Sunday, 2 November 2014

Farewell to the beard, bowler hat and waistcoat

Oh dear. Such sad news. The legendary Mr Acker Bilk is dead.

Instantly recognisable with his beard, bowler hat and natty line in waistcoats, Acker Bilk - and his unique brand of clarinet-led jazz - was a semi-permanent fixture in my life and in that of generations of people across the UK for many, many years.

We only missed by a whisker (excuse the pun) tickets to see him live at an Arts Centre not far from us in North London in 2010 - such was his popularity, even at the age of 81 he sold out in a very short time indeed. His last live performance was at The Brecon Jazz Festival in August 2013.

Facts about Acker Bilk:
  • The nickname "Acker" came from the local Somerset slang for "friend" or "mate".
  • His big break came when he was talent-spotted playing in a beer bar in Dusseldorf, Germany in the early 50s, and he and his band were at the forefront of the "Trad Jazz craze" that lasted until the rise of the Beatles.
  • In May 1977, Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band provided the interval act for the Eurovision Song Contest, one of myriad television appearances during that decade.
  • He was the first UK act to top the US charts, with his most famous hit Stranger On The Shore in 1962 - a song that he had originally titled Jenny on the birth of his daughter.
Here, by way of a tribute, it is...

And here's the man himself (completely unperturbed by the odd woman spinning on his shoulder) with Aria from the Long Hot Summer of 1976:

Now Humph has gone, and George Melly, and Kenny Ball, there's very few of the original "Trad Jazzers" left...

But as Kenny's tour manager Syd Appleton said on the latter's death: "That's a hell of a band, wherever they are!"

RIP Mr Acker Bilk MBE (born Bernard Stanley Bilk, 28th January 1929 – 2nd November 2014)


  1. Sad news indeed.
    As you know, when all my school chums were raving about the Beatles, I ignored them and raved about Acker.
    Such a shame we didn't get to see him in 2010 but his music will go on for ever (well at least in Delago Towers it will. )

    1. I feel a Dolores Delargo Towers Jazz Festival coming on. I wonder if we could get Clare Teal? Jx


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