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Charlie Chester (26 April 1914 – 26 June 1997) was a British comedian and TV and radio presenter, broadcasting almost continuously from the 1940s to the 1990s. His style was similar to that of Max Miller.
Chester was born Cecil Victor Manser in Eastbourne, East Sussex. His first job after leaving education was as a grocer's errand boy, but he won talent competitions for his musical instrument playing and singing. Working as a travelling salesman for an embroidery company, Chester realised he had the gift of the gab and decided to become a professional comedian. Known as "Cheerful" Charlie Chester, he was well-known to British audiences in the 1940s from his BBC radio show Stand Easy. This show was adapted for television as The Charlie Chester Show in 1949 and became a standup and sketch show for the next 11 years. Frequent cast members included Edwina Carroll, Eric 'Jeeves' Grier, Len Lowe, Deryck Guyler, Len Marten, Arthur Haynes and Frederick Ferrari. A later recurring mini-serial in the show was "Whippit Kwik the Cat Burglar", whose whistled signature tune made Chester a national favourite. Tenor St Clair was replaced by Ferrari, known as "The Voice", and for whom Chester wrote the signature song "When Love Descended like an Angel". That was in fact the only fragment written, until listener demand forced him to write a full version so that Ferrari could record it.
Chester's radio shows included A Proper Charlie and That Man Chester. Another series – which started out as a section of The Charlie Chester Show in 1950 – was the quiz Pot Luck, which was the first British TV programme to offer prizes for correctly answering questions.
In 1958, Stanley Matthews arranged for his son, Stanley, Jr., to attend the Lawn Tennis Association in London. He lived at the Chester household in North Finchley, Charlie being a friend of Stanley, Sr.
In 1961, Chester starred in a BBC series called Charlie Chester On Laughter Service, a music and comedy show which visited military bases throughout Britain. Most were co-written by Bernard Botting and Charlie Hart. Late in his career, Chester appeared in the Channel 4 television sitcom Never Say Die.
In the 1960s he began presenting a record show on the BBC Light Programme, later BBC Radio 2. 1969 saw the start of his weekday show and then it became his long-running radio show Sunday Soapbox which came from the BBC's Birmingham studios. He opened the programme each week with the introduction "With a box full of records and a bag full of post, it's radio Soapbox and Charlie your host!" The programme was transmitted on Sunday afternoons until 1996. Its opening and signature tune was called Music To Drive By by Alan Moorhouse.
He suffered a stroke and died on 26 June 1997.