Saturday, 4 February 2012 INDEX

Ken Dodd

Years ago I was the editor of a coal industry magazine called Solid Fuel. Late one night I was sitting in the office when I received a call from a very angry Ken Dodd. My assistant at the time, David Cusworth (who subsequently went to Perth in Australia and long monopolised the state press awards for his headline writing), had been causing Ken grief.

David had been pursuing Ken's brother Arthur, a coal merchant who (from memory and as unlikely as it may seem this is how I remember it), was based in Knotty Ash, Merseyside. For those who don't know Ken Dodd's act, Knotty Ash is an almost mythical place he refers to, the home of the Diddymen. The Diddymen, who definitely are mythical, are Pinky and Perky type characters.

Anyway, David had been ringing Arthur Dodd's business phone line, asking him to get in touch with the magazine. We thought a bit of publicity might do him some good and it would certainly make interesting reading for our coal merchant audience.

So back to the call. There I was working on something (in those pre-email days the phones seemed to ring all day so sometimes the evening was the only time you could actually get anything done) when the phone rang.

I could tell immediately Ken Dodd was angry. This was not the loveable character he mostly portrays in his stage act. The conversation went something like.

"I'm Ken Dodd,"KD

"Oh, hello Ken," me.

"Why are you ringing my brother?"KD

"Oh that's not me, that's my assistant David," me.

"Why is he ringing my brother?" KD

"We wanted to do a feature about him," me. "We thought it would be interesting."

"Well don't." KD.

"He's a coal merchant and we write about coal merchants in Solid Fuel,"me

"He doesn't want to talk to you,"KD.

"But why, Ken?" me. "It would be good for his business and a positive, interesting story."

"If you have to do something write about me," KD.

"But I can't Ken you're not a coal merchant," me. "We write about coal merchants."

"Well leave my brother alone!," KD.

"Ok Ken, I'll tell David to drop the story," me.

The next morning I told David that Arthur wasn't going to talk to him so he should drop the story.

A shame really. The story I'd heard was that the Dodd coal business used to be owned by Ken and Arthur's father. When one of the sons had to take over it turned out that Arthur was a first rate comedian but also a great coal merchant. Ken was not a bad comedian but he was certainly a worse coal merchant. So Arthur got the business and Ken took to the stage.

Rubbish, of course, you don't get to be as good a comedian as Ken Dodd through natural talent. It's practice, practice, practice, practice. It takes years of heart break and failure to make a great comedian.

But all the same it's a good story and it would have been great to have some photographs of the Knotty Ash coal business.

Posted by Jonathan Brind at 10:15
Saturday, 4 February 2012 INDEX