Max Boyce biography

Max Boyce

Last updated: 30 January 2009

Max Boyce came to national prominence in the 1970s and remains a firm favourite.

No stranger to hardship from an early age, Max's miner father was tragically killed in a pit explosion just days after his son was born. Max himself spent over a decade in the pits, an experience that informed his later works such as Duw! It's Hard and Rhondda Grey.

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BBC Radio Wales, The Dragon's Breath

"It was always a love-hate relationship," he says. "It had a huge effect on communities, but the mines were a terrible place to work. Certainly in some places it was worse than others. However bad it could be it was a way of life, it was the way it was then. Nobody wanted to work in those conditions, but there was no other work to be had."

Max Boyce's time came on 23 November 1973, when he recorded the album Live At Treorchy. He had already recorded a handful of songs at a folk club in Pontardawe, which led to interest from EMI and a contract to record to live albums of songs and stories.

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BBC Radio Wales, The Dragon's Breath

With a hastily assembled band, Max recorded the songs that would later become the best selling Treorchy album in its rugby club. Although the audience was largely previously unaware of him, songs such as The Outside-Half Factory and Morgan Moon won them over.

"I had no great desire to become a performer or to be an entertainer," says Max. "No desire at all to be anything. I had a love of poetry, and eventually started writing songs without any ambition to build a career. It just happened. I started writing songs about local things and it evolved.

"I was doing a degree as a mining engineer, and the music evolved over a long period of time. First there was no comedy at all, just straight folk songs. The comedy came because I used to sing in folk clubs, Playing in folk clubs gave you the chance to talk and for people to listen. On other circuits you had to do whatever the 'in' song was. I had the chance to experiment. This was around 1972, and I started introducing my set with little anecdotes. Gradually the anecdotes took over."

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BBC Radio Wales, The Dragon's Breath

The Live At Treorchy album went gold, and EMI released a follow-up, We All Had Doctors' Papers. Unexpectedly, it reached number one in the album charts, the first comedy album to do so. He received further gold discs for 1976's The Incredible Plan and 1978's I Know 'Cos I Was There.

A hugely successful BBC TV series and Max's first book followed, the latter containing poems, songs and stories. He continued to enjoy a varied career on stage and screen throughout the 80s and 90s, including spells in pantomime, and three "adventure specials" which saw him throwing himself into the roles of American football player, rodeo cowboy and elephant polo player.

1999's An Evening With Max Boyce introduced him to a younger audience, with ratings that broke BBC Wales viewing records. His enduring place in the hearts of Welsh people was recognised by his invitation to play at the opening of the Welsh Assembly, and at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

A unique talent, Max remains much loved in Wales and elsewhere for his unique humour and storytelling. Indeed, he was awarded the MBE in the millennium new year's honours list. Plus, he's even got his own tribute band, Boycezone.


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