FANS of the comedian Bobby Ball – one half of comedy double act Cannon & Ball – have been paying tribute to the entertainer who has died after testing positive for coronavirus.

The star – whose real name Robert Harper – died last night in Blackpool. He was 76.

With his comedy partner and life-long friend Tommy Cannon, he found huge fame on stage and screen and delighted audiences at Oxford's New Theatre.

Starting off in 1969 on Opportunity Knocks, he was propelled to stardom on ITV's The Cannon and Ball show – immortalised with his catch phrase 'Rock on Tommy'.

He continued to attract fans through panto and appearances on Last Of The Summer Wine, Heartbeat, Mount Pleasant, Benidorm, The Cockfields and Not Going Out.

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He and Cannon also took part in the 2005 edition of I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

Paying tribute, Tommy Cannon said: “Rock on, my good friend, I can’t believe this, I’m devastated."

Louise Chantal, director of the Oxford Playhouse said: "I worked with Bobby and Tommy as a follow-spot operator on Babes in the Wood at the Bradford Alhambra Theatre in 1986.

"It was my first job in professional theatre. We did 96 performances, and Bobby made every one of them different with his ad-libs and audience participation. He’d do anything for a laugh, and the audiences loved him."

Christopher Gray, arts writer for the Oxford Mail's sister paper The Oxford Times, said: "I saw Cannon and Ball at the New Theatre in the early 1980s at the height of their television fame. As it happened, I had a moustache and a mop of curly black hair that made me look very like the comedian.

Herald Series:

Bobby Ball, comedienne Marti Caine on the knee of her bridegroom, Ken Ives and Tommy Canoon, after Marti and Ken wed in 1985

"As we waited for curtain up at the Oxford show, audience members in the stalls around me were nudging each other and saying 'it's him' –as if my presence there was all part of the show.

"They quickly realised their mistake."

Oxford Mail reader Stuart Jarvis, from Milton, said: "When I was a young teacher we invited Cannon and Ball to our school to be interviewed by our Drama students.

"Imagine our surprise when they accepted and they spent three hours with us. It really was a magical afternoon.

"Bobby was great with the students, making us all laugh and even playing football. I still see students who are now adults and they say do you remember when Cannon and Ball visited our school? So sad to hear he's died but he brought so much happiness. A great man. RIP."

Ball’s wife Yvonne said: “I will always miss him, he was so joyful, full of fun and mischievous.”

Ball's manager Phil Dale, said: "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 the 28th 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 know that they will all share in part the great loss and total sadness that Yvonne, the family and Tommy all feel."

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BBC radio presenter Tony Blackburn tweeted: “So sorry to hear that Bobby Ball has passed away. He was a very funny man and gave us some good comedy over the years. RIP. Thanks for the laughs”.

TV star Les Dennis described Ball said: “He was a true entertainer with real funny bones. Thoughts with Tommy, Yvonne and his family at this sad time.”

Shane Richie paid an emotional tribute, saying: “35 years ago my hero became my friend. You always knew when Bobby was in the room, he could make you laugh and cry with just a look.

"The biggest heart and warmest smile that filled stages everywhere. I loved you Bobby Ball and I always will. Truly, truly one of a kind. Sleep well cocker!”

* Did you see Bobby Ball in Oxfordshire or meet the star? Send your memories to