Song: “Stranger On The Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk with the Leon Young String Chorale
Reached #1: May 26, 1962 (Bilk’s first, 1 week)
By mid-1962, the pop charts had pretty much begun to take the shape they have now – rock and pop singles by contemporary artists were becoming #1 hits. In the weeks before May 26, 1962, Connie Francis, Shelley Fabares, Elvis, and The Shirelles had #1 singles.
Since the Billboard Hot 100 was introduced in 1958, no British artist had hit #1… until this piece for clarinet, used as the theme for a BBC series called “Stranger On The Shore”, started getting airplay in the USA.
Mr. Acker Bilk – not the Beatles – was the first British artist to top the Hot 100. You might make a few bucks in bar bets with that bit of trivia.
For many of us, hearing this song might make you think of Mr. Holland’s Opus, There’s Something About Mary, The Majestic, or Mad Men. All of them have used this song as soundtrack music.
The song was originally titled “Jenny” or “Jennifer” (sources vary) for Bilk’s daughter. The BBC paid good money to change the name of the song to match that TV show…
Whether because it was unusual for the time, or just because it is a really beautiful piece of music, this song is one of the longest-lasting Hot 100 songs ever, staying in the charts for a ridiculous 55 weeks.
Bernard “Acker” Bilk is still with us. He’s 83, is still playing clarinet with his Paramount Jazz Band, does studio work with Van Morrison, and is still touring (with dates booked through early 2013!).
Tomorrow, a ‘70s song with a ‘60s vibe.
Other songs that reached #1 on May 26:
1973 – “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group (their first, 1 week)
1984 – “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams (their first, 2 weeks)
2007 – “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” by T-Pain feat. Yung Loc (their first, 1 week)