Veteran British jazz clarinettist and singer Acker Bilk has died at the age of 85, his manager said today.
The performer, best known for his laid back signature tune Stranger On The Shore, died yesterday afternoon at Bath's Royal United Hospital, Pamela Sutton said.
The musician built a career out of traditional jazz, standing out by performing in a loud waistcoat and trademark bowler hat, and was the first UK act to top the US charts in the 1960s.
Mrs Sutton paid tribute to a man she had known for 45 years, saying: "He was a brilliant musician.
"He had a great sense of humour in every way. He just loved life." Bilk, who was made an MBE in the New Year Honours List of 2001, had previously overcome throat cancer.
Mrs Sutton said that he died around 2pm with his wife Jean by his side, saying that "age caught up with him". The couple had two children, Peter and Jenny.
It was Jenny for whom he wrote and originally named his biggest hit. It became the instrumental Stranger On The Shore which, when released in 1961, spent more than a year in the charts and he became the first UK act to top the US charts in the swinging decade. Jazz musician Kenny Ball Junior, whose father Kenny Ball played alongside Bilk, told the BBC he had fond memories of the two of them playing together, calling it "wonderful".
"He was such a wonderful player. My dad always turned around and said 'there will never be a clarinet player that is so smooth that will ever come again from England'.
"He conquered everywhere. He was such a lovely bloke, a very genuine guy," he added.
Born Bernard Stanley Bilk and raised in Somerset, he soon took the name Acker - a local expression meaning "friend" or "mate".
After spending some time living in London he and his family moved back to the West Country, living in Pensford, south of Bristol in Somerset.
Fans expressed their sadness after learning of his death.
Poet Ian McMillan tweeted: "Goodbye Acker Bilk, creator of one of the great earworms. That shore was strange, but memorable."
George Freeman, the Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, tweeted: "Sad to hear of the death of Acker Bilk #JazzGenius - happy memories of going to hear him play my first week at University."