If you were watching TV early on a Saturday evening in the late 1960s, the chances are you’d see the unmistakable toothy grin of Ken Dodd smiling back at you.
The Knotty Ash comedian was the host of Doddy’s Music Box produced at the ABC studios in Manchester from 1967 to 1968.
He was also the star of the BBC show Ken Dodd and the Diddymen, shot at Manchester’s Dickenson Road studios in Rusholme from 1969 to 1972.
Each episode of Doddy’s Music Box ran for 45 minutes and featured a fast-paced mixture of stand-up comedy, music and the occasional sketch.
Manchester-born disc jockey and TV personality David Hamilton acted as Dodd’s straight-man – and was quickly christened Diddy David. The name stuck!
Hamilton was already hosting The Beat Show from the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester as well as working as an announcer for ABC when he appeared on Doddy’s Music Box.
He joined Radio 1 in November 1967 to present Family Choice and went on to host a string of programmes including Music Through Midnight, Pop Inn and Roundabout.
On stage, Hamilton has compered shows for many music legends. They include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and teenage sensation David Cassidy, who brought the house down at Belle Vue in March 1973.
The biggest pop names of the day queued up to be on Doddy’s Music Box. They included Manchester bands The Hollies, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and Freddie and the Dreamers.
Herman’s Hermits liked Doddy’s Music Box so much they appeared twice in 1967 and 1968!
The Hermits were riding high in the charts at the time after releasing the single There’s a Kind of Hush which went to No. 4 in the US Billboard top 100.
Other singers on Doddy’s Music Box included Sandie Shaw who won the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest for Great Britain with Puppet on a String and Welsh superstar Tom Jones.
Merseybeat artists The Searchers and Billy Fury also made appearances along with Adam Faith, Dusty Springfield and The Dave Clark Five.
Manchester was the TV centre of the pop world in the 1960s as the BBC’s flagship music programme Top of the Pops was filmed at Dickenson Road.
The first show was shot in Studio A on New Year’s Day 1964. It featured the Rolling Stones performing I Wanna Be Your Man, Dusty Springfield singing I Only Want To Be With You and the Hollies with Stay.
Every show finished with the single topping that week’s chart. In January 1964 it was the Beatles with I Want to Hold Your Hand.
The regular host or ‘disc girl’ on Top of the Pops was Manchester model Samantha Juste, who married Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees.
Of course, one of the biggest stars to appear on the weekly show was Ken Dodd himself – a major recording artist in his own right.
He sang a number of his own songs on Doddy’s Music Box, including the 1964 hit Happiness which became his signature tune.
His single Tears topped the UK singles chart for five weeks in 1965 – and remains the UK’s third best-selling song of the 60s.
After Music Box, Dodd stayed on in Manchester to film Ken Dodd and the Diddymen, featuring seven puppets operated by Roger Stevenson.
The BBC produced 28 episodes of the children’s TV show, each running for 10 minutes.
The Diddymen were mythical beings who mined the treacle and jam butty mines of Dodd’s home neighbourhood of Knotty Ash.
Leader of the Diddymen troupe was Dicky Mint, who was based on Dodd himself and carried a tickling stick.
His sidekicks included well-spoken Nigel Ponsonby Smallpiece, complete with monocle and top hat, Harry Cot from Somerset, Mick the Marmalizer, kilt-wearing Hamish McDiddy and Little Evan.
Each Diddyman appeared in brightly coloured clothes, oversized shoes and usually a tall, furry hat.
On stage, the Diddymen were played by children or adults with dwarfism. TV star Carol Vorderman, who later found fame as the maths whizz on Countdown, was a Diddyman as a child.