Childhood & Early Life
Keith Chegwin was born on January 17, 1957, in Liverpool, England to father, Colin, and mother, Margaret.
He had a twin brother, Jeffrey (who is also an actor) and a sister, Janice Long (who is a radio broadcaster).
He took part in talent competitions from an early age and started singing with ‘The Happy Wanderers’ in local clubs at the age of 11.
While he was performing on a children’s variety TV show, ‘Junior Showtime’, his talent was noticed by the musician, Phil Collins’ mother, June Collins, who was working with ‘The Barbara Speake Stage School’ at that time.
He auditioned and was selected for the West End musical ‘Mame’ in 1969, but could not perform due to restrictions for underage performers at that time. He started training at a stage school instead.
He continued to audition for and bag small parts in TV, stage and film productions while still at school.
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Keith Chegwin made appearances in various productions of the U.K.’s ‘Children’s Film Foundation’, most notably as the character ‘Egghead Wentworth’ in the 1970 film ‘Egghead’s Robot’.
Simultaneously, he also featured in clothing catalogues as a child model and did TV commercials for ‘Cadbury’, ‘Pepsi’, ‘Tizer’, ‘Ready Brek’, etc.
In 1971 came his most impressive role as an actor, that of the character ’Fleance’ in director Roman Polanski’s rendition of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’.
In 1972, he featured in the pilot episode of ‘Open All Hours’ and his career as a child artist took off. He bagged roles in TV sitcoms like ‘The Liver Birds’ and ‘The Adventures of Black Beauty’; in films like ‘The Optimists of Nine Elms’ and at various West End shows.
Thereafter, he had a steady TV career in the form of TV shows like ‘Village Hall’, ‘Z Cars’ and consistent appearances in the 1975 show ‘The Wackers’. In the same year, he played his last noteworthy movie role in the film ‘Robin Hood Junior’.
Around the same time, in the mid-1970s, he explored his passion for singing and released some singles that caught the attention of the band ‘Kenny’ who offered him the lead singer’s role in their band.
Soon, he took on the job of a radio jockey for a Liverpool radio station ‘194 Radio City’ and also worked with the famous radio presenter, Tony Blackburn, on his BBC Radio 1 weekend morning show.
Having developed a taste for interacting with viewers ad-lib through the radio, he proposed a children’s show to the BBC, but was initially turned down.
In 1976, he teamed up with Noel Edmonds and John Craven on BBC 1 for the Saturday morning TV show ‘Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’, more popularly known as just ‘Swap Shop’.
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Chegwin’s ‘Swaporama’ segment, wherein he would travel across the UK talking to children to swap their toys with others, was the highlight of the ‘Swap Shop’ show. This got him his own children’s game show in 1978 called ‘Cheggers Plays Pop’, nicknamed ‘Cheggers’.
Along with the original two ‘Swap Shop’ co-hosts and new co-host, Maggie Philbin, he formed a band ‘Brown Sauce’ and released a hit pop song ‘I Wanna Be A Winner’ in 1981.
Following the end of ‘Swap Shop’ in 1982, he became the co-host of its replacement show ‘Saturday Superstore’.
His career began to wane towards the end of the 1980s and early 1990s and he publicly confessed to his drinking issues on a morning talk show. But he continued working as a TV presenter, hosting talent shows like ‘Sky Star Search’ in 1990.
Following his recovery from alcoholism, his career received a much-needed boost when he landed the role of hosting an interactive segment ‘Down Your Doorstep’ on a morning show ‘The Big Breakfast’ in 1993. His catchphrase ‘Wake up you beggars – it’s Cheggers!’ became wildly popular.
In the late 1990s, he hosted game shows like ‘Sale of the Century’ and ‘It’s a Knockout’.
In 2000, he presented an Internet show from his own bedroom-cum-studio, and created quite a stir when he became the nude host of a nudist TV game show ‘The Naked Jungle’. He also began hosting interactive morning segments on GMTV in the same year.
In 2003, he participated in the TV game show ‘Fear Factor’.
In 2006, he made a guest appearance on an episode of the comedy TV series ‘Extras’.
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Throughout the 2000s, he continued experimenting with his career like writing jingles for the radio, running his own Internet bingo site ‘Cheggersbingo’ and starring as a digital version of himself in a quiz video game ‘Cheggers Party Quiz’.
In 2010, many stand-up comedians accused him of passing off their jokes as his own on Twitter.
In 2011, he also acted as himself in the ‘Kill Bill’ spoof movie - ‘Kill Keith’.
From 2013-15, he participated in reality TV shows like ‘Dancing on Ice’, Celebrity Big Brother’, ‘Celebrity MasterChef’ and quiz shows like ‘The Chase’ and ‘Pointless Celebrities’. He also hosted the 2015 BAFTA awards.
In 2016, he performed as a pantomime artist in an Easter-time production of ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
Family & Personal Life
Keith Chegwin met his first wife, Maggie Philbin, on the set of their show ‘Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’ and married her in 1982. His alcoholism issues led to their divorce in 1993.
He married Maria Fielden in 2000. They had been married for 17 years at the time of his death.
His daughter, Rose, from his first marriage was born in 1988, and his son, Ted, from his second marriage was born in 1998.
In later years, he relocated to a country home in Shropshire to be closer to his family.
He passed away on December 11, 2017, after a long battle with a lung condition, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.