In 1955 King followed Norman Wisdom and Benny Hill as the compere of the BBC TV variety series Showcase and this led to his own monthly series The Dave King Show, followed by a Royal Command Performance. His material was scripted by Sid Green and Dick Hills, whose potential was later spotted by Morecambe and Wise, and it often included spoofs of well-known films.
Dave King on 29th July 1959
King often appeared with statuesque blondes in his act, notably the singer Yana and Sabrina, and in one sketch, he, Yana and Tommy Cooper reprised the title song from the film White Christmas. There was nothing smutty about King's comedy; at this time there were relatively few television sets in Britain and his act had to have a broad appeal, perhaps to three generations, and maybe half the street, watching the same set.
With a crooning style which borrowed much from the likes of Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, Dave King took the charts in his stride. Despite the fact that many of his songs were cover versions of numbers that competed with top singing stars, like Perry Como, they sold well. Although the wrong material was probably chosen for some releases, his first efforts had competent arrangements and production; King's popular exposure on TV was sufficient to guarantee their chart success.
His first record, "Sweet Kentucky Rose", for Parlophone, in 1955, did not sell but a move to Decca resulted in his achieving several chart entries. His version of "Memories are Made of This" challenged Dean Martin's original and reached No 5 in the charts. He sang "No Other Love" on a charity single, "All Star Hit Parade", for the Lord's Taverners Association, which went to No 2. Also, in 1956, King had success with "You Can't Be True to Two" and "Christmas and You", and then, in 1958, "The Story of My Life".
Here are a couple of Youtube videos with Dave singing.
Dave King singing "You Can't Be True to Two"
Dave King singing "The Story of My Life"
In 1956 he suffered the indignity of having to cancel a live television show when he was rushed to hospital with appendicitis. His earliest comedy shows were quite groundbreaking at the time. He would banter with the BBC announcers and grew a particular rapport with the late Macdonald Hobley, who he called 'Hobbly'. This was quite unheard of at a time when BBC announcement staff were still attired in evening dress and bow ties.
King continued his success, however, with the The Dave King Show and was a major success at the London Palladium.
In the late 1950's, King decided to try his luck on the other side of the Atlantic. He became one of the first British-born comedians to be successful in the USA and soon had his own TV series there- apparently repeating the success he'd enjoyed in the UK during the 1950s. The television comedy writer Mark Lewisohn said, "King is an important comedian, not only in his own right, but also because he was the first comedian to make a concentrated effort to do well in America." With the addition of Mel Brooks to the Green and Hills writing team, King hosted 18 editions of Kraft Music Hall in 1959. He appeared in the film Pirates of Tortuga in 1961, but had only limited success with other projects in the United States.
However, the initial rate of success faded somewhat and Dave returned to England. He found things had changed and could not restore himself to the level of popularity he had enjoyed a few years earlier.
He appeared on television with Bing Crosby in 1961 and then had a small role in his film The Road to Hong Kong. He starred with Daniel Massey and Norman Rossington as criminally minded firemen in Go to Blazes! (1962), a clever but misguided attempt to update an Ealing comedy. The cast included Robert Morley, Arthur Lowe and Maggie Smith.
Two further comedy series, The Dave King Show (with Lisa Daniely as his wife, 1962) and Dave's Kingdom (with Victor Maddern as his landlord, 1964), were largely ignored and he took up dog breeding, moving to Gloucestershire. In 1969 he starred in a 30-minute cinema feature, It's the Only Way to Go, about an elderly man who dies whilst watching a pretty girl undress. He also appeared in the Frankie Howerd film Up the Chastity Belt (1971) and his last TV comedy series was with the experimental Fancy Wanders for ITV in 1980.
After struggling to regain his earlier success for some time, he decided to make a dramatic career change and went into the world of serious drama. He subsequently became a very competent character actor and has returned to the small screen many times- though usually in the guise of a cockney gangster or something similar, rather than a cheeky comedian. He appeared in the film "The Long Good Friday", and many notable TV series including "The Sweeney," "The Professionals," "Bergerac," "Rumpole of the Bailey", "Heartbeat" and the ubiquitous "Coronation Street" where he played Jack Duckworth's brother.
Dave King (right) playing Clifford Duckworth in Coronation Street.
I remember Dave King principally from a Public Information Film made in 1982, called "Look After Your Plastic". I was only 11 then, so you can forgive me for not really noticing him earlier! You used to be able to view this film on the excellent TV Ark website, but this seems to have been removed. The film is shown below.
Dave King - Look After Your Plastic
Sadly, Dave King died on 15th April, 2002 following a short illness. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Jean, and is survived by his two daughters Cheyenne & Kiowa.