Bobby Ball died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital last night, his manager confirmed.
Ball was one half of comedy duo Cannon & Ball, alongside his long-time friend Tommy Cannon, and also starred in a number of sitcoms including Not Going Out and Benidorm.
Cannon led tributes by quoting his friend’s catchphrase: “Rock on, my good friend, I can’t believe this, I’m devastated.”
A statement issued by Ball’s manager 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.”
The statement continued: “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.
“Yvonne added that their need for privacy at this time has to be a priority. No further announcements or statements will be made.”
Ball’s wife of 46 years said: “I will always miss him, he was so joyful, full of fun and mischievous.”
Cannon and Ball first met in the 1960s while working as welders in Oldham, and went on to perform in pubs and clubs around Greater Manchester, first as singers and later as comedians.
They landed their own hugely popular variety show in 1979, The Cannon & Ball Show, which ran for almost a decade and was followed up by game show Cannon & Ball’s Casino and sitcom Plaza Patrol.
Ball was also known for making appearances on shows from Last Of The Summer Wine to Heartbeat.
In 2005, he was part of the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! line-up and was sixth to be eliminated.
In more recent years, Ball joined the cast of the 10th series of ITV comedy Benidorm, playing the role of Ron Pickford, a friend of the Dawson family.
Ball has also been a regular cast member on Lee Mack’s long-running sitcom Not Going Out, where he played the main character’s no-good father, Frank.
Prone to getting his son into farcical hijinks, Frank quickly became a firm favourite among fans, often delivering some of the best one-liners in each episode.
Tributes have poured in from the stars of the comedy world, with Jason Manford saying he was “heartbroken” by the news of Ball’s death.
Les Dennis also paid tribute, saying: “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.”
Rufus Hound recalled his experience of working with Cannon & Ball:
Being on stage with Cannon & Ball was like the Comedy Gods telling me "Well done son. You did it. You're worthy"— Rufus Hound 💙 (@RufusHound) October 29, 2020
That spark. The chaos of Bobby. Just always so ON POINT.
In a world of Oxbridge graduates controlling comedy on TV, Bobby was something more rare and more precious.
Diane Morgan, also known as her comedy character Philomena Cunk, worked with Ball on UKTV Gold’s sitcom The Cockfields, recalling that he “never stopped making us all laugh”.
So sad to hear about Bobby Ball. He was such a treat to work with. Never stopped making us all laugh. We’ll miss you Bobby! pic.twitter.com/6XfMu4fsnw— Diane Morgan (@missdianemorgan) October 29, 2020
EastEnders and Benidorm star Shane Richie posted a heartfelt message to his Twitter page, saying that Ball had “the biggest heart and warmest smile” and that he was “truly one of a kind”.