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The Old Grey Whistle Test (usually abbreviated to Whistle Test or OGWT) was a British television music show. It was commissioned by David Attenborough and aired on BBC2 from 1971 to 1988. The show was devised by BBC producer Rowan Ayers[1]. The original producer, involved in an executive capacity throughout the show's entire history, was Michael Appleton. According to presenter Bob Harris, the programme derived its name from a Tin Pan Alley phrase from years before. When they got the first pressing of a record they would play it to people they called the old greys – doormen in grey suits. Any song they could remember and whistle, having heard it just once or twice, had passed the old grey whistle test.

The show's focus on "serious" rock music, rather than chart hits covered on BBC1 by Top of the Pops, was emphasised by a lack of showbiz glitter: bands would often perform their songs in front of either the bare studio walls or plain wooden boards.... (read more at Wikipedia). 

Links to Peel

Peel always seemed unhappy that anyone should mistake him for "Whispering" Bob Harris, host of the late-night BBC2 rock music show from 1972 until 1978 - although it was an easy mistake for casual viewers to make. Peel had encouraged and influenced Harris in his early radio career, and the two DJs were the most popular presenters of Radio 1's Sounds of the Seventies evening shows, of which OGWT, with its emphasis on albums rather than singles, was the TV equivalent. Besides, both DJs wore beards and shared a gentle hippyish presentation style and similar tastes in music, until Peel embraced punk in the mid-1970s and Harris began to be attacked (unfairly, he maintained) in the music press as a representative of rock's old guard. But even after "Whispering Bob" left the show, to be replaced first by Anne Nightingale and then by younger presenters like Mark Ellen and Andy Kershaw, Peel was still occasionally mistaken for Harris.

JOHN PEEL (Whistle Test feature) Tools You Can Trust MARK RADCLIFFE

JOHN PEEL (Whistle Test feature) Tools You Can Trust MARK RADCLIFFE

Peel introduces Tools You Can Trust session feature on OGWT and is interviewed by Kershaw

Although Peel never presented the show, he did make occasional appearances. Latter-day Whistle Test presenter Andy Kershaw recalled in an article in The Independent that after joining the BBC he first met Peel when he interviewed the DJ for the show aired on 18 December 1984, preceded by a film of Peel visiting the Maida Vale studios for the making of the session by Tools You Can Trust (recorded 1984-11-27, broadcast 05 December 1984).[2]

Another appearance seems to have been on 12 February 1985, with JP mentioning on his radio show that he had appeared on Whistle Test earlier that evening "talking hogwash about videos" but looking good in his Bremen shirt (the team play in green).[3]

Terry & Gerry Ballad of a Nasty Man

Terry & Gerry Ballad of a Nasty Man.wmv

Peel "plays" skiffle, after Terry & Gerry

Both Peel and John Walters appeared on the programme aired on 5 November 1985 in a special feature on skiffle music.[4] The video recording was also released officially as part of the OGWT Vol 2 DVD compilation.[1]

 During the traditional end of year special "87 Whistle Test 88" broadcast on New Year's Eve 1987, Peel introduces the music of The Bhundu Boys from Zimbabwe (who had already recorded two sessions), and also interviewed Peter Gabriel, who in his post- Genesis solo career had become a noted promoter of "world music". The feature was followed by a live performance by Gary Glitter. Peel favourites of an earlier era, the Grateful Dead, were also featured later in the programme.[5]

 The Jethro Tull concert broadcast on 09 October 1978 was a live simulcast between Whistle Test on BBC 2 and Peel's show on Radio 1.[2] 

See Also

Bob Harris


  1. Father of Peel favourite Kevin Ayers.
  2. BBC Genome - Whistle Test, BBC Two England, 18 December 1984 19.30
  3. not documented in the BBC Genome listings
  4. BBC Genome - Whistle Test, BBC Two England, 05 November 1985 19.00
  5. BBC Genome - 87 Whistle Test 88, BBC Two England, 31 December 1987 21.35