr Mans added: "His death is a great loss to the entertainment profession and a great loss to all of his friends in the industry."