Acker Bilk makes a visit to Luton

YOU probably recognise the famous musician, even though these photos were taken 46 years ago, but do you remember the Luton pub?

Saturday, 23rd June 2012, 1:22 pm

Acker Bilk, the clarinettist known for his trademark goatee, bowler hat and striped waistcoat, was invited to the watering hole to knock over a pile of pennies.

Back in the day, when a penny was actually worth something, it was a popular way for pub regulars to raise money for charity.

A celebrity would often be invited along to do the honours once the pile had been completed and before it toppled over of its own accord. Sometimes a large whisky bottle would be used to collect the coins.

It’s likely that Acker was on one of his regular stints at Cesars Palace nightclub at Skimpot at the time of his appearance at the pub in April 1966.

If you can’t remember what it was called, here are a couple of clues. It was named after a bird and demolished about four years ago to be replaced by a care home for the elderly.

Answer: The Heron in Watermead Road, Limbury Mead.

Were you a customer at that pub and what became your local once it had closed? Drop us a line with your memories, particularly if you know any of the bar staff or drinkers in the pictures.

We don’t believe Acker, who is 83 and still touring with his Paramount Jazz Band, is a Luton Town Football Club fan, but he turned up, bottom right, for a publicity photoshoot for the Hatters in the ‘70s.

He’s pictured acting the fool on the Kenilworth Road pitch with comedian Eric Morecambe, who lived at Harpenden and was a director of the football club, and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Bugner.

Bernard Stanley Bilk was born in Somerset and earned his nickname Acker from the slang for ‘friend’ or ‘mate’ in that county.

He lost two front teeth in a school fight and half a finger in a sledging accident, both of which he claimed to have resulted in his eventual lower-register clarinet style.

Acker became an international star in 1962 when, upon the birth of his daughter, he composed and dedicated a melody entitled Jennifer (her name). He was approached for permission to use the melody in a British TV series, but to change the title to Stranger On The Shore.

After recording it as the title track of a new album it was in the charts for 55 weeks and sold more than one million copies.