COMEDIAN Sir Ken Dodd had a 'soft spot' for Boltonians after his second professional performance in the town in the 1950s, said his friend Sean Hornby, who paid tribute to the popular entertainer.

The much-loved star famous for his tickling sticks died on Sunday, aged 90, at home, just two days after getting married, with his wife, Anne, at his bedside.

The Liverpool comedian performed his second professional show in Bolton and was due to return to the town to perform at the Albert Halls in February but had to cancel after falling ill.

Cllr Hornby, who yesterday travelled to Liverpool to leave a floral tribute, said: "It was a sad day to wake to the news that Ken Dodd, a personal friend of mine and my late father Cllr Kevan Hornby, has passed away yesterday at his home in Knotty Ash where he was born and loved all his life.

"Ken's second professional show was done at the Grand Theatre, which used to stand in Churchgate, in September, 1954 and Doddy has had a soft spot for the people of Bolton ever since.

"I first came into contact with Doddy in 1980 when he came and did a charity show at Little Lever School on behalf of my dad to raise money for charity in Little Lever.

"Ken not only came and did the show for nothing, he donated some money towards the event as well. In 1990 after the death of my daughter, aged just 20 months, Ken was a great support to me and my family and we have remained friends ever since."

Cllr Hornby said: "Over many years Ken has raised millions for different charities and was knighted for his six decades as an entertainer and his charity work.

"Show business has lost a great entertainer, the last of the all time great comedians and certainly the best of the variety comedians.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Ken's partner and now wife as of last Friday Anne.

"It has been a privilege and a pleasure to know such a great comedy genius."

The comedian left hospital on February 27 at the end of a six-week stay for a chest infection.

He wed Anne Jones, his partner of 40 years, on Friday.

His publicist Robert Holmes said: "To my mind, he was one of the last music hall greats. There is no one else that comes close.

"He passed away in the home that he was born in over 90 years ago. He's never lived anywhere else. It's absolutely amazing.

"With Ken gone, the lights have been turned out in the world of variety.

"He was a comedy legend and a genius."

He added: "He asked Anne if she wanted to marry. They got the registrar and were married in the house on Friday.

"He died two days later on Mother's Day. Anne is obviously very upset.

"It's a love story to beat them all."

Sir Ken performed his last show just months ago, at The Auditorium in the Liverpool Echo Arena, on December 28.

But all 2018 dates had to be cancelled due to his illness and subsequent hospital stay.

Brandishing a tickling stick and greeted by his Diddy Men, the star had vowed to carry on with his 'tattyfilarious' comedy when he left hospital last month.

"I'm going to teach my legs how to work again, they've forgotten you know, and once I've recovered myself I'll get back to doing the job, which is the only job I've ever had," he said at the time.

"While I was in here, I wrote some new jokes, so it should be all right."

The entertainer's career kicked off after his father bought a Punch and Judy for his eighth birthday, and he began charging school friends twopence to sit on orange boxes and watch the puppets.

He left school at 14 and worked with his brother Bill, heaving Arley cobbles and Houlton kitchen nuts for six years as part of his father's business.

But in his spare time, the former choirboy was singing and developing a stand-up comic routine at working men's clubs

The Theatre Royal, Nottingham, saw his £75-a-week debut in 1954 as Professor Chuckabutty, and within two years he was topping the bill at Blackpool, with bits such as the famous Diddy Men, the Broken Biscuit Repair Works, the Jam Butty Mines, the Moggy Ranch and the Treacle Wells.

This was followed by countless BBC series.

In 1964 he released his first single, Happiness, followed by Tears and then Promises.

Over the 1960s, he entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest joke-telling session ever — 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours.

His TV shows included The Ken Dodd Show, Beyond Our Ken and Ken Dodd's Laughter Show, and he entered the big time in 1965 with the longest-ever run at the London Palladium — 42 weeks.

In 1994, his Ken Dodd: An Audience With Ken Dodd show was filmed and released on video, followed in 1996 by the Ken Dodd: Live Laughter Tour and then Another Audience With Ken Dodd in 2002.

Also a well-known singer, in 1964 the star released his first single, Happiness, followed by smash hit Tears in 1965, and then Promises.

The veteran comic was knighted in honour of his decades-long showbiz career and charity work in March last year.

He was acquitted following a five-week trial, accused of tax fraud, in 1989 and would later joke about the case, which had transformed Liverpool Crown Court into a sell-out theatre, with fellow comics Eric Sykes and Roy Hudd called as character witnesses.

His first fiancee, Anita Boutin, died of a brain tumour in 1977 aged 45 after 24 years together.