The Legendary Jet Harris
Terence 'Jet' Harris was born in Kingsbury, North London, on 6th July 1939, the only son of Bill and Winifred Harris. The young Terence Harris was nicknamed 'Jet' by his school friends because of his abilities of being one of the fastest runners in the school. Jet left school at the age of fifteen and started work with his dad as an apprentice welder, making milk churns.
The very first record that he took notice of was Winifred Atwell's 'Left Hand Boogie' in 1952. He was fascinated by the 'bass' sound on Winifred's left hand. Jet was the first man in the UK to play the electric bass guitar. News spread of Jet's outstanding ability with the bass guitar, which soon led him to playing with various groups between 1956 - 1958, including 'Tony Crombie's Rockets', 'Terry Dene's Aces', 'The Vipers Skiffle Group', 'The Most Brothers' and also Wee Willie Harris'. In between gigs Jet used to frequent the now famous home of British Rock 'n' Roll, the 2i's Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street, Soho. Apart from playing, he also served cola and rum babas to customers. With regard to Jet's musical talents, he is self taught, his family couldn't afford formal music lessons.
During the year of 1958, Jet was introduced to a young Cliff Richard, and was duly invited to join Cliff's backing group 'The Drifters', but due to an injunction by the American group of the same name, they had to choose a different name. History was made at the The Six Bells pub near Ruislip, when Jet, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch began discussing new names for the band. It was Jet that came up with the name 'The Shadows'. The first hit record that Jet played bass on was 'High Class Baby' which reached number seven in the charts in 1958. 'Apache' of course was the start of an era. Jet played on many Shadows records 'Man of Mystery', The Stranger', 'Midnight', '36, 24, 36', 'The Savage', 'Guitar Tango' 'Nivram', 'Peace Pipe' and 'FBI' to name but a few. He also helped write a few of the hits. The last recording Jet did with 'The Shadows' was 'Wonderful Land' in 1962. Jet left the band in the same year and had two hit singles in his own right 'Besame Mucho' and the main title theme from the film 'The Man With The Golden Arm'.
In 1963 Jet teamed up with former Shadow bandmate Tony Meehan and had an immediate hit with a tune written by Jerry Lordan called 'Diamonds' which was number one for six weeks, later followed by two more top twenty hits, 'Scarlett O'Hara' and 'Applejack'. Late in 1963, Jet was involved in a very serious car crash which nearly ended his career. He had very serious head injuries and was extremely lucky to have survived.
During the late 70's, Jet played with various groups, and released 'Inside Jet Harris', which was made in Gloucester prison. Apart from Jet, the only other person to have recorded a live performance in a prison was 'Johnny Cash'. Jet then turned professional photographer and gave up the music business.
The 80's found Jet back on the music scene again, touring Holland, Norway and Sweden. In 1989, Jet released the 'Anniversary Album'. In 1996, Jet joined 'The Local Heros' as their guest, and went on to play with them in France, Germany, Holland and Norway. Jet also played on the 'Local Heros' CD 'One of our Shadows is Missing'. In 1998 Fender guitars presented Jet with a lifetime achievement award, and also sponsored Jet with his amplification. Burns guitars also presented Jet with a 'Legend' lead guitar, a six string bass called the 'Jet Six' and a four string bass. Rotosound were Jet's official string sponsors. 1999 saw the release of Jet's CD 'The Phoenix Rises'. In 2002, Jet released a new CD called 'Diamonds are Trumps', with famous session drummer 'Bobby Graham'. This was released by 'Solent Records' under a new record deal. After this, Jet toured with artists including 'The Rapiers', 'The Bobby Graham Rock Experience' 'Mike Berry and the Outlaws' 'The Bruvvers' and 'Clem Cattini and the Tornados'.
At the end of 2005, Jet teamed up with producer and world renowned trumpet player, Nigel Hopkins, to work on a brand new album. In December 2007, Jet released what was to become his last album, entitled 'Jet Harris - The Journey'.
In 2009 Jet was diagnosed with cancer and throughout the second half of the year he underwent many medical tests and received chemotherapy treatment. In 2010 Jet was awarded the MBE for services to music. 2010 also saw Jet once again touring with Marty Wilde and the Wildcats on the very successful 'Born To Rock 'n' Roll' tour. Jet continued to perform in the UK and abroad until five weeks before his death. Determined to keep playing, his final performance was on 5 February 2011 at Ferneham Hall, Fareham in the UK
Jet died in Winchester on 18 March 2011. He was married and divorced four times. He is survived by his five sons, one daughter and his partner, Janet Hemingway.