Jet Harris Passes Away at Age 71

Jet Harris, original bass player for The Shadows, has died of throat cancer at age 71.

Peter Stockton, Harris’ agent, reported to BBC News today that Harris had died at the home of his partner in Winchester. Harris had been diagnosed with throat cancers two years ago, according to Belfast Telegraph.

Harris was most famous for backing Sir Cliff Richard, first in The Drifters and then in The Shadows. Harris is credited with coining the name “The Shadows.” He was also reputedly one of the first people in the UK to own and play an electric bass guitar.

“Jet was exactly what The Shadows and I needed – a backbone holding our sound together,” said Richard in a post on his Facebook page.

The Shadows are one of the most successful UK charting hit-singles acts of all time, according to British Hit Singles and Albums (19th Edition). One of their most ubiquitous songs was their #1 hit, “Apache.”

Harris left The Shadows in 1962 after various disagreements with other members, mostly revolving around an alleged affair between his wife and Richard. He had some success as a solo artist and also as part of a duo with former Shadows drummer Tony Meehan.

Despite a severe car crash in the early 60s and a life-long struggle with alcoholism, Harris continued to record and play music on and off over the years. He regularly toured with Shadows tribute band The Rapiers, and most recently released 2007’s ‘The Journey.’

In 1998, Harris was presented with a Fender Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in popularizing the bass guitar in Britain. In 2010, he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Richard’s Facebook post went on to say, “Jet, the bass player, 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.”