25 Facts About Acker Bilk


Acker Bilk's parents tried to teach him the piano but, as a boy, Bilk found it restricted his love of outdoor activities, including football.


Acker Bilk lost two front teeth in a school fight and half a finger in a sledging accident, both of which he said affected his eventual clarinet style.


Acker Bilk then undertook three years of National Service with the Royal Engineers in the Suez Canal Zone.


Acker Bilk learned the clarinet there after his sapper friend, John A Britten, gave him one bought at a bazaar and for which Britten had no use.


Acker Bilk later borrowed a better instrument from the army and kept it after demobilisation.


Acker Bilk played with friends on the Bristol jazz circuit and in 1951 moved to London to play with Ken Colyer's band.


Acker Bilk disliked London, so returned west and formed his own band in Pensford called the Chew Valley Jazzmen, which was renamed the Bristol Paramount Jazz Band when they moved to London in 1951.

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Acker Bilk was not an internationally known musician until 1962, when the experimental use of a string ensemble on one of his albums and the inclusion of a composition of his own as its keynote piece won him an audience outside the UK.


Acker Bilk had composed a melody, entitled "Jenny" after his daughter, but was asked to change the title to "Stranger on the Shore" for use in a British television series of the same name.


Acker Bilk went on to record it as the title track of a new album in which his deep and quavering clarinet was backed by the Leon Young String Chorale.


The single was not only a big hit in the United Kingdom, where it stayed on the charts for 55 weeks, helped by Acker Bilk being the subject of the TV show This Is Your Life, but topped the American charts.


Acker Bilk's music was heard on the soundtracks to films such as Bitter Harvest, West 11, and the musical comedy It's All Over Town.


Acker Bilk's success tapered off when British rock and roll made its big international impact beginning in 1964 and he shifted direction to the cabaret circuit.


In 1968 the album Blue Acker, produced by Denis Preston and with arrangements by Stan Tracey, illustrated that Bilk remained highly regarded as a musician, even by those on the "modern jazz" side of things.


Acker Bilk finally had another chart success in 1976 with "Aria", which went to number five in the United Kingdom.


Acker Bilk continued to tour with his Paramount Jazz Band, as well as performing concerts with his two contemporaries, Chris Barber and Kenny Ball, both of whom were born in 1930, as "The 3Bs".


Acker Bilk made a CD with Wally Fawkes for the Lake label in 2002.


In 2012 Acker Bilk said that, after 50 years, he was "fed up" with playing his most famous tune, "Stranger on the Shore".


Acker Bilk died in Bath, Somerset, on 2 November 2014, at the age of 85.


Acker Bilk was survived by his wife and two children.


Acker Bilk's last recorded interview was for Cornish community station Penwith Radio and was broadcast on Sunday 16 November 2014 at 9:00 pm.


Acker Bilk married his childhood sweetheart, Jean Hawkins, whom he met in the same class at school in 1954.


In 1997, Acker Bilk was diagnosed with throat cancer, which was treated through surgery and then followed by daily radiation therapy at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.


Acker Bilk was part of a consortium which took over the Oxford Cheetahs speedway team in 1972.


Acker Bilk has been described as the "Great Master of the Clarinet".

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