Max Miller (1894–1963)
Born Thomas Henry Sargent in, appropriately, Brighton — Britain’s premier seaside locale for Lost Weekends — Max Miller was one of the great comedians of Music Hall and Variety. Decked out in outrageous plus-fours, “The Cheeky Chappie” specialized in double entendre, slightly risqué songs, and saucy patter that kept his audiences rolling in the aisle. He began his career shortly after the end of World War One, and by the early 1930s he had become a headliner. Live recordings exist of several of his performances from the late 1930s that show him at his naughty best — some of the loudest shrieks of laughter come from the young women in the audience. Max continued to perform regularly, often in Brighton, until the end of his life.
Miller’s recording career began in 1932, and in 1937–38, at the height of his fame, he turned to Fred Godfrey for a number of suitable songs. Max’s name appears as co-composer on most of them; indeed, several appear on disc without any credit to Godfrey at all. Several other “Miller and Godfrey” songs are known to exist (see the entry under Miller in the “Collaborators” section), but Max did not record them, though he may have used them in his act.
Miller also made a few forgettable and now largely lost films in the 1930s, among which is 1938’s “Everything Happens To Me,” featuring Max’s hijinks at the seaside (the British Film Institute holds the only known copy). Fred Godfrey wrote the title song, and Max sings it while settling down to sleep in his car on the beach. Godfrey also contributed the music for the big production number At The Bathing Parade, which Max sings as he introduces a parade of young lovelies in old and new bathing styles, followed by an extended dance routine.
Annie The Farmer’s Daughter (HMV BD-482, 1937)
At The Bathing Parade (HMV BD-697, 1938); also sung by Miller in the 1938 film “Everything Happens To Me”
Doh, Ray, Me, Fah, Soh, Lah, Te, Doh (HMV BD-533, 1938)
Everything Happens To Me (HMV BD-697, 1938); also sung by Miller in the 1938 film of the same name
I Bought A Horse (HMV BD-563, 1938)
I’m The Only Bit Of Comfort That She’s Got (HMV BD-505, 1938)
She Shall Have Music Wherever She Goes (recorded live in “Max At The Holborn Empire — First House, October 7, 1938; issued on tape cassette “Max Miller: The Cheeky Chappie,” EMI ECC10, 1990)
She Was, She Was, She Was (HMV BD-597, 1938)
On The Banks Of The Beautiful Nile (in LP “That’s Nice, Maxie,” Pye NPL-18064, 1961)
The last two songs were written in the late 1930s and probably performed by Miller then, but not recorded until shortly before Miller’s death. One Godfrey song that Miller sang, according to the sheet music cover, but did not record is The Diver Goes Down And Down (1936).
For more information on the life and times of “The Cheeky Chappie,” see the marvellous website of The Max Miller Appreciation Society.