His singing has been the butt of many jokes, but he has sold more than 16 million albums worldwide and received the CBE for services to Entertainment.
Des is 84, and lives with his wife Jodie and son Adam.
What’s more satisfying – a great career or family?
Family. I played the Palladium 1,284 times solo, but family is more important than that. I have four grown-up daughters – one of whom I joke is older than me – and then much later I had a son.
Will he follow you into the business?
You know what parents are like:“He’s going to be an actor, he’s going to be a doctor, maybe a lawyer.” Let’s just take our time and see. He’s still young.
Have you always been relaxed on stage?
No, I used to be petrified in the very early days. I still remember the old times at the Glasgow Empire. Very scary.
Bruce Forsyth or Jimmy Tarbuck?
Do I really have to pick? That’s impossible as they’re both great friends and entertainers. Whoever I choose, the other will kill me (laughs). I have to pick both.
Buddy Holly or The Beatles?
Buddy Holly. I was the compere and comedian on his only British tour and he gave me his guitar when we finished. His educational foundation now has it.
You did your own chat show for so long. What could new hosts learn?
That it’s about treating people with respect. Not talking all over them. Not asking a question and then answering it yourself.
Is it important the guests enjoy themselves?
Absolutely. If they do then they end up telling their famous mates and they will want to do it the next week.
Are you a fan of Simon Cowell?
Well I do think that serving your apprenticeship is more important than the quick fix of reality shows.
Not a lover of talent shows then?
I do have to respect Simon for Britain’s Got Talent which is just a classy version of Opportunity Knocks. It’s kind of compulsive and has revived Variety a bit. And The X Factor found Leona Lewis – who is a fantastic talent.
You have 24 hours left to live. How do you spend the time?
Getting a new doctor and a second opinion! It would be stress-free with lots of giggles and laughter. I wouldn’t ring anyone to say bye bye. I’d be scared they’d just say b*gger off.