Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born in Liverpool on 8 November 1927 is most prominently recognized as a comedian; however he has also enjoyed remarkable success as a singer/songwriter.
Famous for his wild, unkempt hair and buck teeth he also possesses an excellent baritone range which he uses to both comical and solemn effect as part of his live stand-up act.
Ken was born to Arthur Dodd and his wife Sarah, the son of a coal merchant, he attended the Knotty Ash School and began his singing career in the church choir at St. Johns Church in Knotty Ash.
When Ken was seven, while playing with friends, he was dared to ride his bike while having his eyes closed. This ended in an accident that saw Dodd injure his face leaving his teeth permanently disfigured. However this helped Dodd stand out in comedy and became a definite advantage to his career.
Dodd attended Holt Grammar School in Childwall, Liverpool and left when he was fourteen in order to work alongside his father.
His interest in the show business industry was confirmed when his father bought him a ventriloquist’s dummy after a young Ken displayed a curiosity in an advert entitled “Fool your Teachers Amaze Your Friends – Send in 6d in Stamps and Become a Ventriloquist!”.
Dodd immediately gained his first engagements starring at a local orphanage and other community events. However it would not be until Dodd was age 26 when he struck lucky and got his big break making his debut in show-business at the Nottingham Empire and continued to perform on various stages until he topped the bill in that Mecca of show-business Blackpool in 1958.
Ken’s music career is startling especially when you consider that his primary focus is on comedy. However music became a huge part of Dodd’s comedy routine especially as he comes from the by-gone age of all-star variety stage performance. But it is Dodd’s ability to go from the absurd to the serious, from the silly to the serene, which makes him an effective musical performer.
His acting ability allows him to convey real meaning to the audience. Elements in his routine include banging the notorious ‘Drum of Knotty Ash’ roaring “Softly, Softly!” and spoofs of operatic classics sung in Ken’s inimitable mezzo-tenor voice.
UK singles chart
His songs have reached the UK singles chart on no less than nineteen occasions with all of these releases charting in the top 40. Dodd’s first record was produced by Alex Wharton and released on the Decca Records label in 1960. Called Love Is Like a Violin the song was an unfinished composition called Mon Couer Est Un Violin but the lyric was rewritten and suggested to Ken who promptly recorded it.
The song entered the UK singles chart at #25 but soon rose to #8 spending 18 weeks in the charts with the song even reaching a high of #9 in the United States Billboard chart, 3 years before the Beatles.
Over one million records sold
Love Is Like a Violin marked the beginning of an incredible run of chart success for the Knotty Ash funnyman as he continued to score chart successes with 1965’s Tears becoming Dodd’s stand-out success.
The record sold over a million copies hitting the #1 spot and becoming officially recognized as the 19th most sold song in the UK. He is officially the only British comedian to sell over a million records and more top ten hits followed for Dodd with The River (Le Colline Sono In Fiore) and Promises charting at #3 and #6 respectively.
Dodd would go on to release music throughout the remainder of the 1960’s, 1970’s and into the 1980’s with another 8 singles hitting the top 40 and Dodd’s final chart success coming with the song Hold My Hand which was released on Boxing Day 1981 charting at #44.
Ken has since lived a colourful existence, acquitted of charges of tax evasion in 1989 and was named the 36th greatest comedian of all time by his contemporaries. He has performed for royalty and a statue was unveiled in his honor in 2009 and can now be seen at Liverpool’s Lime Street station. Dodd continues to perform well into his eighties and can still be heard performing the songs that made him a chart star for over twenty years.
Ken’s official website – www.kendoddshows.com.