Culture Wikia
This article is about the musical piece. For the BBC television series, see Stranger on the Shore (TV serial).

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"Stranger on the Shore"
File:Stranger on the Shore.jpg
Song by Mr. Acker Bilk and the Leon Young String Chorale
B-side"Take My Lips"
ReleasedOctober 1961
GenreEasy listening
LabelColumbia DB4750 (UK)
Atco 45-6217 (US)
Songwriter(s)Acker Bilk, Robert Mellin
Producer(s)Dennis Preston

"Stranger on the Shore" is a piece for clarinet written by Acker Bilk for his young daughter and originally named "Jenny" after her.[1] It was subsequently used as the theme tune of a BBC TV drama serial for young people, Stranger on the Shore.[2] It was first released in 1961 in the UK, and then in the US, and reached number 1 in the US and number 2 in the UK.[3]

In May 1969, the crew of Apollo 10 took "Stranger on the Shore" on their mission to the moon. Gene Cernan, a member of the crew, included the tune on a cassette tape used in the command module of the Apollo spacecraft.

Chart and sales performance[]

The track, performed by Bilk (as "Mr. Acker Bilk") with backing by the Leon Young String Chorale, was released as a single on Columbia Records DB 4750 in October 1961, with the label of the single openly proclaiming "Theme from the BBC TV. Series". The B-side was "Take My Lips". The single became a phenomenal success, topping the NME singles chart and spending nearly a year on the Record Retailer Top 50. It was the UK's biggest-selling single of 1962,[4] the biggest-selling instrumental single of all time, and appears fifty-eighth in the official UK list of best-selling singles issued in 2002. It has sold 1.16 million copies as of November 2012.[5] One of songwriter and music publisher Robert Mellin's major songwriting successes came in 1962, when he wrote lyrics for Acker Bilk's instrumental smash "Stranger on the Shore," allowing it to be covered by vocal acts like Andy Williams and the Drifters.

On 26 May 1962, "Stranger on the Shore" became the first British recording to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 where it was issued by Atlantic Records on the Atco label, but it was quickly followed, on 22 December, by the Tornados' "Telstar", another instrumental. In the pre-rock era, Vera Lynn's "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" had reached #1 in 1952, on the shorter "Best Sellers In Stores" survey. After "Telstar", the next British performers to top the U.S. charts were the Beatles, with their first Capitol Records single "I Want to Hold Your Hand". "Stranger on the Shore" was Billboard's #1 single of 1962, and it spent seven weeks atop the "Easy Listening" chart, which later became known as the Adult Contemporary chart.[6] The tune became the second of three "one-hit wonders" named "pop single of the year" by Billboard (the others being 1958's "Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)" by Domenico Modugno and 2006's "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter.

The song is certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.[7]

Cover versions[]

The composition has been covered by many other artists, most prominently a vocal 1962 version by Andy Williams, which reached #9 on the adult contemporary chart, #30 in the UK, and #38 on the Billboard Hot 100,[8] and a group vocal version by the Drifters, which reached #19 on the adult contemporary chart and #73 on the Billboard Hot 100.[9]


Chart (1962) Peak
United Kingdom (Record Retailer) 2[10][11][12]
United Kingdom (NME) 1[13]
United Kingdom (Record Mirror) 1[14]
Preceded by
"Soldier Boy" by The Shirelles
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
26 May 1962 (one week)
Succeeded by
"I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles
Preceded by
"Don't Break the Heart That Loves You" by Connie Francis
"Billboard" Easy Listening number-one single by Mr. Acker Bilk
21 April 1962
(seven weeks)
Succeeded by
"I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles

In popular culture[]

It was played in the movie "The Wanderers".

"Stranger on the Shore" was often featured on The Lawrence Welk Show, where Henry Cuesta, the show's clarinetist, usually played the song as his signature tune.

In the AMC series Mad Men, "Stranger on the Shore" is used as a theme song whenever the son Peggy gave up for adoption is mentioned.[15]

It is played twice in An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington, and it is Karl's favourite piece of instrumental music. [16]

In Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) The song young Gertrude Lang learns on the clarinet is "Stranger on the Shore" by Acker Bilk. [17]

It is used as the theme tune for That Mitchell and Webb Sound.


  1. Wade, Anne. "Stranger On The Shore by Mr. Acker Bilk". Songfacts. Retrieved 29 May 2009. Originally named "Jenny" (after his daughter) on his LP Sentimental Journey, the song's name was changed when Bilk played it as the theme song for a new children's TV show, Stranger On The Shore.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-16. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Stranger on the Shore (song by Mr. Acker Bilk) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". 17 March 1962. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  4. "Stranger On The Shore notes". United Kingdom: Retrieved 29 May 2009. The biggest-selling single of 1962.
  5. Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  6. Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 33.
  7. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). Recording Industry Association of America. URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  8. "Stranger on the Shore (song by Andy Williams) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". 16 June 1962. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  9. "Stranger on the Shore (song by The Drifters) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  10. "Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive: 13th January 1962". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  11. "Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive: 20th January 1962". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  12. "Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive: 27th January 1962". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  13. Rees, Dafydd; Lazell, Barry; Osborne, Roger (1995). Forty Years of "NME" Charts (2nd ed.). Pan Macmillan. p. 109. ISBN 0-7522-0829-2.
  14. Smith, Alan. "Every No.1 in the 1960s is listed from all the nine different magazine charts!". Dave McAleer's website. Archived from the original on 12 October 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2010. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  15. Sepinwall, Alan (27 April 2015). "Review: 'Mad Men' - 'Time & Life': Everything must go? Can the partners restructure the agency one last time?". Hitfix.
  16. "Karl Pilkington - Timeline". Facebook. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  17. "Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) : Trivia". Retrieved 26 September 2016.

External links[]

  • Template:MetroLyrics song

Template:Andy Williams