LONDON (AP) – English clarinet player Acker Bilk (pic below), who beat the Beatles and other British rockers to the top of the US music charts with the instrumental “Stranger on the Shore”, has died at the age of 85.
Manager Pamela Sutton said Bilk died Sunday at a hospital in Bath, southwestern England. The cause of death was not announced.
Born Bernard Stanley Bilk in 1929 in the south-western English county of Somerset, Bilk adop-ted the name Acker from a local slang term for friend.
He learned the clarinet as a bored army con-script, stationed in Egypt after World War II, and became one of the stars of Britain’s 1950s “trad jazz” scene.
Before the British rock invasion, he was the first UK act to top the Billboard music chart in the 1960s, with “Stranger on the Shore”. The wistful 1961 instrumental also spent more than a year in the British charts and became his signature tune.
He was on the select list of artistes who have been played in space. Along with tracks by Frank Sinatra, the Kingston Trio and others, three of Bilk’s tunes were included on a cassette that ac-companied the Apollo 10 astronauts on their mission around the moon in 1969.
Bilk attributed his distinctive vibrato sound to a pair of childhood accidents. He lost part of a fin-ger in a sledding accident, and two teeth in a fight at school.