Oldham comedy legend Bobby Ball has died aged 76 after testing positive for coronavirus, his manager today confirmed.
Bobby, who was part of the hugely popular comedy duo Cannon and Ball with lifelong friend Tommy Cannon, died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Wednesday after suffering breathing problems.
His manager said in a statement: “It is with great personal sadness that on behalf of Yvonne Ball, and the family, and Tommy Cannon, I announce that Bobby Ball passed away at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on 28 October 2020 approximately 21:30.
“Bobby had been taken to the hospital for tests as he started with breathing problems. At first it was thought to be a chest infection but a test proved positive for COVID-19.
“His wife Yvonne said the hospital and staff could not have been more wonderful, as they were outstanding in their care of duty and they did everything possible for him and she cannot praise them enough.
“She said that the family and Tommy would like to express their sincere thanks to the many, many people who have been fans of Bobby and they will all share in part the great loss and total sadness that Yvonne, the family and Tommy all feel. Yvonne added that their need for privacy at this time has to be a priority. No further announcements or statements will be made.”
Showbiz stars led the outpouring of tributes to the comedy great, including from Jason Manford, Les Dennis, Vernon Kay, Lisa Riley and Badly Drawn Boy.
— Jason Manford (@JasonManford) October 29, 2020
Bobby was born Robert Harper in 1944 at the former Boundary Park General Hospital in Oldham. The former High Crompton pupil became a welder after leaving school, where he met Tommy Cannon and a lifelong friendship was born.
Performing as the duo Cannon and Ball they found huge fame in the 1970s and 80s with their own TV show, and Bobby became known for his catchphrase “Rock on Tommy!”, and he famously owned the Braces nightclub in Rochdale in the 1980s.
In recent years the comedy duo continued to perform on the comedy circuit and remained popular faces in panto each Christmas – with their most recent stint at the Crewe Lyceum Theatre including a surprise appearance by their friend and fellow comedy superstar Peter Kay.
And since 2009 Bobby had played Frank in hit BBC comedy Not Going Out.
The comedy world shared its grief at the news today, with fellow stars sharing their special memories of Bobby.
Stockport-based Jason Manford said: “So heartbroken to read about the passing of comedy legend Bobby Ball. Such a hilarious man. The comedy community is a poorer place without him.”
Les Dennis said: “He was a true entertainer with real funny bones. Thoughts with Tommy, Yvonne and his family at this sad time.”
Just heard the sad news that the wonderful Bobby Ball has died. He was a true entertainer with real funny bones. Thoughts with Tommy,Yvonne and his family at this sad time. RIP Bobby
— Les Dennis (@LesDennis) October 29, 2020
Manchester songwriter Badly Drawn Boy paid tribute saying: “I’m truly gutted. One of the most natural funny men, the greatest smile in showbiz.”
Bolton TV presenter Vernon Kay said he “brought a glow into our living rooms. And one of the nicest people in showbiz I’ve ever met.”
I’m truly gutted to hear about Bobby Ball. Saw Cannon & Ball many times in Blackpool in the 70s. One of the most natural funny men, the greatest smile in showbiz. Fortunate to have a pint with him on the set of ‘Fattest Man in Britain’. He phoned my Mum to say hello. Legend 😢 pic.twitter.com/9pJwindiIB
— Badly Drawn Boy (@badly_drawn_boy) October 29, 2020
Rest in Peace Bobby. Laughing around the telly with the family as a kid are some of the fondest memories we have, Bobby you brought a glow into our living rooms. And one of the nicest people in showbiz I’ve ever met..X pic.twitter.com/lNB0awsfLD
— Vernon Kay (@vernonkay) October 29, 2020