21 November 2015


The famous British clarinet player Acker Bilk died in November 2014. I particularly enjoyed his early traditional jazz work with the Ken Colyer Band. But the Great British Public always associates him with his 'hit' - Stranger on the Shore - which is indeed a beautiful melody and which he sometimes played with a lush background of orchestral strings.

I received the following email from an American correspondent. It gives us an unusual angle on the subject.

I don't know where Acker Bilk stands in the pantheon of great clarinet players, but I did notice his passing yesterday. I knew his name mostly from an album cover that my step-Dad used to leave around the house, though at the time I never listened to it. In any case, I read his obit in the BBC online blog and saw that, in addition to being a trad clarinet player, he had also written a pop instrumental hit called "Stranger on the Shore".

My curiosity piqued, I went to Youtube to listen to it. It took me a couple of listens to see why it had attracted the general public's attention (who can explain these things really?), but after a couple of listens, I felt I had done my duty, and moved on.

This evening, I was in the kitchen working on the computer while a housemate was in the livingroom watching TV. Wafting out of the next room I hear the sounds of....believe it or not, "Stranger on the Shore" played on clarinet. At first I thought I was imagining it, but I was not.

It turns out that "Stranger" plays in the background of an Arnold Schwarzenegger/ Jim Belushi movie called "Red Heat" in the scene where the two of them are sitting in a "greasy-spoon" diner ordering coffee. What a strange coincidence!

David Rumpler
Boston, MA
I have since received this email from Barrie in the North of England.
I read your piece about the tune being on the soundtrack of a film. I remember it was used in the film 'There's Something About Mary'. I checked on line and there it is in the soundtrack listings.