Monday, 21 March 2011

JET HARRIS - Bulls Head Bob

Hello Brumies,

I don't usually have the time to write blogs outside of the normal monthly one but I simply couldn't let the passing of Jet Harris go without writing some sort of tribute to him.  It feels as though a small part of my life has gone, that part I remember oh so well, whilst learning how to play the guitar, sore fingertips but with the ambition to try and play like my heroes.

I must have spent every moment of my young days staring at this LP cover:

I saved up my pocket money for this and I still have it in my record collection, although I wore out the original and had to scour car boot sales before I came across another one, luckily in nice conditon for a quid.   If I close my eyes I could tell you every detail on that cover, front and back!.  It was The Shadows very first LP.  I can also tell you that my Mum knitted me every one of those jumpers too.  I knew and played every track note for note, lead and rythmn parts. 

However Track 3 of the LP would be the only time I ever bothered to learn a bass part, the track was 'Nivram' and featured probably the first bass solo in modern pop music, the bassist, the great Jet Harris.   We would have to wait till The Who's 'My Generation' before another came along.

Called 'Jet' because of his ability as a fast runner in school, he was the icon of bass players during the early 60's.  He was one of the best and had an image as strong as his temper.  Jet joined the Drifters after a Moss Empire tour of the UK as the bassist for The Most Brothers, on the same bill as Cliff Richard and The Drifters.   Jet suggested The Shadows as the name for the band, necessary so as not to be confused with the American Drifters.  All of the members of the Shadows had worked or were part of the scenery at the iconic '2i's' Coffee Bar in Soho, where rock music began.   Jet swept up and served coffee at the bar to supplement his money earned playing Rock and Roll in the cellar whilst Hank and Bruce served coffee and things.

The rest of Cliff and The Shadows rise to fame has been documented well enough.  The Shadows became THE group to emulate in the UK and us young British guitarists were fortunate to have all those instrumental hits to use as a launch pad in the art of playing the electric guitar and for the first time bassists had a brilliant role model. 

Jet's time in the Shadows was cut short by him becoming "fed up with being cooped up with the same people every day and night".   He left the band and for a short time forged a successful solo career for himself and later with ex Shads drummer Tony Meehan.   During this time he had an affair with Brum's Billie Davis of "Tell Him' fame.   Jet and Billie had a serious car crash which saw him having operations to his head.  A traumatic accident like that leaves deep wounds and he took to the bottle with style, he stopped playing and in the 70's was a photographer (of some note it appears.  Brian Gregg has some of his photos) and during his darker days a hotel porter , garage hand....anything to earn a crust.

Jet got back onto the music circuit again playing with The Rapiers and other "Shadows type' bands.   Where he made a good living from that time on but nothing will ever replace him in my thoughts as the blonde guy in The Shadows, a great bassist, a great personality and most of all a great loss to British music.   


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