Bobby Ball’s comedy partner of six decades Tommy Cannon teared up today as he paid tribute to his late friend whose death has ripped a ‘big chunk’ out of his life.
Cannon described feeling ’empty’ since learning that Ball had passed away in hospital on Wednesday aged 76 after testing positive for Covid-19.
The duo together made up comedy double act Cannon and Ball which shot to fame in the 1970s and 80s, landing their own TV show.
Choking on his words, he told ITV’s This Morning: ‘It’s a very sad time… and this moment and time, I don’t know where I am.
‘I can’t believe he’s passed away. I can’t make any sense of it yet, I really can’t. I miss him terribly, I loved him to bits.
‘We had a great career. With great memories to look back on… and I know one day I’ll meet him again. Oh rest in peace, lad.’
Bobby Ball’s comedy partner of six decades Tommy Cannon (pictured today) teared up today as he paid a heartfelt tribute to his late friend whose death he said he’ll ‘never get over
Tommy Cannon (left) and Bobby Ball (right) pose for an ITV publicity photo in May 2001
Asked by hosts Eammon Holmes and Ruth Langsford if Ball’s death had left him feeling he had a hole in his life, Cannon agreed.
He said: ‘Oh yeah, a big chunk… I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. I don’t. It’s an empty feeling that after nearly 58 years working together starting in the pubs and working men’s clubs…it took fifteen years before we got on to TV.
Cannon explained he had last worked with Ball on October 9 and he had ‘seemed OK… I didn’t know there was anything wrong.’
But on Saturday Ball went to Blackpool Victoria Hospital with breathing problems which has family believed was a chest infection before he was later found to have contracted coronavirus.
Cannon recalled the moment he was delivered the crushing news by Ball’s wife of 46 years, Yvonne.
‘We were told he’s stable, or he’s getting a little better, and I don’t know, suddenly he just passed away. I got a phone call from his lovely wife and that was it. It was so quick, but like I say, now he’s at rest.’
Ball’s sons today described how their father’s health unexpectedly spiralled while in hospital.
Bobby Ball (left) and Tommy Cannon (right) at the British Soap Awards at MediaCityUK Salford in May 2013
Cannon and Ball sing together at the London Palladium in the West End on ITV in June 1987
Rob Harper, who is part of the double act The Harper Brothers with his brother Darren, told GMB: ‘You never expect one of your family to get it and then it’s shell-shock really.
‘I was FaceTiming him every day, three times a day while he was in hospital, before he took a decline, he was laughing and joking with the nurses, he was his usual self, getting the nurses and saying ‘Have you met your new mother?’ and that is what he was doing.
‘And then unfortunately he declined, he went in the wrong direction.’
He continued: ‘Three weeks ago we did our last gig with Cannon & Ball at a place in Blackpool called Viva and he was up to his old tricks again.
‘We are in a double act and we went on stage hoping to get a laugh and then Cannon & Ball went after, got the bigger laughs, turned around to us backstage and said ‘That’s how you get laughs, lads’.’
Darren added: ‘To work with them both, absolute legends, we can never fill his shoes.’
He said he will remember his father just as how he seemed on TV, saying he was ‘like a cartoon’, while Rob said he was ‘completely full of mischief’.
Ball played Frank in Not Going Out, the father of Lee (played by Lee Mack), and Mack paid tribute to him this afternoon
Ball, born Robert Harper on January 28, 1944 in Oldham, Lancashire, recently won over new fans playing Mack’s troublesome father Frank in the BBC One sitcom Not Going Out from 2009.
Mack paid tribute to his co-actor’s death yesterday: ‘I’m utterly shocked and devastated to lose my mate Bobby like this. I filmed with him just a few weeks ago and he was his usual funny and cheeky self. My thoughts are with Yvonne and his family and of course Tommy.
‘To get to work with one of my childhood comedy heroes was great. But to call him a friend was even better. Rest In Peace Bobby x’. Ball’s wife Yvonne added: ‘I will always miss him, he was so joyful, full of fun and mischievous.’
Meanwhile BBC comedy controller Shane Allen said: ‘We are devastated to hear the sad news of Bobby Ball passing away. He was a powder keg of comedy who entertained audiences of all ages for decades.
‘He was funny to the end, having just completed his work on the forthcoming Not Going Out series and we all feel immensely privileged to have enjoyed the benefit of his talents. Our thoughts are with family and friends at this sad time.’