Coronation Street Dennis Tanner stars life – exit, record holder and pop fame

It is hard to believe that it has been 11 years since cobbles bad boy Dennis Tanner returned to Coronation street – with his appearance surprising both viewers and Weatherfield residents.

He returned to the street on this day in 2011 (May 12), after 43 years away from the soap – with Dennis Tanner actor Philip Lowrie remaining on Coronation Street for a further three years before departing once more.

To mark the anniversary of Dennis Tanner's return to the cobbles, Daily Star takes a look inside the life of actor Philip Lowrie – from connections to Victoria Wood to a hidden popstar career.

Coronation Street fame

Philip Lowrie was one of the Coronation Street OGs when the soap began on December 9, 1960 – but he originally auditioned for the part of Ken Barlow, before William Roache was offered the role.

Instead, Philip was cast as the cobbles first bad-boy Dennis Tanner, with the character fresh out of a six-month stint in prison and hoping to embark on a career as a talent manager and a singer.

During his time on the cobbles, a future fan favourite was also introduced as an acquaintance of Dennis' – the lovable Rita Littlewood – later known as Rita Sullivan, who famously ran the cobble's newsagents for many years when she joined the soap as a permanent character in 1972.

Pop star career, soap exit and Victoria Wood link

Two years after joining the soap, Philip shared a similarity with his on-screen counterpart when he decided to embark on a career as a pop star.

In 1963, he recorded a single called I Might Have Known at London's famous Abbey Road Studios, but the song failed to reach the UK charts.

It is reported that his pop star career did not take off and he continued to play Dennis Tanner until Philip decided to leave Coronation Street in 1968.

Dennis was written out of the series after his character left for a new job in Bristol alongside wife Jenny Sutton – and it would be many years before the Weatherfield residents would hear from him again.

It was not the last time we saw actor Philip Lowrie on our TV screens though, as he had a successful career in TV programmes including War And Peace, Golden Hill, The Liver Birds, Company And Co, Andy Capp and Rules of Engagement.

He also appeared in numerous theatre productions including King Lear, Hamlet, The Silver King and The Merry Wives Of Windsor.

That's not all, as he was a regular collaborator of the late comedian and writer Victoria Wood, working with her on productions including Victoria Wood's All Day Breakfast, sketch series Victoria Wood and As Seen On TV.

Return and World Record Breaker

Soapland is known for a number of surprise returns, and who would have guessed that in 2011, Philip Lowrie would make a return to the cobbles as Dennis Tanner – over 43 years since his Weatherfield departure.

Philip was even awarded with a special certificate by the Guinness World Book of Records, for the person with the longest gap between appearances in the same TV programme.

His character Dennis was brought back into the show, after Sophie Webster and Sian Powers met Dennis at a soup kitchen where they were volunteering – with the couple helping Dennis to get back onto his feet.

They took him to Roy's Rolls and while walking down the cobbles he once called home, he bumped into his old flame Rita – with the couple finally getting married in the same year.

However their romance was not to last, as he had a fling with Gloria Price and in the process, broke Rita's heart as he planned to leave Weatherfield with Gloria.

Though Dennis and Gloria broke up, Rita could never forgive him and he departed Coronation Street for good in 2014.

Asked why Dennis was written out of the soap, former Coronation Street producer Stuart Blackburn told Digital Spy: "Just because you're in your 60s or 70s, doesn't mean you have to be sedate or dull.

"I think we got into a position where we'd lost a little bit of Dennis Tanner, and once we began to bring the rogue back, it had to have consequences.

"It didn't feel right to tell a story where he was so badly behaved and then everything carried on as normal."

However any hopes for a return for Dennis Tanner were brought to a halt, when Rita was told that he had died in 2020 – with her and fellow Weatherfield residents scattering his ashes in a special 10,000th episode of the soap.

Life away from the cobbles

Away from the cobbles, not much is known about Philip Lowrie's private life and whether he is married, as the star tends to keep his personal life away from the limelight.

His last credited TV appearance was in the 2015 series Home Fires as Mr Larkin, but Philip has instead made a return to the stage.

Since 2016, he has appeared in a number of critically acclaimed productions including The Case Of the Frightened Lady and The Lady Vanishes.

But will he ever make a return to the world of soaps? Only time will tell.

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