British entertainer Max Bygraves, a veteran singer and comedian known for his old-fashioned charm, died in his sleep Friday at his daughter’s home in Hope Island, Queensland, Australia. He was 89 and had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Bygraves won fame in Britain’s music halls and theaters after WWII, becoming one of the country’s best known variety performers and releasing dozens of popular records.
Famed for his catchphrase “I wanna tell you a story,” Bygraves become a staple performer on radio through the 1950s and later appeared frequently on British television shows and in a small number of films.
Born to an east London dockworker, Bygraves performed regularly for the royal family, first in 1950 for King George VI.
“He was one of the all-time greats of British show business,” comedian Jimmy Tarbuck told BBC television.
The performer’s career spanned six decades, with Bygraves recording an album in 2001 for the Royal British Legion charity. He was best known for the songs “You Need Hands” and the novelty hit “You’re a Pink Toothbrush.”
Bygraves also won brief acclaim in the U.S., where he toured in the 1950s and appeared alongside Judy Garland at New York’s Palace Theater.
The entertainer emigrated from Britain to Australia in 2005.