THE death of legendary American singer Frankie Laine in San Diego ended a friendship of more than 30 years for a Bolton photographer who captured him in pictures.

The Bolton News photographer Colin Lyne spoke of his sadness at the death of the singer whose famous hits included Rawhide, I Believe and Mule Train.

Colin first met Laine in 1975 when the singer, who was then in his 60s, visited Blighty's nightclub in Farnworth. He was asked by the club to take the official pictures of his visit. Colin who was working as a freelance photographer, went on to cover his shows on the Northern club circuit, striking up a friendship with the singer that lasted until his death.

When Laine returned to England the following year, he again called on Colin to take his official photographs and Colin went on to produce the photograph for one of his album sleeves.

Colin said: "We became friends and every year exchanged letters. When my daughter Jennifer was born 28 -years-old, he sent a letter congratulating me saying: "I'll bet she's a belter."

The pair's friendship continued and Colin said it was cemented when Laine, who was performing at a Liverpool club, presented him with a tie pin and cufflinks with "L" engraved on them.

"Obviously the L was for Laine, but as my surname began with an L too, it was quite fitting."

Colin still also still has one of the suit bags Laine had made for members of his entourage - Colin's has "CL" on it.

The singer who died on Tuesday, was 93. He became one of America's biggest stars with a string of more than 70 hits and international sales of more than 250 million.

He was popular in Britain and broke attendance records at the London Palladium in 1952. He also sand the title song for "Blazing Saddles" the Mel Brook's spoof in 1974.

Colin said: "He was one of those stars who never forgot that his fans made him. He was very kind and he meant a lot to me. He was a very strong and masculine man."