Mr. Acker Bilk is a Brit who is the most notable clarinet player of the 60's and 70's. He reached the top of the US charts with one marvelous instrumental.
Born Bernard Stanley Bilk in Pensford, Somerset, England in 1929, he lost part of a finger and some front teeth in a childhood accident, which would later impact the way he played his instrument. Bilk spent time in the military and while putting in some long hours pulling guard duty in Egypt in 1947, he learned to play the clarinet. He worked at it and became quite proficient, then formed a band in 1958.
Bilk and his band honed their craft first in Bristol, England and later in some beer cellars in Germany. They developed a slow blues number called Summer Set that became a hit in England in 1960, settling in at number five on the British pop chart. Actively recording throughout the 60's and 70's, Mr. Acker Bilk, as he came to be known (or simply, Acker Bilk) put ten more singles on the British charts -- many of them reaching the top ten -- and was successful with a number of albums.
He composed a number of songs one of which was titled Stranger On The Shore, an instrumental, which served as the theme song for a British television show. With its excellent string arrangement the song became enormously popular and made him a household name, both in England and the United States. It was to be his only top forty song in the US, and reached the number one spot briefly early in 1962. Mr. Acker Bilk had established himself as one of the world's top clarinetists.
And what about that unusual name? Well, Mr. Acker Bilk is a stage name derived from the rural English slang term "acker" meaning a friend or buddy.
The premier jazz clarinetist of his time, Mr. Acker Bilk made his mark with Stranger On The Shore in 1962.
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