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THE Diamonds GEEZER

© Richi Howell/Redferns/Getty

JET HARRIS’S TENURE IN THE SHADOWS BEGAN A CAREER THAT WAS BOTH TRAGIC AND TRIUMPHANT. IN 2009, ALAN CLAYSON MET THE BELOVED BRITISH MUSICAL INSTITUTION

Jet Harris, who died in March 2011, satisfied most requirements of a doomed rock hero. The dazzling but dangerous smile that slew his female fans; self-destruction aggravated by liquor; the ‘bad attitude’ that was to become a template for the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, Babyshambles, you name ’em. During his 1960s prime Jet played bass with the Shadows, became a solo Top 20 contender in his own right and had great success in a duo with drummer Tony Meehan. To certain devotees, it was Jet’s misfortune not to round things off with an early rock’n’roll demise. Instead, he crossed a desert of alcoholism, divorce and depression, and materialised in places and situations where you might least expect to find him.

A legend took shape, bringing out peculiar stories concerning the man born Terence Harris in north London on 6 July, 1939. The nickname ‘Jet’ was established at technical college where he so excelled as a sprinter that his mother treasured hopes of her only child becoming a fulltime athlete. Instead, Jet fancied life as a musician, and took up the clarinet until his imagination was captured by boogiewoogie pianist Winifred Atwell and the realisation that her pounding left hand showed the way forward. ‘The bass line,’ he elucidated, ‘is what makes a number growl.’

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About Vintage Rock

Vintage Rock: Winter issue 2011 features: 50 Greatest Rockabilly tracks - Prepare yourself for the greatest party tape in history with our essential cuts. The Roots of Rock’n’Roll - The definitive lowdown on how it all began The stars - Fantastic features on Elvis, Hank Marvin, Jet Harris, Carl Perkins, Ike Turner and many more Rockabilly Hair - Tope stylist Mr Ducktail tells all, ably assisted by Levi and Bernie Dexter All Mama’s Children - News, reviews and events for the incorrigibly beat-minded