Sitcom star Reg Varney became a household name in some of the most popular TV comedies of the sixties and early 1970s, but is best remembered as unlucky-in-love bus driver Stan Butler in On the Buses.
London-born Varney was still in his teens when he began his career in entertainment, singing and playing piano in working men’s clubs and later Soho’s famous Windmill Theatre.
Serving in the Royal Engineers during the War, he organised concert parties for the troops, resuming his erstwhile entertainment career after being demobbed. In the early post-war years, he toured music halls in shows including a comedy revue in which Benny Hill – who would go on to global TV fame in the Seventies with his own comedy show – played his straight man.
Small roles in films and on TV began arriving for Reg, just as the traditional music halls began to disappear. Varney became a household name in sitcom The Rag Trade then played it for laughs in Beggar My Neighbour, before starring in On the Buses, which led to three comedy spin-off films and Varney, at the height of his fame, recording three music albums at the Abbey Road studios. A celebrity photocall also saw him become the first person in the world to use a cash-dispensing machine.
When the series ended in 1973, Varney’s TV career began to slow down. He established a successful niche on cruise ships, thanks to his all-round entertainer skills and, in his later years, retired to Devon where he painted landscapes and wrote a series of memoirs.