1 9 4 9 – 1 9 6 0 (UK)
47 x 60 minute episodes
Charlie Chester’s most successful television series ran for 11 years on BBC television but ended just as TV’s first golden age was about to start.
Born Cecil Victor Manser in Eastbourne on 26 April 1914, Chester was the son of a cinema sign-painter and a singing mother.
At the age of seven, Charlie won a children’s talent competition at the Eastbourne Winter Gardens. He would go on to win another 82 talent competitions, with his versatility and likeability eventually leading to Royal Variety performances at the Palladium and his crowning as ‘King Rat’ of the Water Rats showbusiness charity.
As a sergeant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers during World War II, he was seconded into the army entertainment unit, Stars in Battledress. Sergeant Chester was ordered to write and perform “a successful radio series” and created Studio Stand Easy.
Charlie moved into television where The Charlie Chester Show was by far the most successful of his series. Many of his ‘crazy gang’ (including Arthur Haynes) appeared in this stand-up sketch show which also featured Edwina Carroll, Eric ‘Jeeves’ Grier, Len Lowe, Deryck Guyler, Len Marten, and Frederick Ferrari.
The series finished in 1960 but Chester was back the next year with 13 more episodes entitled Charlie Chester On Laughter.
In later years he returned to radio with his own listener question-and-request series, Sunday Soapbox which began in 1969 and ran continuously until he was rushed to hospital following a stroke.
Charlie Chester passed away on 26 June 1997.
Eric ‘Jeeves’ Grier
The George Mitchell Singers