A KEY member of Blackburn's chart-topping 60s band The Four Pennies has died of pancreatic cancer aged 63.

Fritz Fryer, born David Roderick Carney Fryer on December 6 1944 in Revidge, died suddenly in hospital after an operation near his home in Lisbon, Portugal.

He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July and had undergone an operation to remove a tumour when doctors could not control internal bleeding.

Fritz played lead guitar for the Blackburn-based band, with other members Lionel Morton, Mike Wilsh and Alan Buck.

Lionel, now 65, was vocalist and rhythm guitarist.

Alan, of Brierfield, now 64 was the band's drummer and Mike Wilsh, 62, of Stoke-on-Trent played the bass and keyboard.

They toured the Lancashire area in the early 1960s before signing for Phillips records and playing with the Beatles in The Cavern Club.

The group's name came after a meeting above the Blackburn music shop owned by Mary Reidy, the shop being situated on Penny Street where it is still located today as "Reidy's Home of Music".

The name was chosen as a more commercial alternative to the "Lionel Morten Four".

They found their greatest success with ballads like "Juliet," which Fritz co-wrote with Mike Wilsh, and knocked the Searchers from the top of the charts in the spring of 1964.

The group fell apart in the autumn of 1966 after achieving another five top 20 hits and working with producer John Franz, who also worked with Dusty Springfield and the Walker Brothers.

After The Four Pennies, Fritz established the group Fritz, Mike & Mo, with Maureen Edwards and Mike Deigham before becoming a record producer for the groups Clannad, Horslips, Motörhead, and Stackridge.

Bandmate Mike Wilsh, who went to St Peter's school in Blackburn with Fritz but who now lives in Bristol said: "Fritz was an extrovert, larger than life.

"He was very much a performer who used his eccentricity to great effect.

"He believed in living life to the maximum and was very talented and original in everything he did.

"He was a good friend and will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him."

After a career in music Fritz used his passion for antiques to set up an antique lighting shop in Ross on Wye with his partner of 30 years Joan Graham.

Simon Wallis-Smith of Fritz Fryer Antique Lighting said: "Having sold his business Fritz should have been looking forwards to many years of happy retirement with his partner Joan.

"Fritz was one of those eccentric and rich characters who always had plenty to say and was a lot of fun."

The Fryer family were a central part of Blackburn life with his mother running Blackburn Salvation Army and his father playing organ for churches in the diocese.

The funeral is to be held at St Luke's Church, Santa Barbara, Lisbon at 11pm on Friday.