Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper Mersey Beat
Harris was born Terence Harris in Kingsbury, North-West London on 6th July
1939. He was noted as one of the fastest sprinters at Dudden Hill Secondary
Modern School, for which he earned the nickname 'Jet'. After leaving school
at the age of 15 he was inspired to become a musician, made his own double
bass and taught himself how to play. He joined a backing group for Larry
Page and then toured with Tony Crombie and The Rockets - it was Crombie
who provided him with an electric Framus
bass guitar, one of the first in Britain.
At various times he played with Terry Dene's Aces and Wee Willie Harris, joined The Vipers skiffle group (with whom he made his first recordings) and followed this by backing The Most Brothers. Jet was originally the bass guitarist with Cliff Richard's backing group The Drifters and, when it was discovered that there was an established American group of that name, it was Harris who suggested they call themselves The Shadows. During his spell with the group he appeared on a number of their hit instrumentals, including 'Apache', 'Man Of Mystery', 'FBI', 'Frightened City', 'Kon Tiki' and 'Wonderful Land'.
In 1962 Harris left the group to embark on a solo career and hit the charts with 'Besame Mucho' and 'Main Title from The Man with the Golden Arm'. The following year he teamed up with another former Shadows member, Tony Meehan, and the duo topped the chart with Jerry Lordan's 'Diamonds', following up with 'Scarlett O'Hara' and 'Applejack'. That year he was voted Top Instrumentalist in a New Musical Express Poll.
Harris was then involved in the car crash that changed his life. He and his girlfriend, pop singer Billie Davis, were badly hurt when their chauffeur-driven car was in a collision with a bus. Harris suffered head injuries. Of the crash, he was to comment, "It happened only a few hours after I had been voted Britain's Top Instrumentalist. It shook me terribly, I became a physical wreck and it's no secret I turned to the bottle - or rather, two bottles of vodka a day."
Harris then went missing and was spotted at a wrestling match in Brighton. He was seen in court frequently over the years. In 1963 he appeared before the Brighton magistrates on a charge of being drunk and disorderly. Two years later he appeared before the Marylebone magistrates, accused of driving whilst drunk. He was fined and disqualified from driving for two years. By that time Harris was living in Portsea Hall in Paddington, West London.
the drink-driving charge he was in court again, where he pleaded guilty
to assaulting a man. The police told the magistrate that Harris had not
been 'quite sound in the head' since the car accident: he had been found
pointing a shotgun at five people in the flats where he lived, although
the gun had been used in a pantomime and wasn't loaded.
From the dock, Harris said: "Look - I'm a musician. I don't shoot people, my lord." The court was told that he was undergoing psychiatric treatment and the magistrate commented: "On the face of it, it looks like some mental trouble."
Harris then appeared at Marlborough Street court pleading guilty to being in charge of a car while unfit to drive through drink, and of possessing cannabis and LSD. He was given a suspended sentence.
Harris said that he would have married Billie Davis but for the car accident. Over the years he has married four times. During one of his divorce hearings, the judge was told that he was currently having affairs with three women. In 1974, after a variety of jobs including periods as a barman, he began working as a conductor for the Bristol Omnibus Company but was sacked for arguing with a passenger. At the time he was living in a £9-a-week caravan at Little Witcombe, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. He said: "Ten years ago I was earning £1,000 a week with a luxury flat near Hyde Park. These days I'm lucky if my take-home pay touches £35 - and I'm living in a caravan."
he has undertaken over the years include working as a hospital porter, a
trawlerman, a cockle-seller, a restaurant chef and a window cleaner. In
1996 Harris went to Bournemouth to see a show by Hank B. Marvin. He went
into the bar and met the caterer, Janet, who became his fourth wife.
He was also given a lot of help by Barry Gibson, managing director of Burns, the London guitar makers, who arranged for Jet to travel to Milan to see psychologist Amadeo Maffi. Harris said that the treatments had a remarkable effect.
He gave up drinking and began living in a flat in Gloucester with Janet, a partner 20 years his junior. He already had four children by his previous marriages and Janet had three. Jet Harris now performed with his own band, The Diamonds, and also made guest appearances with Local Heroes, whose other members included former Shadows members Alan Jones and Cliff Hall, along with former Tornadoes drummer Clem Cattini.
Jet was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and was awarded the MBE for his services to music in 2010. He died on 18th March 2011.
|Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.|
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