Remembering Ken Dodd 1927-2018
Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born 8 November 1927 and was an English comedian, singer-songwriter, actor and panto performer identified by his unruly hair and protruding teeth, his red, white and blue "tickling stick" and his upbeat greeting of "How tickled I am!". He also created the characters of the Diddy Men. He worked mainly in the music hall tradition, although occasionally appeared in drama, including as Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night on stage in Liverpool in 1971; on television in the cameo role of 'The Tollmaster' in the 1987 Doctor Who story Delta and the Bannermen; and as Yorick (in silent flashback) in Kenneth Branagh's film version of Shakespeare's Hamlet in 1996. In the 1960s his fame in the UK was such that he rivalled the Beatles as a household name, with his recording of "Tears" being the UK's third-best-selling single of the 1960s. His records sold millions worldwide. Ken toured the UK with his comedy show and became famed for the length of his performances, running times meant nothing, he could and often did run for hours with shows often finishing past midnight, and these were a 7.30pm start!
Aged just 12 in 1939 Ken Dodd thought he was about to make his big splash into the world of panto when he answered an ad in the Liverpool Echo for dancers needed for an upcoming panto production. It was only when he arrived for the audition he discovered they were only actually looking for female dancers. Somehow he managed to get the producers to hire him as props boy, a backstage role, but he manged to find himself on stage at every possible opportunity, It was a different story as we skip ahead to 1955 and Ken's real panto debut in Little Red Riding Hood in Sheffield, a role he adored and the start of a long panto career and the following year he was on home soil in at the Liverpool Empire appearing in Cinderella.
In 1957 Ken was cast as Wishee Washee in Aladdin at the Palace Theatre in Manchester and then 1959/60 panto season proved to be an epic one for it's cast, led by Ken, Jack and the Beanstalk at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford would become a record breaking season running through to mid March. Ken recalled how odd it was as they started off celebrating Christmas and by the end of the run they were throwing out Easter eggs from the stage. Ken enjoyed this run of shows as did those who appeared alongside him, the young dancers were delighted as often Ken would send up huge tins of sweets to their dressing rooms.
The 1960 panto stint would be a shorter one for Ken as he headed to The Coventry Theatre to star in The Pied Piper of Hamlin alongside Beryl Reid.
In 1965 Ken appeared in one of the rarer of pantos as he appeared in Humpty Dumpty at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
1968/69 saw Ken appearing as Billy Crusoe in Robinson Crusoe at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, a show and role that he would repeat for the 1969/70 season in Coventry where he was accompanied of course by the Diddy Men and starred alongside Hope & Keen.
1972/73 panto season saw Ken back in Robinson Crusoe at the Theatre Royal Nottingham alongside Gordon and Bunny Jay.
1973 would see Ken once again step into the role of Billy Crusoe as he this time appeared in Robinson Crusoe in Nottingham in a Delfont production.
For the 1980/81 season Ken appeared as Idle Jack in Dick Whittington at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham alongside Jeffrey Holland.
For the 1982/83 season Ken lead the cast of Aladdin at the Apollo Theatre in Coventry.
The 1983/84 season would see Ken appearing in Sinbad the Sailor at the Wimbledon Theatre alongside Freddie Lees. The following year the panto would transfer with Ken to the Davenport Theatre in Stockport.
In 1986 Ken found himself once again back at the Davenport Theatre in Stockport to appear in Puss in Boots, a show that he would repeat the following year at the Civic Theatre in Halifax. 1987 saw Kenny appear as Billy Goose in Mother Goose at the Theatre Royal Hanley.
The 1993/94 season saw Ken back in Manchester at the Palace Theatre where he appeared in Dick Whittington.
For the 2007/08 season Ken pre-recorded an appearance as the voice of the magic mirror for a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at The Sands Centre, Carlise.
Although not appearing in person, for the 2016/17 panto season Ken pe-recorded a video and appeared as The Vision in the Mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the temporary White Rose Theatre in Leeds. This production went on to end early following a dispute over pay between the producers and actors but Ken had been paid upfront. Ken had previously appeared in 2009 as a recorded message in the magic mirror at the New Floral Pavilion in New Brighton.
Ken received an O.B.E for his services to charity and showbusiness in 1982 and was thrilled to be included in the 2017 New Years Honours list giving him a knighthood. which would give him the title Sir Kenneth Dodd O.B.E. It was during a 2016 interview that Ken announced his memory had started to fail him and he had started using a script and prompts to get him through his act.
In November 2017 to celebrate his 90th birthday, Ken was treated to an afternoon tea of jam butties and diddy pies at the Liverpool Town Hall. Of turning 90 he said “There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s compulsory! And it’s no use living in the past – it’s cheaper but you can’t live in the past.”
In January 2017 Ken was admitted to hospital suffering from a severe chest infection and flu. Throughout his stay in hospital it was said that despite being 90 years of age he was champing at the bit to get back on stage ASAP. Dodd married his partner of 40 years, Anne Jones, on Friday 9 March 2018 at their home in Knotty Ash, Liverpool two days before his death
Doddy's funeral took place on 28th March 2018 in Liverpool at the Anglican Catherdral followed by a private burial service complete with jam butties served n his honour.