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Acker Bilk Dies: 'Stranger on the Shore' Jazz Clarinetist Was 85

By    |   Monday, 03 Nov 2014 08:29 AM

The British jazz clarinetist whose “Stranger on the Shore” reached the top of the pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Acker Bilk, died on Sunday in England. He was 85.

The Associated Press reported his manager Pamela Sutton announced his death in Bath but did not specify a cause.

Mr. Bilk had been a leading figure on Britain’s traditional jazz scene for several years when he recorded “Stranger on the Shore,” a wistful ballad that he wrote with Robert Mellin, with string accompaniment in 1961. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart in 1962, making him one of the first British performers to achieve that distinction.

Born Bernard Stanley Bilk in Pensford, a village in Somerset, England, on Jan. 28, 1929, he adopted the stage name Acker from a local slang word for “friend.” He learned the clarinet as a bored army conscript in Egypt after World War II and went on to play with the trumpeter Ken Colyer and other British exponents of New Orleans-style jazz before forming his own band.

Mr. Bilk attributed his distinctive vibrato to two childhood accidents. He lost part of a finger in a sledding accident and two teeth in a fight at school.

Known for his goatee, garish waistcoat and bowler hat as well as his smooth playing style, he remained a regular on British television with a large and loyal following long after jazz was displaced from the charts by rock ’n’ roll. He was named a member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.

He is survived by his wife, Jean, and a son and daughter.

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The British jazz clarinetist whose “Stranger on the Shore” reached the top of the pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Acker Bilk, died on Sunday in England. He was 85.
acker bilk, dies, stranger on the shore
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2014-29-03
Monday, 03 Nov 2014 08:29 AM
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