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Rock history recalled by Bob

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 03, 2013

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I WENT along to the Alumni Auditorium Form Building where the arts and culture team at the University of Exeter presented the legendary music presenter and broadcaster and host of the long running BBC2 music show, the Old Grey Whistle Test, Bob Harris.

Bob told a packed forum that he had only just got back from America where he had covered the Country Music Association Awards held at The Ryman Auditorium Nashville, Tennessee, where he had interviewed a lot of top country music artists from the awards for his weekly country show on Radio 2.

He told us "I also met up with Taylor Swift, and Johnny Cash's daughter Rosanne Cash who just finished recording her album The River And The Thread to be released in the New Year and on listening to a preview of it in my view it is Rosanne's best album to date."

He also said he would be featuring it on his Bob Harris Country show broadcast every Thursday evening from 7pm to 8pm on BBC Radio Two.

Whistle Test began in a tiny studio usually used for the weather forecast, tucked behind a lift shaft on the fourth floor of Television Centre. It was only 32ft by 22ft, which left little room for three cameras pushed tight up against the wall with wires and all kinds of electrical paraphernalia.

The programme's theme tune was Stone Fox Chase by Area Code 615, and the budget for the first series was just £500 a show. He said his personal highlight was interviewing John Lennon in New York.

"It all came about when I bumped into Elton John at a reception in Kensington to mark the release of Lady Marmalade," Bob told the audience.

"Elton was leaving as I arrived, rushing off to Heathrow Airport to catch a plane to the States. He told me he was playing at Madison Square Garden in a few days' time and planned to invite John Lennon to the concert. I asked Elton to tell John how much we wanted to interview him for the Old Grey Whistle Test and he said he would pass on the message."

Bob flew to New York for a legendary interview which can now be seen on YouTube.

Bob told me when I met him after his talk the name The Old Grey Whistle Test came from a Tin Pan Alley phrase from years before when they got the first press of a record they would play it to people they called the old greys – doormen in grey suits. The song they could remember and whistle having heard it just once or twice had passed the test. For me it was great meeting up with my role model radio presenter who wished me all the best with my new country show on Taunton's Tone FM (107.8fm).If you are a local country music artist and would like to be featured contact the station's web site www.tonefm.co.uk.

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