As one half of the perpetually sparring Duckworths in Coronation Street, Bill Tarmey created one of primetime television’s most popular onscreen partnerships with Liz Dawn for more than three decades.
He joined the soap as an extra in the mid-1970s and made his first speaking appearance in 1978 as Jack Rowe, returning the following year in the guise of the work-shy window cleaner Jack Duckworth, quickly establishing the character as the kind of rough-edged, soft-centred and eternally put-upon male that has taken root on the Street throughout its half-century.
Joining the soap as a regular in 1983 (the same year he appeared in a small role in Laurence Olivier’s television King Lear), he steered pigeon-fancier Jack from cellar man at the Rovers Return to its landlord and through the rollercoaster ride of his marriage to Dawn’s battleaxe Vera, parenthood of Nigel Pivarro’s recidivist son Terry, and as a surrogate father to Alan Halsall’s Tyrone Dobbs until 2010.
He was born William Piddington in the Manchester working-class suburb of Ardwick on April 4, 1941, and began his working life as an apprentice asphalt spreader to his stepfather (his ambulance-driver father having been killed while on service during the Battle of Arnhem in 1944).
He left the building trade to help run a grocery and hardware shop with his wife Ali, whom he had met at the age of 14 and married in 1962, while developing a growing profile as a singer in local clubs for which he changed his name to Tarmey, a glancing tribute to the American crooner he admired, Mel Torme.
He supplemented his singing career with bit parts on television, his appearances including Crown Court, Rising Star as well as Thicker than Water for the BBC’s Play for Today strand.
Throughout his acting career he continued to sing, fronting his own cabaret band, Take Ten, and released four albums on the EMI label between 1993 and 2001. His last album, a collection of love songs and ballads, was released in 2004. In 1989, he released a single with Dawn on the back of an appearance on that year’s Royal Variety Show.
He had been experiencing health problems for a number of years, having suffered a heart attack in 1976 and a stroke the following year. In 1986, he underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery and suffered a second heart attack in 2002.
He published his autobiography, Jack Duckworth and Me – A Life on the Street and Other Adventures, in 2010.
He died, aged 71, in Tenerife on November 8 and is survived by his wife and two children.