Acker Bilk

Born 28 January 1929, Bernard Stanley “Acker”, Bilk MBE is an English clarinettist. His trademark goatee and bowler hat, striped waistcoat, and vibrato-rich, lower register clarinet style are all well-known. From Somerset, Bilk was called Acker. Although his parents tried to teach him piano as a child, Bilk was not able to play it. Bilk claims that he lost his front teeth in a fight at school and half of his finger in a sledging accident. Both of these events influenced his clarinet style. After John A. Britten, his friend and sapper, gave him a clarinet he bought at a bazaar that he didn’t use, he learned how to play the clarinet. Britten made a reed from scrap wood and the clarinet was ready for professional use by the mid-1950s. Bilk was part the traditional jazz boom that swept the United Kingdom during the 1950s. In 1954, he joined Ken Colyer’s group, then formed his own band, The Paramount Jazz Band in 1956. Their single “Summer Set”, a pun on their hometown, was released four years later. It reached number five on the British charts. This single began a string of 11 top 50 hits. Bilk wasn’t an international star until 1962, when he created a string quartet and his own composition as the main piece. He composed and dedicated the melody “Jennifer”, which he wrote after the birth of his daughter. A British television series approached him to allow the melody to be used, but to change the title of the song to “Stranger on the Shore”. It was recorded by him as the title track for a new album. His signature quivering clarinet was supported by the Leon Young string chorus. It was a huge hit in the United Kingdom. The single remained on the charts for 55 consecutive weeks. Bilk was also featured on TV’s This Is Your Life. In America, the single reached the top of the charts. This was at a time when American radio playlists and pop charts were open to any genre. Bilk became the first British artist to have a single reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts. Vera Lynn was the first British singer to reach the top of the U.S. charts. Billboard charts in 1952 with “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart”. “Stranger on the Shore”, which sold more than one million copies, was awarded a Gold disc. Bunny Berigan’s iconic hit “I Can’t Get Started” was featured on the album. Bilk’s public relation workers were once known as the Bilk Marketing Board, a play on the Milk Marketing Board. NME, a British music magazine, reported in January 1963 that Alexandra Palace was the venue for the largest trad jazz concert ever held in Britain. George Melly and Diz Disley were there. Alex Welsh, Chris Barber (Kenny Ball), Ken Colyer, Monty Sunshine. Bob Wallis. Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan, and Bilk also attended. Bilk released a number of albums in England, which were also successful in America (on Atlantic Records subsidiary Atco), and included a memorable collaboration (“Together”) with Bent Fabric (“The Alley Cat”), a Danish jazz pianist-composer. His success slowed down when British rock and rolling began its international boom in 1964. Bilk then switched to the cabaret scene. In 1976, he had his second chart success with “Aria,” which reached number five in the United Kingdom. In May 1977, Bilk

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