Whispering Bob Harris was delivering his warmest greetings, those familiar white teeth sparkling, that unmistakable melodious voice overshadowing our conversation like honey.
It has been dropped from radio and television for five decades, from 1971 hosting the court on the hit musical show The Old Gray Whistle Test, introducing generations to new stars including Elton John, David Bowie, Bob Marley and the Wailers and Blondie.
Fans may have heard him more recently on his Radio 2 show, Bob Harris Country.
Today, the DJ toured with Queen, sang with Bowie, “hit it off” with John Lennon and considered Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant to be a close friend, silhouetted against a shelf of “about 18,000” CDs in the light. the sun of his Under The Apple. Tree studio.
At the age of 75, Bob is still passionate about music, still working hard.
Father of 8 and grandfather of 6 just joined C2C: Country to Country.
The festival has been a regular at the O2 arena since 2013, and is part of a four-part series on Radio 2’s official broadcast partner, Radio 2 Celebrates Country.
But beneath a soundtrack of perfect contentment, Bob is touchingly open about his ongoing health problems. He’s also been outspoken about his fears.
In 2007, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and today he admits that although “under control,” it has spread, including a bit to his bones.
In 2019, he suffered a terrifying aortic dissection – a sudden tear along the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart.
He was given the green light to go to the hospital, where scans detected signs of the cancer spreading.
“I don’t want to alarm anyone or dramatize it, because I’m fine, we have everything under control, I don’t feel sick,” Bob said. I was hospitalized every two months for a period of two days, for intravenous radiation therapy to control my cancer. Every morning I drink an absolute handful of tablets. “
However, he revealed, he has moments of panic and believes he is dealing with PTSD, like so many people who undergo aortic dissection.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning really trying to contain a big panic attack,” he admits.
“After the surgery, I started crying, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I cried for about two weeks.
“It sounds unbelievable. I tried to compose myself and didn’t see it possible”.
In the end, he called close friend and colleague DJ Johnnie Walker to comfort him. He also contacted Robert Plant, who counseled him after his cancer diagnosis.
Bob said: “I was panicking, you were worried there would be some relapse. I try and say: look, you can get over these worries and just live your life.
“Which you will always regret if you don’t crouch somewhere in fear of life.
“I try to move on and live the best life I can, I’m blessed for the days I have now.” This is pure Bob.
The young man from Northampton who became a police cadet to please his Welsh police father has never shied away from life. After doing his best in law enforcement, he had the courage to give up and follow his dream to Swinging London, where he tried his hand at music journalism.
It was 1967 and he was 19 years old.
In 1968, he founded Time Out Magazine, and after befriending DJ John Peel, he had a lucky chance to be on Radio 1.
In 1970, he presented Sounds of the Seventies. His TV break followed in the Whistle Test. The anecdotes Bob told endlessly. He became Bowie’s best friend before he became famous, even introducing him to the crowd at a portable discotheque he ran, where the soon-to-be legend was booed on stage.
Bob recalls: “I strode over to the mic, angry, red, and said, ‘What do you think you’re doing? You will remember this night!
“This guy is going to be a star!”
They often went to each other’s houses for dinner, and Bob even sang the chorus to Bowie’s Memory of a Free Festival.
He witnessed his breakthrough moment on Top of the Pops when Bowie sang Starman in 1972. And then sadly, the singer severed ties with his old gang.
Bob said: “I wasn’t hurt at the start, but over time I did. Obviously I won’t be able to get past him again.
“He and Marc Bolan were very important in my life in the late 60s, and John Peel, they were my three best friends. I always hoped there would be some kind of bridge back to David, that would be nice. ”
Bob has interviewed musical celebrities including Bill Haley but John Lennon is his all-time favorite interviewee.
In a conversation facilitated by his friend Elton John in 1975, Bob and John had great success. Lennon is in a very good place, back in New York after 18 months “missing” and just discovered Yoko is pregnant.
Richard Young / REX / Shutterstock)
“He asked us to bring him Oliver chocolate chip cookies, which he couldn’t get out of there,” Bob chuckles.
He refused a fee but the BBC insisted on paying the usual fee – £15.
“John said ‘So can you bring me a £15 box of Olivers chocolates?’
“It’s just one of those things, we just have to move on.” Bob is less charming with the Sex Pistols. In 1976, they started dating him in a bar because he didn’t invite them to the Whistle Test.
That’s just because it’s an album show – and they haven’t produced it yet.
Things turned out to be amazing for Bob for a while, as he made multiple trips to LA each year. His first marriage eventually fell apart.
His current wife, Trudie, is his third.
He was partying with all the stars of the day. “The only people I haven’t met are Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young,” he said dully.
But he insists he always knows about his BBC login, no matter how the situation turns. So don’t totally party rock’n’roll.
He describes being at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip when he was invited to a Deep Purple party at a mansion.
“There was a party like you’ve never seen a party,” he recalls.
“Everything was going on, I realized what a great moment this was – and then I saw some blue light at the end of the driveway, five or six police cars.
“The place is being raided – the first thing I thought was ‘BBC’.” He and his team left sharp. Today he still adores the social side of his work.
Covering up when in lockdown, he revealed, Zoom’s calls with other Radio 2 DJs kept him going.
“On a Tuesday afternoon we all got together, I saw Michael Ball in his kitchen, Ken Bruce made a couple in bed! Elaine Page in her conservatory, Jeremy [Vine] on his bike somewhere…”
Country to Country’s behind-the-scenes atmosphere is his favorite. Despite his nickname, Bob hasn’t whispered his way all his life.
He’s never done it and certainly won’t start now.
“I feel like I have gained so much from life – but also so much life still to live,” he snarled.
* Bob’s four-part series, 21st Century Country and C2C Country to Country highlights are all available on BBC Sounds. The Country Show with Bob Harris will air at 9pm on Thursdays on BBC Radio 2.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/radio-2s-whispering-bob-harris-26477070 Radio 2 whisperer Bob Harris still champions music at age 75 with new show