Ever have one of those days that starts out on an even keel, but continuously picks up tumult so that, for reasons out of your control, you’re feeling downright harried by day’s end? Well that explains the brevity of this write-up along with the mellow nature of today’s selection performed by “Mr. Acker Bilk” …yes, that’s exactly what was on the record label.
A bowler-wearing clarinetist, also known for his goatee and striped-waistcoat, he was born Bernard Stanley Bilk in Somerset, England in 1929. “Acker” is local slang for “mate” (as in friend), ‘though it must have been a hard earned appellation as he lost his two front teeth in a school fight that forever-after affected his jazz clarinet style.
Although he had a number of light jazz recording hits in the UK, Bilk was far from an international star when he wrote today’s selection for his newborn daughter, Jennifer (and initially named it for her) in 1961. When a BBC television producer happened to hear the song he asked Bilk for permission to use it as the theme song for a new television series, called, “Stranger on the Shore”
Wise choice, “Stranger on the Shore” as the song itself was soon called, was the biggest selling UK single of 1962, becoming the first British recording to reach Number One on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
In May of 1969 it accompanied the crew of Apollo 10 in lunar orbit, as lunar module pilot, Gene Cernan selected it as one of his choices on a cassette tape used in the spacecraft’s command module. “To the moon, Acker…to the moon.”