A close friend of Bobby Ball's has paid tribute to the entertainer who turned to Christ and led his comedy partner to faith as well.
Bobby Ball died at the age of 76 this week after getting Covid-19. He was a popular TV comedian, most famous for his double act 'Cannon and Ball' with entertainment partner Tommy Cannon.
Both men became Christians after they achieved nationwide fame and Chris Gidney, who started the group 'Christians in Entertainment' became a close friend of theirs, writing their autobiography and going on 'gospel tours' with them.
Gidney told Premier: "I heard the news early this morning and was absolutely shocked, I didn't know that Bobby was ill and I just couldn't believe it, the sadness of having lost somebody who brought so much joy, so much laughter into our lives in such sad circumstances has been pretty awful. I had a chat with Tommy and of course he's absolutely devastated, as is his wife Hazel and Bobby's wife Yvonne, it was just so quick and so sudden. But it makes you reflect on the past and happy memories."
Describing some of those memories, Gidney said: "I was there when Bobby was searching for a meaning to life and helped him through those initial stages of checking all sorts of things out and when he found that, for him, Christ was the answer."
Gidney knew Bobby for over 30 years and said he saw a "phenomenal" transformation when Bobby was born again: "I mean if you've ever seen a change in somebody, like a St Paul conversion, it was Bobby Ball. I mean absolutely phenomenal in so many different ways, particularly in lifestyle. Don't forget, Bob and Tom came from simple working class backgrounds, [then] suddenly, overnight, literally, they are top of the tree, earning more than anybody else in show business at that time and of course, it went to their heads and they did everything that they wanted to do and had the money to spend left, right and centre and in some ways, it was pretty devastating on their lives.
"But for Bobby, it made him refocus on: what is life about? He suddenly became so passionate about God, he loved to talk about God - hence us doing these gospel tours. We did a 47 day tour across the UK once and Bobby became a preacher! He loved preaching! And of course, he was so funny all the time.
"He was never ashamed of his faith in public because it has such an effect on him, a dramatic effect in his lifestyle and his family. And it changed it so much that he couldn't have one foot in the commercial camp and one foot in the Gospel camp. He was just like a stick of Blackpool rock - you break Bobby and the word Jesus runs all the way through the middle!
"He just wanted to tell everybody. I remember him saying something like, 'Look, if you go down to a local supermarket and they've got coffee on half price you tell your mates, you tell all your friends "Hey, get down to the supermarket! There's coffee on half price!"' he could not hold back talking about his faith and the difference it made."
More tributes came from other Christians who knew him, including Steve Legg, a Christian and comedian, who wrote: "So sad to hear about the death of my pal, the legendary Bobby Ball. Touring with Bob & Tom 25 years ago was one of the highlights of my career. Each night after the show we'd laugh and joke over a pint, egg mayonnaise sandwiches and the odd Bacardi and coke until the early hours. Bobby was one of the funniest and kindest people I've ever met and was a true comedy superstar. Much love to Yvonne and the rest of the family. See you in heaven old friend #rockonBobby"
Ian West / PA Wire