Acker Bilk Dies at 85

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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 southwestern English county of Somerset, Bilk adopted the name Acker from a local slang term for friend.

He learned the clarinet as a bored army conscript, 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 U.K 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 artists 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 accompanied 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 finger in a sledding accident, and two teeth in fight at school.
 
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