In Memoriam|

I’m truly saddened by the news I heard today that my former band mate Mark Tortorici passed away last night in a car accident. We played a lot of gigs together and did a record together. He was a great guy and a great musician. Gonna miss you brother. R.I.P. Torch. ~ Bob E. Smith on Facebook, 10/31/14

Re: Jimmy Trujillo – It made me sad to hear of his passing today. I liked his show, and his radio personality. A loss to the community, and the musical world. God rest Ye, Jimmy Trujillo… ~ Steve Day on Facebook, 11/01/14

RIP Wayne Static. I had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions and one thing I can say is he was one of the most down to earth rock stars I have ever come across. The coolest thing I will remember about him was the time they were going to play the Bluebird and Denver’s laws got goofy for a minute and the show couldn’t be all ages. Wayne and crew packed up and put on a show at the DAV in Rogue’s practice spot so the under age kids could rock out. I still have an old VHS tape of that I will try to dig up. I also remember being their runner for a show one time and going across from the Ogden to Smiley’s laundromat to get his clothes with him and him just treating me like a person and not just some random jackwagon working the show. Always just a super chill dude, super nice to everyone. The metal world lost one of the greats. He is someone who I have tried to model my behavior after to the fans. I hope you have found your peace. Your music will live with us forever. ~ Bill Terrell – Facebook – 11/01/14

And a note from Linda Storey: I wanted to mention that I knew Tim [Mockler] as a fellow musician and as a classmate. We both went to Broomfield High School. He will be missed.

[Note: A memorial service for Tim is still in the works. We’ll let you know as soon as the details are confirmed.]

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Bernard Stanley “Acker” Bilk MBE (28 January 1929 – 2 November 2014) was an English clarinettist and vocalist known for his trademark goatee, bowler hat, striped waistcoat and breathy, vibrato-rich, lower-register clarinet style.

Bilk’s 1962 instrumental tune “Stranger on the Shore” became the UK’s biggest selling single of 1962 where it remained in the UK charts for more than 50 weeks, peaking at number two, and was the first No. 1 single in the United States by a British artist in the era of the modern Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

Bilk was born in Pensford, Somerset, in 1929 He earned the nickname “Acker” from the Somerset slang for “friend” or “mate”. His parents tried to teach him the piano but, as a boy, Bilk found it restricted his love of outdoor activities, including football. He lost two front teeth in a school fight and half a finger in a sledding accident, both of which he claimed to have affected his eventual clarinet style.

On leaving school Bilk joined the workforce of W.D. & H.O. Wills’s cigarette factory in Bristol, staying there for three years putting tobacco in the cooling room and then pushing tobacco through a blower. He then undertook his three years national service with the Royal Engineers in the Suez Canal Zone. He learned the clarinet there after his sapper friend, John A. Britten, gave him one bought at a bazaar and for which Britten had no use. The clarinet had no reed and Britten fashioned a makeshift reed for the instrument out of some scrap wood. He then borrowed a better instrument from the British Army, which he kept with him on demobilization.

Bilk played with friends on the Bristol jazz circuit and in 1951 moved to London to play with Ken Colyer’s band. But, disliking London, he returned west and formed his own band in Pensford called the Chew Valley Jazzmen, which was renamed the Bristol Paramount Jazz Band when they moved to London in 1951. Their agent then booked them for a six-month gig in Düsseldorf, Germany, playing in a beer bar seven hours a night, seven nights a week where Bilk and the band developed their distinctive style and appearance, complete with striped-waistcoats and bowler hats. [Editor’s note: And cover bands today think they have it bad with 4 sets 2 nights a week!]

On return to Britain and now based in Plaistow, London, the band played the London jazz club scene. It was from here that Bilk became part of the boom in traditional jazz that swept the United Kingdom in the late 1950s. In 1960, their single “Summer Set” (a pun on their home county), co-written by Bilk and pianist Dave Collet, reached number five on the UK Singles Chart, and began a run of 11 chart hit singles. In 1961 “Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band” appeared at the Royal Variety Performance.

Bilk was not an internationally known musician until an experiment with a string ensemble and a composition of his own as its keynote piece made him one in 1962. Upon the birth of his daughter, he composed and dedicated a melody entitled “Jenny” (her name). He was approached by a British television series for permission to use that melody, but to change the title to “Stranger on the Shore”. He went on to record it as the title track of a new album in which his signature deep and quavering clarinet was backed by the Leon Young String Chorale. The single was not only a big hit in the United Kingdom, where it stayed on the charts for 55 weeks, gaining a second wind after Bilk was the subject of the TV show This Is Your Life, but also shot to the top of the American charts at a time when the American pop charts and radio playlists were open to almost anything in just about any style. As a result, Bilk was the second British artist to have a single in the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. (Vera Lynn was the first, with “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” in 1952.) “Stranger on the Shore” sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The album was also highlighted by a striking interpretation of Bunny Berigan’s legendary hit “I Can’t Get Started”. At the height of his career, Bilk’s public relations workers were known as the “Bilk Marketing Board”, a pun on the Milk Marketing Board.

In January 1963, British music magazine NME reported on the biggest trad jazz event to be staged in Britain at Alexandra Palace. The event included George Melly, Diz Disley, Alex Welsh, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, Ken Colyer, Monty Sunshine, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan and Bilk. Bilk recorded a series of albums in Britain that were also released successfully in the United States (on the Atlantic Records subsidiary Atco), including a collaboration, Together, with the Danish jazz pianist and composer Bent Fabric (“The Alley Cat”). Bilk’s success tapered off when British rock and roll made its big international impact beginning in 1964 and he shifted direction to the cabaret circuit. He finally had another chart success in 1976 with “Aria”, which went to number five in the United Kingdom. In May 1977, Bilk & His Paramount Jazz Band provided the interval act for the Eurovision Song Contest. His last chart appearance was in 1978 when the TV-promoted album released on Pye/Warwick, Evergreen, reached 17 in a 14-week album chart run. In the early 1980s, Bilk and his signature hit were newly familiar, due to “Stranger on the Shore” being used in the soundtrack to Sweet Dreams, the film biography of country music legend Patsy Cline. The tune “Aria” featured as a central musical motif in the 2012 Polish film Mój rower. Most of his classic albums with the Paramount Jazz Band have been reissued and are available on the UK-based Lake label.

Bilk has been described as the “Great Master of the Clarinet”. His clarinet sound and style was at least as singular as had been those of American jazzmen such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Russell Procope, and “Stranger on the Shore” — which he was once quoted as calling “my old-age pension” — remains a standard of jazz and popular music alike.

Bilk continued to tour with his Paramount Jazz Band, as well as performing concerts with his two contemporaries, Chris Barber and Kenny Ball (deceased), both of whom were born in 1930, as the 3Bs. Bilk also provided distinctive vocals on many of his tracks, including on “I’m an Old Cowhand”, “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”, “White Cliffs of Dover”, “Travellin On” and “That’s My Home”.

One of his recordings is with the Chris Barber band, sharing the clarinet spot with the band’s regular reedsmen, John Crocker and Ian Wheeler. He made a CD with Wally Fawkes for the Lake label in 2002. He appeared on three albums by Van Morrison, Down the Road, What’s Wrong With This Picture? and Born to Sing: No Plan B.

In 2012 Bilk said that, after 50 years, he was “fed up” with playing his most famous tune, “Stranger on the Shore”.

Bilk married his childhood sweetheart, Jean, whom he met in the same class at school. The couple had two children, one a daughter, Jenny, after whom a composition was named. After living near London in Potters Bar for many years the couple retired to Pensford.[5]

In 2000, Bilk was diagnosed with throat cancer, which was treated through surgery and then followed by daily radiation therapy at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre. Subsequently he had had eight keyhole operations for bladder cancer and suffered a minor stroke.

Bilk died on 2 November 2014 at the age of 85. He is survived by his wife Jean, daughter Jenny and son Pete.

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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…

November 2014

3: Augusto Martelli, 74, Italian composer (Il dio serpente), conductor, arranger and television personality.

2: Acker Bilk, 85, British jazz clarinetist (“Stranger on the Shore”); Michael Coleman, 58, American Chicago blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter.

1: Michael H. Shamberg, American music video producer (True Faith); Wayne Static, 48, American singer and musician (Static-X).

October 2014
31: Ian Fraser, 81, English composer and conductor (Scrooge, Christmas in Washington), cancer;  Käbi Laretei, 92, Estonian concert pianist; Renato Sellani, 88, Italian jazz pianist and composer.

28: David Trendell, 50, British organist and musical director.

27: Shin Hae-chul, 46, South Korean pop singer (N.EX.T), heart attack.


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