CULT comedian Frank Sidebottom has died after he was found collapsed at his home, it was reported today.
The comedian, real name Chris Sievey, was famous for wearing a huge papier mache head on stage. He had recently undergone an operation to remove a tumour from his chest, his agent Nigel Round said.
His comic creation Frank became a student favourite in the 1980s, and in 1992 starred in his own Yorkshire TV series, Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Shed Show.
He revived the character several years later and only last week released a comedy song for the World Cup, titled Three Shirts On My Line. He posted a message on his Twitter account on Sunday morning saying: "I'm still feeling very poorly".
Mr Sievey, 54, also worked as an animator on several children's TV shows. He was found collapsed at his home in Hale, Manchester, by his girlfriend.
Yorkshire Post Digital Editor David Behrens, who produced his YTV series, said: "Chris was a genuinely funny and creative comic talent, and he had a huge and loyal base of fans. He had been ill recently but his death is terribly sudden and sad.
"He came from a great comedy tradition in refusing to acknowledge his real identity when he was in character. As soon as the prop head went on he'd answer to Frank, never Chris. A real one of a kind - he has gone tragically young."
Before finding fame as Frank, Mr Sievey had enjoyed a pop career with his punk band The Freshies, who had a minor hit with "I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk".
The comic creation's songwriting skills led to Frank Sidebottom singles and EPs including Christmas Is Really Fantastic, the Timperley EP and Smiths parody Panic! (On The Streets Of Timperley).
His live act would also see Frank sing a medley of Queen songs, complete with Freddie Mercury moustache.
Sgt Pepper Knew My Father - am album released to celebrate the Beatles' original - featured Frank Sidebottom alongside acts including Wet Wet Wet and Sonic Youth.
Despite fading from TV in recent years, Frank remained a popular gigging comedian.
He was performing until the end, appearing on stage only last week, his agent said.
Announcing his death, Mr Round said: "Everybody who knew Frank is going to be gutted."
The agent said Sievey's girlfriend was devastated by the news.
Mr Round said the comedian downplayed the cancer he was fighting in recent months.
"He always said it was no problem, he was going through treatment but it was being sorted out."
Mr Round added: "He was just a nice bloke. He was quite a private person. He never spoke about Chris Sievey, it was all about the character."
His agent said Sievey was planning to come out from under the paper-mache mask in the coming years.
"Everyone kept it really quiet. We were probably only 12 months from him uncovering himself," Mr Round said.