Open main menu

Robert Brinley Joseph Harris, OBE (born 11 April 1946), known as "'Whispering Bob Harris", is an English music presenter known for being a host of the BBC2 music programme The Old Grey Whistle Test, and as a co-founder of the listings magazine Time Out.

Bob Harris
Bob Harris 2012 at Concert@theKings.jpg
Harris in 2012 at the
Concert at the Kings, Wiltshire
Background information
Birth nameRobert Brinley Joseph Harris
Born (1946-04-11) 11 April 1946 (age 73)
Northampton, England
Years active1970–present

Harris has been broadcasting on the BBC for over 40 years and has been recognised with the Americana Music Association of America Trailblazer Award, a UK Heritage Award, and a MOJO Medal, as well as his OBE for services to broadcasting.


Early lifeEdit

Born on 11 April 1946 in Northampton, England, Harris first followed in his father's footsteps and joined the police force as a cadet for two years. He then helped found Time Out magazine, as co-editor. Years later, he still refers to himself as "a journalist who can broadcast".[1]


He began at BBC Radio 1 in 1970 where he hosted the original incarnation of Sounds of the Seventies until 1975. Sounds of the Seventies was initially an hour long, broadcasting from 6 to 7 pm on Monday evenings. The next year, it was expanded to two hours and moved to 10 pm to midnight, still on Mondays. In January 1975, the show was axed due to BBC cutbacks.

Harris then went on to present shows for Radio Luxembourg in 1975–77. In 1977, he joined Radio 210, firstly presenting a Saturday afternoon sports show. He then presented many shows at the weekend, such as Friday nights from 9 pm and Saturdays and Sundays 10 am – 2 pm and 9 pm – 1 am. He left the station for a few months in 1978 due to ill health, but came back in 1979 to present a Friday evening rock show from 9 pm to 1 am and weekend afternoons 12 – 4 pm. He was also head of music and presentation.

He also presented The Old Grey Whistle Test rock music show on BBC television from 1972 until December 1979.[2] His first appearance on the show was as chair of a debate on the Night Assemblies Bill, based on his experience as a journalist and at the invitation of producer Richard Williams. Shortly afterwards he was invited to be the main presenter. His velvety voice and quiet delivery earned him his enduring nickname. His hippie-style beard and laid-back presentation made him a favourite target for parody, most notably by Eric Idle on the 1970s BBC comedy show Rutland Weekend Television.[1] Harris later became notorious among the younger generation for distancing himself on air from Roxy Music's first performance on the show and deriding the New York Dolls as "mock rock".[3][4]


1981 saw Harris move to BBC Radio Oxford, presenting the weekday afternoon show 3–5 pm taking over from Timmy Mallett. He remained there until 1984. He then joined London's LBC Radio Station, presenting a weekly half-hour music review and also joined GWR, where he did shows on Saturday lunchtimes and Sunday afternoons.

From October 1984, Harris was heard on Norwich's Radio Broadland, presenting a Saturday evening show, and on a Sunday afternoon show on Hereward FM in Peterborough. At the same time he was still continuing with his half-hour music review on LBC and was recording shows for GWR. In 1986, he was offered the Weekend Nightline phone-in on LBC every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10 pm – 1 am, which he hosted until 1989. He was heard on BFBS from 1986 to 1998 and on the UK Independent Local Radio sustaining service, The Superstation.

Return to Radio 1Edit

Harris rejoined BBC Radio 1 in 1989, standing in for Richard Skinner for two weeks on the weekday 12 – 2 am slot, before being offered his own weekly show on Sunday nights from 11 pm to 2 am later that year following the death of Roger Scott. Harris then took over the weekday 12 – 2 am slot from April 1990, which then became 12 – 4 am when Radio 1 started broadcasting 24 hours a day on 1 May 1991.

Move to GLREdit

Harris left Radio 1 in October 1993 as he, along with many other Radio 1 DJs, was felt not to fit in with the changes being made by new controller Matthew Bannister. Lynn Parsons took over his 12 – 4 am slot, but Harris continued to do the occasional documentary for the network for some time afterwards.

In summer 1994, Harris moved to BBC Greater London Radio, presenting a three-hour Saturday night show from 10 pm to 1 am, then additionally on Monday to Wednesday evenings from 8 pm to midnight. He later left the Saturday night show to concentrate on GLR's Monday-Wednesday evening shows.

Return to national radioEdit

In spring 1997, Harris returned to the national airwaves, this time on BBC Radio 2, where he took up an 11 pm – 1 am Saturday night slot. He still continued to present on GLR, but at this stage he quit the Monday to Wednesday evening shows and presented a Saturday afternoon show from 2 to 6 pm.

Harris eventually quit GLR in late 1998 as he took over another show for Radio 2, Bob Harris Country, (previously David Allan's Country Club) on Thursday evenings from 7 to 8 pm, and his Saturday night show then went out from 10 pm to 1 am. From April 2006, his Saturday show moved to an 11 pm – 2 am slot, and moved back another hour from 4 April 2010, meaning it aired early Sunday mornings from midnight to 3 am. From October 2014 till January 2017, the show was on from 3 am to 6 am on Sundays. In February 2017, his Sunday show moved back to midnight to 3 am. However, on March 26, 2017, Harris presented his last weekend show on Radio 2 due to major changes to the weekend schedule. Bob Harris Country continues on Thursdays currently 9 pm to 10 pm.

Other workEdit

In addition to his Radio 2 programmes, in 2002 Harris became an original presenter on the newly launched digital station BBC 6 Music, presenting a Sunday-evening show from 5 to 8 pm. He left 6 Music in 2004 to present another show on Radio 2, which broadcast on Friday nights/Saturday mornings from midnight to 3 am. He was replaced in this slot by Mark Lamarr, but returned to it temporarily, when Lamarr left the BBC at the end of 2010. The end of the Friday show has allowed Harris to concentrate more on producing one-off shows such as the Maple Leaf Revolution under the auspices of the Whispering Bob Broadcasting Company.

Harris was heard covering for Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2 drivetime over the festive holiday 2007–08 and 2008–09.

Harris has presented the C2C: Country to Country festival live from the O2 in London every year since its inception in 2013 and simultaneously broadcasts over BBC Radio 2 Country which was first established in 2015, the same year when Harris was given his own stage to present at the festival. This stage, the Under the Apple Tree stage, formed the basis for his own Under the Apple Tree festival which will first take place in 2016.[5]

Harris has been credited by John Thomson as the inspiration for his The Fast Show character Louis Balfour, who comperes "Jazz Club"[6] and whose softly spoken delivery echoes Harris' "unshakeable enthusiasm" on The Old Grey Whistle Test.[7]

In 2019, Harris made a cameo appearance in the country music drama Wild Rose.


  • Honorary Fellowship from the School of The Arts, Northampton University.[8]
  • Sony Radio Academy Awards 2009 – Silver for The Sandy Denny Story: Who Knows Where The Time Goes[9]
  • Sony Radio Academy Awards 2008 – Silver for The Day John Met Paul[10]
  • CMA International Broadcaster of the Year 2004.[11]
  • 2011 Mojo Medal
  • Harris was awarded the Trailblazer Award by the Americana Music Association in 2011.
  • Harris was appointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to music broadcasting.[12]
  • On the red carpet of the 2012 CMA awards, Harris was awarded the CMA Wesley Rose International Media Achievement Award by Little Big Town.[13]
  • In 2013, Harris won his second CMA International Broadcaster of the Year Award.
  • On the last day of the 2016 Country to Country festival, Harris was awarded his second CMA Wesley Rose International Media Achievement Award by Kacey Musgraves.
  • On Day 2 of C2C 2017, Kristian Bush surprised Harris with the CMA International Broadcaster of the Year Award.[14]

Further readingEdit

  • Harris, Bob (2001). Bob Harris – The Whispering Years. BBC Worldwide Limited. ISBN 0-563-53775-2.


  1. ^ a b Old Grey Whistle Test DVD Vol 3; Bob Harris speaking before Track 3
  2. ^ Harris, Bob. "Bob Harris Biography". Bob Harris - Official Site. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  3. ^ Stevie Chick (13 June 2011). "The New York Dolls play 'mock rock' on British TV". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Simon Price: There's no going back to the Old Grey Twilight Zone The Independent Sunday 21 August 2011
  5. ^ "Whispering Bob Harris Announces Under The Apple Tree Roots Festival | Folk Radio UK". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  6. ^ "The Fast Show – Character Guide". BBC. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  7. ^ Deacon, Michael (18 August 2010). "'I don't feel like some old fogey talking to these kids' – Bob Harris". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  8. ^ [1] Archived 24 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "The Sony Radio Academy Awards". Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  10. ^ "The Sony Radio Academy Awards". Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  11. ^ [2] Archived 24 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 10.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Bob Harris on Twitter: "Thank you to @CountryMusic – I've just won International Broadcaster of the Year!! "". Twitter. 11 March 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017.

External linksEdit