Born in Hove, Sussex, as Bernard Arthur Popley, "Bunny" Youens (as he was nicknamed) began his stage career as a 16-year-old after becoming assistant stage manager at the Players Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne. Youens was from a working class family who had no theatre connections. He went on to spend much of the 1930s honing his craft in repertory theatre. His acting career was interrupted by World War II, during which he served in North Africa and Anzio. He was wounded by shrapnel in his right leg in Anzio in February 1944. He returned to rep after the war, while also working as a publican, bread salesman, van driver and a labourer.
He was a member of Frank Fortesque's Players after the war. Bernard "Bunny" Graham, (Youens then used Graham as a stage name; Bunny was his wife's pet name for him) appears in the film Cup-tie Honeymoon, a Mancunian Films production, with Betty Jumel.  This was the first film to be shot at their Rusholme Studio in Manchester, with exteriors filmed at Maine Road football ground and Abney Hall in Cheadle. In the film, veteran comedian Sandy Powell performed one of his stage sketches, The Soldier’s Return Home, with a young actress, Pat Pilkington, later known as Pat Phoenix who played Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street. Despite dreadful reviews, the film was a success in the North West.
Youens became a continuity announcer in 1956 for Granada Television, which had just been launched, in which his velvet-voiced tones were in marked contrast to the character for which he would gain national attention. Youens also took minor roles in several ITV series at the time, although he declined the chance to audition for Coronation Street when it launched in 1960, preferring the security of his announcer's role, before eventually passing an audition in 1964. He uttered the words "A pint of mild and 20 fags, missus" in June that year. His role resulted in him often being engaged to open fetes and stores (such as the re-opened FW Woolworth in South Shields in 1970.)
When asked what he thought when a national British newspaper had dubbed his character "the uncrowned king of the non-working classes", he replied: "Stan is my creation and I am proud of him." Youens was delighted to meet Sir John Betjeman, then the Poet Laureate, who had for many years expressed a desire to meet "Hilda and her ghastly husband". Meet they did, and Youens often commented that Betjeman, bounding around the studios meeting everyone "like a schoolboy" was a fond memory. Laurence Olivier also expressed a wish to appear in the programme. Olivier's schedule precluded an intended uncredited appearance in a January 1978 episode, and, in the bar at Granada TV, Youens told him "I'm so sorry I couldn't appear opposite you", to which Olivier replied: "Not as sorry as I am."
In May 1982, Youens met the Queen when she visited the set of Coronation Street. On 23 January 1984, he and Jean Alexander attended a showbusiness reception at number 10 Downing Street with other Coronation Street actors.
In 1972, Youens suffered a heart attack, and then in 1975 he suffered a stroke which left him with a speech difficulty, though speech therapy eradicated some of this. The writers brought in Geoffrey Hughes as a lodger for Stan and Hilda (Jean Alexander) to reduce Youens's dialogue, and therefore Youens was able to continue as a regular character until a few months before his death.
His final ever on-screen Coronation Street appearance was on 7 March 1984, although it was thought at this stage that he would appear again. Having suffered most of his later life with severe arthritis in the neck and knees, Youens was taken into hospital in early April 1984 with the condition, and over the next three months his health deteriorated rapidly. He then suffered a minor stroke in May 1984. Youens subsequently contracted gangrene in his left leg in July, resulting in amputation. The explanation for his absence from Coronation Street was that he had been admitted to hospital after becoming ill, on the doctor's orders after Hilda collapsed from exhaustion to the strain of looking after him as his health deteriorated.
Bernard Youens died peacefully in his sleep on the afternoon of 27 August 1984 after suffering a heart attack. He was 69 years old.
The decision to kill off his character was made soon after Youens died, and on 21 November 1984 it was revealed in the programme that Stan had died in hospital as a result of the character's own declining health.
Youens married Edna Swallow, known as "Teddy", in Halifax on 21 September 1937. They were married until his death 47 years later.
They had two daughters and three sons. His children are Ann Sharples, Diana Kenyon, Peter Popley, Brian Popley and Michael Popley. His youngest son, Michael, was a film cameraman on many episodes of Coronation Street.
Edna outlived him by 17 years, dying in July 2001 at the age of 88. Jean Alexander, who played his on-screen wife Hilda in Coronation Street, outlived him by 32 years, passing away in October 2016, three days after her own 90th birthday.