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Billy Gray

Billy Gray

Billy Gray (Wikipedia)

Billy Gray was born in 1938 and is an American former actor known primarily for his role as James “Bud” Anderson, Jr., in 193 episodes of the situation comedy Father Knows Best, which aired between 1954 and 1960 on both NBC and CBS. A motorcycleaficionado, Gray maintains a large collection of the vehicles.

Gray was born in Los Angeles to actress Beatrice Gray (March 3, 1911 – November 25, 2009), and her husband, William H. Gray. His mother was mostly uncredited in the 1930s and 1940s, having appeared in Otto Preminger‘s Laura, with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. In 1949, Billy Gray and his mother appeared in separate scenes in the film Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

In 1951, at age 13, he appeared in the film Jim Thorpe — All-American, with Burt Lancaster in the lead role. Gray portrayed the Indian athlete Jim Thorpe as a child. Later that year, he was chosen to appear in the science fiction picture The Day the Earth Stood StillMichael Rennieplayed the part of the alien who befriends a boy played by Gray.[2] In 1952 he appeared in an uncredited role as one of the many children in Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair. That same year he played George Murphy‘s son in MGM‘s Talk About a Stranger, portraying a boy who saves his money to buy a dog, only to have it killed. He blames a strange reclusive new neighbor played by Kurt Kasznar for the death. Gray in 1952 was also slated to play the part of Tagg Oakley in the syndicated western television series Annie Oakley, starring Gail Davis and Brad Johnson. Billy did perform as Tagg in the first of two pilots produced for that series, in the 1952 episode titled “Bull’s Eye”, which potential sponsors opted not to purchase and underwrite the series. Oddly, the Bull’s Eye episode was aired as Season 1, Episode 21.  This makes watching the series a bit confusing when Annie’s appearance is somewhat different and Tagg is played by a completely different actor for a single mid season episode. The role of Tagg later went to 12-year-old Jimmy Hawkins for the series’ second pilot, “Annie Gets Her Man” (aired as Season 1, Episode 14)[6], and for the full run of Annie Oakley after sponsors bought the series. Gray instead joined the cast of Father Knows Best, which would premiere nine months after the first broadcast of Annie Oakley in January 1954.

After Gray’s brief work on the Annie Oakley series, Warner Bros. in 1953 cast Gray as Wesley Winfield in By the Light of the Silvery Moon, a sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951) in which Gray had played the role of the same Wesley Winfield. He appeared as Alan in the 1953 episode “Shot in the Dark” of the Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves. In that episode’s plot, the character Alan takes a photograph of Superman that could expose the hero’s secret identity. Also in 1953 Billy Gray appeared in “The Girl Next Door” as Dan Dailey’s son Joe Carter. In 1953 Billy Gray appeared in “All I Desire” as Barbara Stanwyck’s son Ted Murdoch.

In 1955, Gray appeared in The Seven Little Foys, which starred Bob Hope as famed vaudeville entertainer Eddie Foy, in the teen role of Bryan Lincoln Foy. In 1957, while still on Father Knows Best, Gray appeared as Mike Edwards in the episode “Come Back Darling Asta” of Peter Lawford‘s NBC crime series The Thin Man, based on the work of Dashiell Hammett.

After Father Knows Best, Gray appeared in several dozen single-appearance television roles. In 1960, he guest-starred as Frankie Niles in the episode “Dark Return” of the ABC western series Stagecoach West, a program similar to the longer-running Wagon Train. That same year he portrayed David Ross in the episode “Ginger’s Big Romance” on Bachelor Father.

In 1961, he played Johnny Blatner in the episode “Two-Way Deal” of the Henry Fonda/Allen Case NBC western The Deputy. He appeared twice in 1961 on the anthology series General Electric Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan. That same year he was Perry Hatch in “The Hatbox” of CBS’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1962, he appeared on CBS’s The Red Skelton Show.[8] His other roles included appearances on The Greatest Show on Earth and Combat!. He guest-starred in such series as RawhideArrest and Trial, and Custer.

In 1977, Gray appeared on both Father Knows Best television movie reunion specials that aired on NBC: the Father Knows Best Family Reunion special on May 15, 1977, and the Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas special on December 18, 1977. Both specials were reunions of the entire cast from the former series that had left the air 17 years earlier.

As the co-owner of a company called BigRock Engineering, Gray markets several products that he has invented, including a self-massager, high-technology guitar picks, and a candleholder for jack-o-lanterns. He raced competitively at dirt tracks in southern California from 1970 to 1995. He has since been a spectator and finds the sport is shrinking in availability.

Gray still resides at the house in Topanga, California, which he purchased in 1957 at the height of his Father Knows Best popularity. The house has over the years become something of a “motorcycle museum”.


Donald Sumpter

Donald Sumpter

Donald Sumpter (Wikipedia)

Donald Sumpter In one of his early television appearances was the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Wheel in Space with Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. He appeared in Doctor Who again in the 1972 serial The Sea Devils with Jon Pertwee. He also appeared in the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. In 2015 he appears as the Time Lord President Rassilonin “Hell Bent“. 

His early film work included a lead role as real life British criminal Donald Neilson in the 1977 film The Black Panther.

He also appeared in many television films and serials, including adaptations of Dickens‘ novels: Nicholas Nickleby in 2001, Great Expectations in 1999 and Bleak House in 1985. Also in 1985, he was remembered for the part of villain Ronnie Day in Big Deal. He played the part of suspected serial killer Alexander Bonaparte Cust in the (1992) Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode, The ABC Murders. He has also appeared in episodes of Midsomer MurdersThe BillHolby CityBlack Mirror, and A Touch of Frost. He also had a recurring role as Uncle Ginger in the Children’s BBC series The Queen’s Nose. He played Harold Chapple in Our Friends in the North, and portrayed the physicist Max Planck in Einstein and Eddington. He has also been seen as Kemp in the horror-drama series Being Human. In seasons 1 and 2, he portrayed Maester Luwin in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

His film appearances include The Constant Gardener (2005), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), Enigma (2001) and Ultramarines: The Movie (2010).


Peter Blythe

Peter Blythe

Peter Blythe obituary in “The Guardian” in 2004.

Peter Blythe who has died aged 69, lived for the theatre, and spent most of his life in it. Whether as a member of the National Theatre, the Old Vic, the Royal Shakespeare Company or in the West End, he brought his pale looks, thoughtful demeanour and dry sense of often angry comedy to some of the most stylish productions of the day, and a fascinating edge to almost every type he played.

On television, he is best remembered as “Soapy” Sam Ballard, the head of chambers in Rumpole Of The Bailey, in the 1980s and early 1990s. Earlier this year, he portrayed Tom King in BBC4’s The Alan Clark Diaries. 

He got on well with younger players, especially in seasons at the National; his technique, variety of approach and way of thinking gave them heart. Over their gifts he exercised a quiet influence. He would strut hilariously about the stage as a vain aristocrat in a Feydeau farce; lurk knowingly as a judge who was wiser than he could say in Ibsen; chatter shrewdly as an atheistic salesman among believers in Michael Frayn; and rise to authority as the man closest to Henry V in Shakespeare. 

His performances nearly always caught critical attention. It was the ability, apart from pacing dialogue, to single out the leading trait in a character and make it seem more complicated than it was that made his acting arresting. 

Yorkshire born, Blythe was one of that last generation to be called up for national service. He won a scholarship to Rada, and began his career with the Living Theatre Company, Leicester. Then he moved to the Nottingham Playhouse, under the direc tion of John Neville and Frank Dunlop. In 1963, Neville assembled a company to tour west Africa. Blythe played Orsino, to Judi Dench’s Viola, in Twelfth Night. She fell ill with malaria in Accra: “I passed out and Peter Blythe had to carry me off. There was thunderous applause. They thought it was part of the play.” 

In 1964, the Nottingham Playhouse put on Macaulay’s The Creeper, “a small masterpiece in mystery plays”. It transferred to the West End in 1965. Blythe, as Maurice in the three-hander, was described as “choking, fumbling, poignant, and suddenly frightening”. It was a performance to relish. 

After Royal Court productions in 1969 of Edward Bond’s Saved and Narrow Road To The Deep North, Blythe played Sir John Melville in David Garrick and George Colman the elder’s The Clandestine Marriage (1975); and in Frayn’s Make And Break (1980), was a light-minded salesman who brought the action to a halt with his reflections on the death of a businessman. 

In David Hare and Howard Brenton’s satirical play about Fleet Street, Pravda (1985), Blythe displayed a fine suit as – according to Michael Billington – “a biddable Tory smoothie”. In Alan Ayckbourn’s A Woman In Mind (1986), his portrayal of the secretly admiring doctor of the unhappy heroine found memorable expression in a strange, nervous, grating cry. Only thus, Blythe decided, could he give meaning to repressed emotion. 

As the dim, booming older brother, Major Booth Voysey, in William Gaskill’s revival of Harley Granville-Barker’s The Voysey Inheritance at the Edinburgh festival, Blythe made a self-righteous bully deflate spectacularly “whenever the intellectual argument gets tough”. 

As for Peter Hall’s version of Feydeau’s Occupe-toi d’Amelie, known as Mind Millie For Me (1986), Blythe gave in it one of his most candidly comic portraits. In pursuit of the heroine, the Prince of Palestrina, wrote Benedict Nightingale in the Times, ended “with his trousers flung from the window and (an overboard touch maybe) his body festooned in vast orange long-johns”. As if in contrast, Blythe’s portrait of the manipulative Judge Brack, to Harriet Walter’s Hedda Gabler (1996) proved “wonderfully quiet and controlled”. 

And so to Shakespeare: of his acting as Exeter, in Nicholas Hytner’s revival of Henry V (2003), John Peter wrote in the Sunday Times that Blythe begins “as a smooth foxy operator and ends as a rocklike military commander, rather like Sir Michael Jackson, baggy-eyed hero of Kosovo”. 

Blythe’s other television credits included Only Fools And Horses, The Falklands Play, Sword Of Honour, The High Life, Devil’s Advocate, Love On A Branch Line, Barchester Chronicles and Foyle’s War. 

Blythe was married and had a daughter. For the last eight years, his partner was Harriet Walter. 

· Peter Blythe, actor, born September 14 1934; died June 27 2004


Bethel Leslie

Bethel Leslie

Bethel Leslie (Wikipedia)

Bethel Lesliewas an American actress and screenwriter who was born in 1929. In her career spanning half a century, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Laurel Award in 1964, a Tony Award in 1986, and a CableACE Award in 1988.

Bethel Leslie was born in New YorkNew York. Her parents were a lawyer, Warren Leslie,  and Jane Leslie, a newspaperwoman. She was a student at Brearley School in New York City.

While a 13-year-old student at Brearley School, Leslie was discovered by George Abbott, who cast her in the play Snafu in 1944. In a 1965 newspaper article, Leslie described herself as “a ‘quick study’ — able to learn my lines rather fast.”

Over the next four decades she appeared in a number of Broadway productions, including Goodbye, My Fancy (1948), The Time of the Cuckoo (1952), Inherit the Wind (1955), Catch Me If You Can (1965), and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1986).

In 1950, Leslie was cast as Cornelia Otis Skinner in The Girls, a television series based on the author’s Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. She departed the show after two months to appear with Helen Hayes in the play The Wisteria Trees, adapted from Anton Chekhov‘s The Cherry Orchard by Joshua Logan.

Leslie began working in television in the 1940s and frequently was a guest on the many anthology series popular in the early to mid-1950s, such as Studio One and Playhouse 90. She appeared with Ronald W. Reagan and Stafford Repp in the 1960 episode “The Way Home” of CBS‘s The DuPont Show with June Allyson. Later, she was one of the repertory of actors starring in The Richard Boone Show (1963-1964).

Leslie made three guest appearances on Perry Mason, and was featured as Perry’s client in all three episodes. In 1958 she played Janet Morris in “The Case of the Fugitive Nurse,” and Evelyn Girard in “The Case of the Purple Woman.” In 1960 she played Sylvia Sutton in “The Case of the Wayward Wife.”

In 1962, she portrayed the part of Martha Hastings in the episode, “The Long Count”, on CBS’s Rawhide.

Leslie also guest starred in many western television series, including The Texan, Mackenzie’s Raiders (episode as Lucinda Cabot in “The Lucinda Cabot Affair”), Dick Powell’s Zane Grey TheaterThe Man from BlackhawkRiverboatWanted: Dead or Alive (episode “Secret Ballot”), Trackdown (episode “False Witness”), Bat MastersonThe RiflemanGunsmokeMaverickPony ExpressStagecoach WestBonanzaThe Wild Wild WestHave Gun – Will Travel with Richard Boone, and Wagon Train (Season 8, Episode 20).

Her other credits were on drama series, such as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsRichard Diamond, Private Detective and The Fugitive, both starring David Janssen;  The Eleventh HourThe Lloyd Bridges ShowMannixRoute 66 (episodes “The Layout at Glen Canyon” and “City of Wheels”), StraightawayBus StopTarget: The Corruptors!The InvestigatorsThe Man and the ChallengeAdventures in ParadiseBen CaseyOne Step BeyondThrillerEmpire, and a later western, The High Chaparral.

Leslie became a regular on the NBC soap, The Doctors, when she took over the role of “Maggie Powers” after Ann Williams left the part. Leslie was also featured in the 1964 episode “The Fluellen Family” in the NBC western Daniel Boone, starring Fess Parker. She had recurring roles on Another World and All My Children and was featured in the television adaptations of In Cold Blood and Saint Maybe.

Leslie was the head writer for The Secret Storm in 1954. She also scripted episodes for GunsmokeBracken’s WorldBarnaby JonesMcCloudThe New LandMatt Helm, and Falcon Crest. In 1970, producer Howard Christie referred to Leslie as “a good actress who has turned into a fine scriptwriter.”[9]

Leslie’s debut in feature films came in 1964 in Captain Newman, M.D.. Her feature film credits include A Rage to Live (1965), The Molly Maguires (1970), with Sean ConneryDr. Cook’s Garden (1971), Old Boyfriends (1979), Ironweed (1987), Message in a Bottle (1999) and Uninvited (1999).

Bethel Leslie died in 1999 aged 70.


James Stewart

James Stewart

‘Guardian” tribute by David Thompson in 2002.

There is no hint of an anniversary, so far as one can tell: James Stewart was born in 1908 and he died just five years ago, in 1997. Yet why should we require any pretext of the National Film Theatre if they have a mind to run 25 of his films? I say that not out of any banal thought that Stewart was one of the most endearing actors in the movies, a role model for us all and automatic casting as the decent American everyman. There’s some truth in all of those assumptions, and you can see it in pictures like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Shop Around the Corner. If that’s all you’re looking for. Or if you’re content with the thought that you’re going to have a really nice, comfortable, sweet time. Cosy, even. No, the real reason for running James Stewart movies is because he’s someone you have to stay wide awake with. In other words, I’ll settle for him as Everyman so long as you are prepared to allow that every George Bailey has some bad moments.

Yes, it’s certainly true that, on his way towards universal public affection, Jimmy Stewart was shamelessly appealing: very nice-looking without having a trace of sexual menace, high-voiced (his Easy to Love in Born to Dance may be closer to the aural range of dogs than of men), polite, sincere, honest. That’s why Frank Capra cast him in Mr Smith Goes to Washington – because you could believe that Stewart could break down in tears over his failure to convince a mean old Senate about the workability of the constitution and still not surrender his boyish manhood. In much the same way, Stewart was adorable in wide-eyed contests with Margaret Sullavan in such films as The Mortal Storm and The Shop Around the Corner.

Sullavan and Stewart are one of the great romantic couples of the late 1930s: her hushed voice seemed to urge his to be deeper and quieter. They were old friends. Sullavan, who was younger but ahead of him on stardom’s tree, insisted on him being in several pictures and then acted as if she was crazy about him. Who knows? Stewart’s later air of fidelity and reliability did not quite fit with the way he had been seen once with every attractive woman in town. Once married, Jimmy stayed that way, but it was 1949 before he agreed to settle down. Thereafter, he and Gloria were joined in perpetuity. They had four children. Jimmy would recite his poetry on television. And Gloria watched over him. 

All of which is lovely to remember. On the other hand, Jimmy Stewart was a kid from a well-to-do family in rural Pennsylvania – not top-drawer, but getting up there. He graduated from Princeton with a degree in architecture, even if he spent as much time with the drama club as with plans for buildings. All of which only went to show that the country-boy manner, and especially the stumbling way of speaking, were pretty calculated: they got the girls first, and then the movie roles. In five years, he went from his debut to an Oscar in The Philadelphia Story. He is very good in that film, but if you recollect that he was playing with Cary Grant you can begin to appreciate Stewart’s shy, oh-shucks way of stealing girlfriends, plum parts and big scenes. 

None of which means to suggest that James Stewart was less than a good man and officer material. He thoroughly went off to war: there was a six-year gap in his career during which he flew bombers over Europe, and then recovered from something close to a nervous breakdown. And that kind of detail is no more than proper biography for the changed actor who came back after the war, and who later became the first actor to get profit participation on his movies. Sometimes that coup has been ascribed entirely to the machinations of his agent, Lew Wasserman. But surely it’s a little naive to think that Stewart wasn’t himself very interested in the radical departure in contractual terms that made him a fortune. 

The more you see It’s a Wonderful Life, the more clear it is that George Bailey nurses not just dismay and frustration at the small-town life he has settled for, but rage and despair, too. It’s a Wonderful Life, coming just after the end of the second world war, was meant as a reminder of provincial American virtues, and of there being no place like home. But it’s also a desperate farewell to the wider world, to adventure, to all those American yearnings to go beyond old frontiers. There’s an agony in the film that’s not wrapped up and put away by the happy ending. And no one could have done it but Stewart. 

This was a warm-up for the increasingly tough, selfish and lonely cowboy hero he played for Anthony Mann – in Bend of the River, Winchester 73, The Naked Spur, The Far Country and The Man from Laramie. And those were the films on which Jimmy was taking a straight cut of the profits. Again, it’s far-fetched to think that Stewart wasn’t involved in the novel darkness of those films. 

It would be as crazy or as innocent, I think, to assume that Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t an avid viewer of those Mann westerns. Hitch had used Stewart in Rope – where he is the figure of decency, horrified by the young murderers. But then, in the 50s, in two major films, Stewart was cast as someone whose slow speech had as much stealth as charm. In Rear Window, the humour was still there. That picture plays quite nicely as a knockout love story for one of Grace Kelly’s magazines. But then notice how far the nocturnal spying in Stewart’s character is indecent, malicious, eager for the worst. It’s brilliant casting that gently draws an inner coldness forth. 

But it is as nothing compared with the authentic depression and cruelty that beset Scotty in Vertigo. I’m not sure any other actor in the late 1950s could have done that film without leaving its fantastical element nakedly exposed. It’s because we expect to like Stewart that we are drawn into his neurosis – and then it’s too late. 

Then came Anatomy of a Murder, for Otto Preminger, in which Stewart plays the Michifan lawyer, a confirmed bachelor, fisherman and jazz fan, as well as an advocate who is happy to try out every bit of rural twang and country earnestness – until George C Scott makes it clear how fully he appreciates the game. Anatomy of a Murder has a view of the legal process that is all theatre, and in casting Stewart, Preminger coolly exploited all of Stewart’s lifelong mannerisms. Which Stewart gracefully allowed. Because by then he knew how close he was to being an institution. 

He went on a long time, though only a few years after the death of his Gloria. He was sad and grumpy by then – though worse than that. A greater darkness had crept in. Of course, he could still act (witness him as the doctor in The Shootist who has to tell John Wayne he is dying), and on television talk shows he could be the dreamy charmer, the semi-senile version of that guy from Harvey or No Highway, so absent-minded that he might charm Marlene Dietrich out of her pants. Which he had managed in his day. 

Not that anyone bore a grudge or said a mean word about him. If there were scores of ladies, he must have treated them nicely or had something they wanted. I think that’s the secret – in films of diverse kinds, James Stewart had that thing unique to stardom and its great power of fantasy. We wanted to be him, and we wanted to be liked by him. In these more cynical days, I doubt if anyone could come on so likable without seeming a sham or a confidence trickster. 

· The James Stewart season starts today at the National Film Theatre, London SE1, and runs until December 30. Box office: 020-7928 3232.


Josie Walker

Josie Walker

Josie Walker was born in 1970 in Belfast. She has acted primarily on the stage. On television she has featured on “Vera”, “Holby City” and “Call the Midwife”.


Francoise Arnoul

Francoise Arnoul

From Wikipedia

Born Françoise Annette Marie Mathilde Gautsch in Constantine, France (now Algeria),[2] as the daughter of stage actress Janine Henry and artillery general Charles Gautsch, she has two brothers. While her father continued military service in Morocco, the rest of family moved to Paris in 1945.

After learning drama there, she was noticed by director Willy Rozier, who offered her a major role in the film L’Épave (1949).

Arnoul starred in such films as Henri Verneuil‘s Forbidden Fruit (1952), Jean Renoir‘s French Can-Can (1954), Des gens sans importance (1956) with Jean GabinHenri Decoin‘s La Chatte (1958), Le Chemin des écoliers (1959) with Bourvil, and Jean Cocteau‘s Testament of Orpheus (1960).

Her American film debut came in Companions of the Night (1954).[3]

Later in life, she moved into television, appearing in different TV movies and mini-series and also turning to character parts. She published her autobiography entitled Animal doué de bonheur in 1995.[4]

In 1956, Arnoul was married to publicity agent Georges Cravenne whom she had met two years previously, but they separated in 1960.[5] From 1964, she became the companion of French director/scriptwriter Bernard Paul, a relationship which lasted until his death in 1980.


Michael O’Duffy

Michael O’Duffy

Michael O’Duffy had successful recordings such as I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen, Come Back Paddy Reilly and Slattery’s Mounted Foot.

Michael O’Duffy won the Golden Voice Contest at the Adelphi Theatre, Dublin, in 1939, and began a career which took him to venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Melbourne Bowl and the New Zealand Opera House.

His singing featured in several films, including John Ford’s The Rising of the Moon and The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne.

He performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra and was particularly popular with the Irish diaspora.

Between 1947 and 1951, he hosted a radio programme on WOR in New York. He also sang with Sandy McPherson on the long-running BBC Light Programme.

Later he worked as a teacher in London. Michael O’Duffy divided his latter years between London and Dungarvan.


Jet Harris

Jet Harris

Jet Harris from Wikipedia

Jet Harris
Birth nameTerence Harris
Born6 July 1939
KingsburyNorth London, England
Died18 March 2011(aged 71)
Winchester, England
InstrumentsBass guitar (4 & 6 string), guitar
Years active1952–2011
Associated actsThe ShadowsJeff Beck Groupthe Vipers Skiffle Group

Harris, the only child[2] of Bill and Winifred Harris,[3] was born Terence Harris at Willesden Maternity Hospital, Honeypot Lane, KingsburyNorth West London, England.[1] His prowess as a sprinter at Dudden Hill secondary modern school earned him the nickname Jet.[4]

Although he learned to play clarinet as a teenager, he made his own four-string double bass to play in a jazz group and later graduated to a professionally made double bass. In 1958, while playing jazz with drummer Tony Crombie and his group the Rockets, Crombie got a Framus bass guitar for Harris, making him one of the first British exponents of the instrument.[4]

He played in several groups including the Vipers Skiffle Group and the Most Brothers before, in 1959, joining Cliff Richard‘s backing group, the Drifters,[5] who, in July 1959 at a meeting in the Six Bells pub in Ruislip,[6] changed their name to The Shadows at Harris’s suggestion, to avoid confusion with the U.S. band.[7] In 1959, after the neck of his Framus was terminally damaged in a dressing room accident, he was presented by the importers with a Fender Precision Bass, one of the first to come to Britain from the United States.[citation needed]

Other sources state that Cliff Richard gave Jet the first Fender Bass (sunburst) guitar in the UK in 1960, about a year after band-mate Hank Marvin got his first red Fender Stratocaster guitar. Both instruments were eventually replaced with matching versions which were used in the film The Young Ones, in which The Shadows played “The Savage” (showing the famous Shadows’ walk) to an invited audience of teenagers.

Harris also contributed vocally, adding backup harmonies and occasional lead vocals. He had a trademark scream, used in the Shadows’ “Feeling Fine” and Cliff Richard’s “Do You Wanna Dance?

In Mike Read‘s book, The Story of the Shadows, Harris attributed the start of his depression and related alcohol addiction to discovering that Cliff Richard had had an affair with his wife Carol Costa (whom he had married in 1959) after they were separated.[2]

In 1962, Harris left The Shadows following disagreements, mostly with Bruce Welch over his drinking habit (documented in The Story of the Shadows, written by the group with Mike Read).[8]

He signed with Decca and released solo instrumental and vocal work with some success, “Besame Mucho” and “The Man with the Golden Arm” featuring a Fender VI six-string bass guitar. Then, as part of a duo with former Shadows drummer Tony Meehan, he topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in early 1963 with “Diamonds“.[9] Harris and Meehan followed this with two further hit singles, “Scarlett O’Hara” (also written by Jerry Lordan) a UK No. 2, and “Applejack” (composed by Les Vandyke) reaching UK No. 4 also in 1963.[9] Tracks from “Diamonds” onward were recorded with Harris using standard Fender Jaguar and Gretsch guitars, usually de-tuned to D instead of E. Harris was partly responsible for helping Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones break into the music business. Page’s first major session was as a rhythm guitarist on “Diamonds” in late 1962. After “Diamonds” became a hit, Harris and Meehan hired Jones to play bass in their touring band.[10]

There were several court appearances involving drunkenness and violent behaviour[4] before the partnership with Meehan came to an abrupt end in September 1963 when a car crash on what was then the A44 (now the B4084) near EveshamWorcestershire, (in which his girlfriend, singer Billie Davis,[11] was also injured), meant that this success did not last long.[1][12] Harris attempted a comeback as the Jet Harris Band, in 1966 and was briefly in the line-up of The Jeff Beck Group in 1967, but somewhat fell out of the music industry.[1] He then worked variously as a labourerbricklayerporter in a hospital, bus conductor, and as a seller of cockles on the beach in Jersey. Harris and Meehan also made two short cameo appearances in the black and white film Just for Fun, released in 1963. In the film, Jet and the Jetblacks played “Man From Nowhere”, whilst the duo performed “(Doin’ the) Hully Gully”, a vocal track released as the flipside of their hit “Scarlett O’Hara”.

Harris was declared bankrupt in 1988.[3] The BBC reported that it took Harris 30 years of heavy drinking before he finally admitted to being an alcoholic and sought help. For many years, Harris made a point in his stage shows of saying how long it had been since he quit drinking, winning applause from audiences who knew how it had wrecked his career in the ’60s. Harris still played occasionally, with backing band the Diamonds or as a guest with the Rapiers, and guested with Tony Meehan at Cliff Richard’s 1989 ‘The Event’ concerts.[citation needed]

In 1998, he was awarded a Fender Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in popularising the bass guitar in Britain. He appeared annually at Bruce Welch‘s ‘Shadowmania’ and toured backed by the Rapiers (a Shadows tribute band). He recorded continuously from the late 1980s with a variety of collaborators, including Tangent, Alan Jones (also an ex-Shadows bassist), Bobby Graham and the Local Heroes. His previous problems with stage nerves had seemingly disappeared, and 2006 saw Harris’ first single release in over forty years, “San Antonio”.[citation needed]

From 2005 to 2009, Harris achieved a lifetime ambition by touring UK theatres with his own show, “Me and My Shadows”. The Rapiers performed as his ‘Shadows’, and he had a special guest star in his former girlfriend Billie Davis, who had rescued him when the pair were in a road crash in late 1963 that effectively ended his career. “I’m going to go out in my twilight years with a big bang—and ‘Me and My Shadows’ is one of my little dreams,” Harris said at the time. Harris said of the Rapiers’ lead guitarist Colin Pryce Jones: “He is on a par with Hank Marvin.”

In 2007, Harris was invited by UK singer Marty Wilde to be a special guest on his 50th Anniversary tour. This culminated in an evening at the London Palladium, with other guests including Wilde’s daughters Kim and Roxanne, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, and original Wildcats members Big Jim SullivanLicorice Locking and Brian Bennett, who joined Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch of The Shadows on stage with Wilde and the current Wildcats (Neville Marten and Eddie Allen on guitar, Roger Newell bass, and Bryan Fitzpatrick, drums). The show’s finale featured the closest thing to a Shadows reunion possible, with Marvin, Welch, Harris, Locking and Brian Bennett (who in 1962 had replaced Tony Meehan, now deceased) all appearing on stage with the show’s company.

The evening was filmed, and a DVD released, with Harris playing three tunes – “Diamonds”, “Theme From Something Really Important” and “Scarlett O’Hara” – backed by the Wildcats. So successful was this tour that Wilde repeated the invitation to join him on his 2010 Born to Rock and Roll tour, which finished in Basingstoke on 20 November. Harris said that this was his most enjoyable working experience in years (he told us this on many occasions during the two Marty tours: Neville Marten, Wildcats guitarist).[citation needed]

In a December 2008 interview for the Daily Mail, Harris spoke about not having been invited to join The Shadows for their 50th anniversary, at the Royal Variety Performance.[13]

His fan club arranged a 70th birthday party for him on 5 July 2009, at the Winter GardensWeston-Super-Mare.[14]

In 2010, Harris started working with the Shadowers, led by guitarist Justin Daish. He began plans for a new show, featuring fresh material he had never performed before. However, regular tour dates and studio recordings with the Shadowers, Brian “Licorice” Locking and Alan Jones, though discussed, never materialised due to Harris’ poor health. His last concert (5 February 2011, Ferneham Hall, Fareham) saw him perform one tune (“Here I Stand” from his album “The Phoenix Rises”) with both Locking and Jones; this was the only time the three Shadows bass guitarists would ever perform together.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.[15]

In 2010, Harris was presented with a special award from the US Fender guitar company for his services to their company in effectively launching their bass guitar in the UK in 1960.

Harris had five sons and a daughter.[3] He resided in BembridgeIsle of Wight. He was a heavy smoker[3] and died on 18 March 2011, two years after being diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary, at the home of his partner Janet Hemingway, in Winchester.[16][17][18][19]

In 2012 the UK Heritage Foundation erected a blue plaque in his memory at the Kingswood Centre, Honeypot Lane, Kingsbury, on the site of the former Willesden Maternity Hospital where he was born.[20] At the luncheon that followed the unveiling of the plaque, various musicians took part in a performance in Harris’ memory, including Mike Berry, Clem Cattini of The Tornados, bassist Mo Foster, and Harris’ backing group the Shadowers. Tributes were read by Bruce Welch and Marty Wilde. Brian “Licorice” Locking could not attend but a few days prior had made a live recording of a dedicated harmonica performance of Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer”, which was played. Hank Marvin sent a written tribute but it did not arrive in time to be read.[citation needed]


Branwell Donaghey

Brambell Donaghey

Branwell Donaghey is an Irish actor who has acted in “Peaky Blinders”, Coronation Street”, amongst many TV appearances.