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Wednesday, October 20, 1999 Published at 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK


Jazzman Acker's cancer fight

Acker Bilk is still a regular on the touring jazz circuit

Legendary jazz performer Acker Bilk is being treated for throat cancer, it has been revealed.

The 70-year-old clarinettist, whose trademark bowler hat and beard helped to make him a household favourite, was given the news on Tuesday.

[ image: Bilks is due to start radiotherapy]
Bilks is due to start radiotherapy
He was due to play a string of concerts with his Paramount Jazz Band, but has had to pull out to undergo a six-week course of radiotherapy.

His manager of 30 years and close friend, Pamela Sutton, said: "He will have a period of rest and hopefully get back on the road again."

"Basically this particular cancer is one of the most curable according to his doctor and there is a very high chance of it being treated successfully."

Late starter

Born Bernard Stanley Bilk in Pensford, Somerset, on 28 January, 1929, he gained his nickname "Acker" - a Somerset word meaning mate or pal - as a child.

Acker started playing the clarinet in 1948 when he was in the Royal Engineers and formed his first band in Bristol after his demob.

[ image: Bilk had a run of top forty hits]
Bilk had a run of top forty hits
He went on to be at the forefront of the British trad-jazz revival, scoring his biggest hit in 1961 with Stranger On The Shore.

The record reached No 2 in the UK chart and was also a hit in America.

It remained in the UK chart for a record 55 weeks and was voted the top instrumental of the year in the US.

Other big numbers in his run of 10 top 40 hits included Buona Sera and A Taste Of Honey.

Bilk is still recording and is a regular on the touring jazz circuit.

[ image: Roy Castle blamed his cancer on passive smoking]
Roy Castle blamed his cancer on passive smoking
Entertainer Roy Castle, who died of lung cancer in 1994, claimed to have contracted the disease through playing in smoky jazz clubs in the early days of his career.

A non-smoker, he claimed passive smoking was to blame.

Last year the world's first specialist lung cancer research centre was opened by pop veteran Sir Cliff Richard in memory of his friend.

Bilk gave up smoking after he suffered a heart attack in 1976.

The Roy Castle International Centre for Lung Cancer Research in Liverpool is dedicated centre to support research being carried out into the disease.

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