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Kenny Harris (1927-2017)

Tremendous personality: Kenny Harris

Kenny Harris, one of the island’s veteran broadcasters and an accomplished jazz musician, has died at the age of 90.

According to friends, Mr Harris had been living in Brandon, Suffolk, with his wife and fellow broadcaster Nell Bassett, when he died on Sunday.

Well known in his native UK for his role in groups such as the British Jazz Trio, Mr Harris found Bermuda in the early 1960s after a drumming career in New York, where he had emigrated in 1955,

A Royal Air Force veteran, Mr Harris played initially on transatlantic cruise ships before returning to Britain, recording music and performing on the BBC with the Ralph Sharon Sextet.

Mr Harris later joined Sharon’s trio in the United States, where he was also a session player for companies such as RCA, Capital and Atlantic Records.

Among his nicknames was “Mr Brushes”, for his drumming style. A recording engineer and producer, he ran the Kneptune record label and publishing company.

Radio host Mike Bishop, who first worked with Mr Harris at ZBM in 1978, recalled him as “incredibly organised — he ran the promotion department really well”.

Mr Bishop added: “We all enjoyed working with him. Kenny was a nice person with a great sense of humour, very much in control — I never saw him lose his cool.”

The two also worked at VSB on productions such as the Bermuda Sunrise Show, launched in 1991, which Mr Harris directed.

Mr Harris’s musical skills brought him to Bermuda, where he performed on the hotel circuit with local bands such as the Joe Wylie Trio.

Mr Wylie, also director of entertainment at the Princess Hotel, described him as “very easygoing, comfortable with himself, and a talented jazz man”.

“We first met when ZBM was downtown. Kenny was still playing at night. He started getting involved in radio production, where he honed his skills — that would have been around 1963.

“I had a pretty good band at the Princess. We did a recording at ZBM for the show BBC Jazz Club. We also did an important recording called The Music of Arthur Schwartz — Arthur was the entertainment director for Warner Brothers, a legend. He came down here and we became friends.”

ZBM also produced records for a pantheon of local artists whose albums list Mr Harris’s role.

While Mr Harris “loved it here”, he also travelled, enjoying a rich career in Canadian broadcasting, Mr Wylie said.

He had worked in broadcasting in Calgary, and made a name for himself as production director at CKNW, one of Vancouver’s top stations.

Former minister Quinton Edness, a programme manager at ZBM during Mr Harris’s early days, called him “very talented, a tremendous personality — it was always a pleasure to know him”.

Mr Edness added: “We were good friends. I actually introduced him to Nell — he was crazy about her.”

Ms Bassett, known to many as “Auntie Nell” from her children’s show on ZBM, pursued a formidable career in American broadcasting.

Her romance with Mr Harris was “a great love story”, Mr Bishop said: “They met, they worked together, went their separate ways and eventually found each other again about 20 years ago.”

The couple married in 2000.

Mr Harris was “vibrant and energetic”, keeping involved with VSB and contributing “great ideas that served us well”, Mr Bishop said.

“He was still writing the occasional scripts — he’d retired, but he was still in touch with VSB right up until everything shut down.”

Mr Harris wrote a biography of the American jazz drummer Don Lamond — and in 1998 he documented his life as a musician at sea in Geraldo’s Navy, an account of playing on the Cunard and Canadian Pacific shipping lines under the direction of Gerald “Geraldo” Bright.

His life was the subject of a Bermuda Government Treasures television programme produced in 2009.