19 Mar 2011

Shadows bass player Jet Harris dies

4:30 pm on 19 March 2011

Jet Harris, the original bass player with the British guitar group the Shadows, which rose to fame as Cliff Richard's backing band, has died of cancer at the age of 71.

His agent, Peter Stockton, says Harris died at the home of his partner, Janet Hemingway, in Winchester, southern England.

In recent years he had been touring with the Shadows tribute band the Rapiers but earlier this month he cancelled all his appearances.

"The last time he went on stage," Mr Stockton says,"he said he didn't want to let people down and I could see he was struggling a bit, but he got a standing ovation. Regrettably it was the last concert he did, on 5 February."

Sir Cliff Richard has paid tribute to his former bandmate, saying: "Jet was exactly what the Shadows and I needed - a backbone holding our sound together.

"Losing him is sad - but the great memories will stay with me. Rock on, Jet."

Suggested band's name change

Born Terence Harris in Kingsbury, north London, Jet Harris - so called because of his speed as a runner - got his biggest break in 1958 when touring with a band called the Most Brothers, on the same bill as the group then known as Cliff Richard and the Drifters.

Invited to join the band he suggested a change of name to avoid confusion with the American singing group the Drifters.

As well as backing Cliff Richard on No 1 hits like "Livin' Doll", the Shadows had many hits in their own right in the early 1960s, including instrumental classics such as "Apache".

Harris left the band in 1962 and subsequently teamed up with another Shadows bandmate, drummer Tony Meehan; they topped the British charts for six weeks in 1963 with "Diamonds".

Harris later did a brief stint with the Jeff Beck Group and then worked as a professional photographer before starting touring again in the late 1970s.

In 1998 he was awarded a Fender Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in popularising the bass guitar in Britain.