Ken Dodd, OBE, Britain’s King of Comedy, was also a major recording artist in the 1960s with hits like Tears (one of the biggest selling UK singles of all time), Love is Like a Violin and many other slushy sentimental songs, much loved by mums and grandmas.
Ken Dodd burst onto the local holiday scene in 1955, still virtually unknown, in the Central Pier’s ‘Let’s Have Fun’ summer show, where the stars were Morecambe and Wise.
The chaotic comedy of the toothy, wild-haired comic with the weird props and wonderful words of his own invention, was an instant hit, much to the delight of legendary star-spotter Peter Webster who had seen him at the resort’s Queen’s Theatre in October 1954, on a variety bill headed by Frankie Vaughan.
The nut from Knotty Ash was rebooked for a second season at the Central Pier on better money, as second top to the great Jimmy James, and in 1957 Ken Dodd topped a summer show bill for the first time.
He starred at the old Hippodrome in ‘Rocking With Laughter’, before returning to the Central Pier in 1958, starring with Josef Locke.
He signed a recording contract with Decca during 1960, and his first single, Love Is Like A Violin – a ballad from the 1920s – bolted into the Top 10. Once In Every Lifetime followed in 1961 (a #28 hit), then Pianissimo a year later (Top 30).
When Dodd’s deal with Decca expired, he joined the Columbia label, a subsidiary of EMI Records.
His musical director, Geoff Love, steered him to a #35 hit with Still during 1963, #22 with Eight By Ten, and the immortal Happiness during 1964 which, surprisingly, faltered at #31.
But it was the ballad Tears that was to prove the best of the bunch. Ken Dodd was in his publisher’s office and came across the sheet music. He played it on his radio program and letters poured in asking him to record it.
At this point, there were no less than 18 other versions of the song, from its first recording by Rudy Vallee in 1929, to artists like Layton and Johnstone, Jack Payne and Bob and Alf Pearson.
The sad song captured the public’s imagination and it sold in excess of two million copies to reach the top of the British charts in October 1965, where it stayed for five weeks.
The follow-up to Tears was taken from the Italian original Le Colline Sono In Fioro (The River) which soared to #3, and during 1966 Dodd enjoyed a further three hit singles: Promises, More Than Love and It’s Love.
Early in 1967 Let Me Cry On Your Shoulder re-established him in the Top 20 but was his last hit until his Top 30 single Tears Won’t Wash Away These Heartaches during July 1969.
The 70s were somewhat kinder to the buck-toothed comic.
Over the span of five years, he enjoyed four notable hits, although one, Brokenhearted – his second Italian cover version – charted twice, the first time in December 1970 when it peaked at #15, and again during February 1971 when it was a Top 40 hit.
Dodd’s third Italian interpretation, When Love Comes Round Again (L’Arca Di Noe) took him back to the Top 20 in July 1971, while Just Out Of Reach and (Think Of Me) Wherever You Are both faltered outside the Top 20 in 1972 and 1975 respectively.
The last time Ken Dodd’s name appeared in the British Top 50 was with Hold My Hand in 1981.
Dodd had a whole host of TV shows during the 1960s and 1970s including The Ken Dodd Show, Doddy’s Music Box and Ken Dodd’s Showbiz.
His public life took on a sombre note in 1990 when he hit the headlines in a clash with the Inland Revenue. Dodd was accused of tax evasion and to prove his innocence he took the Inland Revenue to the High Court.
Needless to say, once the trauma of the action was over, a humorous portrayal of the incident was incorporated into his stage act.