Terrence Jet Harris, co-founder of The Shadows, "James Dean with a guitar", MBE, the man who wielded the first electric bass in Britain, died of cancer last week in Winchester, England. He was 71. His funeral is Thursday in Basingstoke.
I have not spoken directly to The Rapiers, who supported Jet for nigh on 25 years in live performance, including Shadowmania upon Shadowmania, but I know they honoured him at their recent weekend gigs in Finland and Norway. Rapier bassist Nathan J. Hulse also paid his own respects on his Rapiers Sound blog.
For now, it's my turn.
Something Really Important
I will miss Jet's stage wit very much, so keen, so sharp, so self-deprecating ("I spent 20 minutes combing my hair, and left the bugger at home... Diamonds was No. 1 for six weeks, not six minutes like your boy bands today...").
Thankfully, the relevant obituaries from The Guardian, Daily Mail and BBC got the man's legacy right. From the BBC: "Sir Cliff paid tribute to his former bandmate, saying: 'Jet was exactly what The Shadows and I needed—a backbone holding our sound together. Jet will always be an integral part of British rock 'n' roll history. Losing him is sad—but the great memories will stay with me. Rock on, Jet.'"
For a limited time, you can replay a fine, hour-long radio tribute by presenter and rock 'n' roll historian Geoff Barker.
Jet Appears to Me
I have to laugh at the first time Andrea and I met Jet. We were in Epsom, I think, in the late '90s. Before the show, we were waiting in the canteen to meet up with The Rapiers, when through the doors comes Jet.
"Are you Greg? I've got a message from Colin. He'll be out soon!" I was gobsmacked, I suppose. Here's Jet Harris, founder of The Shadows, musician on Apache, The Savage and Wonderful Land, one of England's original bad boys of pop, hitmaker, bassman extraordinaire, co-architect of "That Sound", simply delivering a message like nobody's business. Talk about down to earth.
As I said, I haven't talked to Colin. I simply can't imagine his sadness, his heartbreak to learn of the passing of one of his absolute lifelong idols, indeed "the living legend", as he introduced Jet so many times on stage. (Lest we forget, Jet recorded Doing the Hully Gully with the lads on their 1991 longplayer Return of the Rapiers.)
The last time I saw Jet live was at The Rapiers' 25th anniversary show at the Amersham Rock 'n' Roll Club in 2008. Here's a clip of FBI from that night, taken with my camera—apologies for the out-of-focus zoom.
I remember Jet also came to a memorial in July 2005 at the Wyllyotts Theatre in Potters Bar to honor the late Wayne Nicholls, Rapiers rhythm guitarist, tragically killed in a traffic accident in June. (At right, that's Jet rehearsing during the soundcheck with Shadow Bruce Welch, Colin Pryce-Jones and John Tuck.)
Related, I recall hearing of a conversation between Wayne and Jet from a show they did together. Jet confessed stage fright or nerves to Wayne, who calmly said, "Don't worry about a thing. I'm right behind you, Jet!" to reassure the man, just before they hit the stage. Such a lovely thought, two musicians sharing a time, a place, a moment, a friendship.
End of an Era, Beginning of a Legend.
A gentleman named Mark Lundquist posted that, upon reading of Jet's passing. I like it.
I hope Jet is at peace, free from all pain and cares. And I hope he knows how much joy he brought so many people, not just in the UK, but all over the world. I'm glad I got the chance, or should I say privilege, to experience some of that joy.
On the way to work, the morning after Jet passed, while listening to The Tall Texan in my car, under rain gray cloudy skies in San Francisco, I shed a tear in memory of the man.
Truly, one of our Shadows is missing.
Above left: Jet backstage at Shadowmania, Lakeside, Frimley Green, September 2002. Photo by Colin Wood. Above: Cliff Hall, Wayne Nicholls, John Tuck, Nathan J. Hulse, Colin Pryce-Jones, Jet. Clacton-on-Sea, England, July 2005. Photo by Steve Terrell.