Book: Still Whispering After All These Years by Bob Harris

Book: Still Whispering After All These Years by Bob Harris

Having been an avid listener to the Bob Harris Country show (and also the sadly defunct, late-night Americana show), I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to get round to reading his book. It is, after all, an essential read.

Just as when I read sports books, I’m gobsmacked at how many stats are collated here. Yes, the man is a super pro and he’s got stacks of notes to refer to and so this book has been put together with the same detail as when he is curating his radio shows. Having said that, he remembers all of his former wives and the number of children he has when I lost count somewhere in the middle!

Not being an early watcher of the Old Grey Whistle Test (it was so uncool), I had no idea of his journalistic/writing background. I only started watching OGWT when my music writer heroes David Hepworth and Mark Ellen made it cool.

Did you know why it was called OGWT? Because back in the day at the Brill building, if the older people working around the building were able to whistle a tune after having it presented to them by the in-house songwriters, it was deemed a hit. Brilliant!

From the early days, Bob Harris decided he wanted to work in radio and he took steps to get into the music industry to eventually land on Radio One. He’d worked on local radio before and since, after the famous culling of ‘older’ presenters at Radio One.

An early highlight was interviewing his radio hero John Peel while at Radio London and presenting another show called Top Gear – a music show on Sunday nights. Remarkably, he turned up to compare gigs and do TV shows with Marc Bolan as he had it written into his contracts that he will plug him at every opportunity way back in 1967. However, many other acts feature as he has worked with everyone from Elton John to David Bowie plus the hundreds of country artists he’s championed in more recent years.

He also worked on the first edition of Time Out in 1968 with the founder a Tony Elliott. (I resonated with this as I worked on the first issue of The Big Issue – not many people know that either).

His cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery, in part, by sheer determination is included. I love that he got motivated to get better after being inspired to make rocky road cakes for his family while watching daytime TV. He’s been an active fundraiser and ambassador for Cancer Research putting on gigs with the help of mates like Robert Plant, who wrote the forward for this book.

Finally, I’m pretty sure the words ‘friend’ and ‘friendship’ are the ones who pop up most in this autobiography. Testimony to how Bob Harris has done so much more than I knew about and definitely more than most people would do in several lifetimes.

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