IT was the hottest ticket in town - but even its star guest didn't know anything about it.

Billy Butler was honoured by friends, BBC Radio Merseyside colleagues and stars of stage and screen at an emotional 'thank you' show on Sunday night to mark Billy's long and successful radio and tv career.

The popular broadcaster, whose contract was not renewed by the station last year, was visibly moved by the packed celebration in the Cavern Club.

The famous Mathew Street venue is where Billy was one of the famous Merseybeat DJs during the Beatles' heyday following in the foot steps of Bob Wooler.

Billy was, himself, a pop star with The Tuxedos.

The whole event had been kept a secret by Billy's actress wife Lesley.

Performers Henry Priestman of The Christians, Ian McNabb of The Icicle Works and Ian Prowse of Amsterdam all paid tribute to Billy's passion for discovering and nurturing new talent some getting that all important first airplay on his radio shows.

DJ Pete Price of Radio City paid homage to his fellow Wirral resident.

He told the Globe: "Billy was and is an inspiration.

"If I am half the man he is - then I am happy."

Comedian Denny Waters described Billy as 'simply the best in the business.'

As well as Radio Merseyside colleagues Roger Phillips and Roger Lyon, actresses Suzanne Collins and Eithne Browne joined the star-studded gathering.

Poet Davy Edge praised the 77-year-old broadcaster for championing not only his work but others who were starting out in the entertainment world while compere and popular entertainer Asa Murphy said Billy was 'a Liverpool legend.'

Crissy Rock and Ricky Tomlinson, who were unable to attend the party due to filing assignments abroad, sent 'well done' telegrams.

Brushing away tears, modest Billy told the audience: "I don't deserve this.

"I was only doing a job I love."

Billy continues to present sell-out shows with his on-stage partner Wally Scott . The duo created the global hit quiz Hold your plums.

And Billy is enjoying another string to his bow as a much-in-demand actor in such plays as Stan Boardman's hit Medals.