Born: May 16, 1936;

Died March 15, 2020.

ROY Hudd, who has died aged 83, was a comedian and actor known to radio audiences for the satirical series The News Huddlines, which ran for more than a quarter of a century, and on television for his stand-up appearances and dramatic roles, which included a stint on Coronation Street as the cheery undertaker Archie Shuttleworth and parts in series by Dennis Potter.

On stage, he was a panto stalwart, played Fagin in a revival of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, and won the award for Best Actor in a Musical in 1983 as Bud Flanagan in Underneath the Arches; he was also a noted authority on historical music hall and variety acts, and president of the British Music Hall Society.

Gap-toothed and exuding affability, Hudd was prepared to turn his hand to almost any aspect of the entertainment business, as well as being a shrewd observer and historian of it. This versatility sprang not just from his start in music hall, but from his early (if disappointed) recognition that traditional variety shows were falling out of fashion, and he needed to be able to turn his hand to other things.

His first showbiz job was as a Butlin’s Redcoat in Clacton, where one of his colleagues was a singer called Harry Webb (later transformed into Cliff Richard), but the same year he appeared in Shakespeare on stage; when he first appeared on television, it was in the sketch show Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, a successor to That Was The Week That Was.

The News Huddlines, which ran on Radio 2 for more than 50 series from 1975-2001, took a wry look at the headlines; much of it was contributed by the listeners, and several successful comedy writers, including Simon Blackwell and Andy Hamilton, got their first start through it. Hudd, always supportive of his fellow performers and writers, encouraged and promoted new talent.

His obsession with the history of show business, and particularly music hall, came during one of his early stints on stage at the Finsbury Park Empire in 1959, when he watched GH Elliott, then well over 80, perform to an audience of about 30, from the wings alongside Max Miller. “Isn’t he brilliant?” Miller asked. “Magic,” Hudd agreed. “What a shame there’s nobody in.” “It’s all over,” was Miller’s reply.

But Hudd had caught the last gasp of variety, with the chance to work alongside some of the great names in the field, whom he had watched growing up, as well as other newcomers, such as Peter Sellers, Dave Allen, Tom Jones, Max Bygraves and Engelbert Humperdinck (then still Gerry Dorsey).

Roy Hudd was born in Croydon on May 16, 1936, the son of a carpenter, Harry Hudd, who left the family just after the war, and his wife Evie, who had mental health problems and committed suicide when Roy was 10. He was not, however, to discover the cause of her death until more than 60 years later, when researching his autobiography. He was brought up by his grandmother in what he claimed was a very happy childhood; though the family were poor, a priority was the treat of a weekly visit to the music hall.

Hudd did his national service with the RAF, before going to Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) to study as a commercial artist. Part of his apprenticeship, in lettering and poster layout, included working with Harry Beck, responsible for the radical design of the London Underground map.

In 1957, he formed a double act with Eddy Kay, appearing on stage at Streatham and on radio’s In Town Tonight before landing the Butlin’s job. As well as The News Huddlines, he popped up in the original radio Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978) and, from the mid-1960s, on a number of TV sketch shows.

He later took straight roles in Dennis Potter’s Lipstick on Your Collar (1993) and Karaoke (1996) as well as part on Common as Muck (1994-97) and Ashes to Ashes (2010). He had guest roles on such shows as One Foot in the Grave, Benidorm, Midsomer Murders, Casualty, Holby City and Broadchurch, though he was almost certainly best known for his spell in Coronation Street in 2002-03.

On the big screen, he had parts in Up Pompeii (1971) and the following year’s Up the Chastity Belt. Beside Oliver! and Underneath the Arches, his stage work included numerous pantomimes and The Wizard of Oz (Royal Festival Hall, 2008) as the Wizard, as well as straight classics by Shakespeare, Coward and Wilde. He wrote more than 20 books on music hall and show business, amassed a collection of memorabilia, and was instrumental in supporting the preservation and restoration of historic theatres.

Roy Hudd was appointed OBE in 2004. By his first wife, Ann, whom he married in 1961, he had a son, Max. After divorcing in 1983, he married, in 1988, Debbie Flitcroft, who survives him with his son.