Bernard ‘Acker’ Bilk b. 28 Jan 1929, d. 2 Nov 2014
Above: Acker’s band in Prague, 1964 with Colin Smith on trumpet, Johnny Mortimer, trombone, Ron McKay (joined by pianist Stan Greig), drums, Tony Pitt, banjo, Tucker Finlayson, bass.
News has just come in of the death Acker Bilk, aged 85. He’d been ill for some time and had to stop playing about a year ago. His tremendous popularity tended to obscure the fact that he always led really good bands, and his own clarinet playing was much better than he was usually given credit for. At first a follower of New Orleans clarinettists like George Lewis and then Ed Hall, in later years his playing took on a quirky, Pee Wee Russell-ish quality that displeased some fans, but I found very attractive.
When I last saw him (about 18 months ago) he was still telling his jokes and stories and described is big hit, Stranger On The Shore as “my pension.”
I once asked the trombonist Ian Bateman, who worked in the final edition of the band, whether Acker was such an easy-going, affable bloke to work for as his public persona would seem to suggest (not always the case with apparently jovial bandleaders): the answer was an immediate and unequivocal “yes.”
Farewell Acker. And thanks for the laughter, the good times and (most of all, of course) the music.
Telegraph obit here