21st September 1971 passing Old Grey Whistle Test, but what was it?

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On September 21st, 1971, a music television show called “The Old Grey Whistle Test” aired for the first time in the United Kingdom. The show would go on to become one of the most influential music programs of the 1970s, and its impact on the music industry is still felt today.

“The Old Grey Whistle Test” was created by BBC producer Rowan Ayers and was initially intended as a late-night program for the BBC2 network. The show quickly gained a reputation for showcasing some of the best and most cutting-edge music of the time, with a particular focus on American rock and folk artists.

The popularity of the show was its commitment to Live Performances

It was a pioneering show that focused on showcasing new and emerging musical acts, as well as featuring interviews and live performances from established artists.

“The Old Grey Whistle Test” became so popular with its commitment to showcasing live performances. Many of the artists who appeared on the show would perform in front of a small studio audience, which helped to create an intimate and authentic atmosphere. The show’s producers were also known for their willingness to give up-and-coming artists a chance to perform, which helped to launch the careers of several musicians who went on to become household names.

One of the most famous performances on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” took place on September 21st, 1971. On that night, a little-known singer-songwriter named Jackson Browne appeared on the show to perform a song called “Doctor My Eyes.” Browne’s performance was a revelation, and it helped to launch his career in the UK and around the world.

Browne’s performance on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” was typical of the show’s approach to music. The program was never afraid to take risks, and it was always on the lookout for the next big thing in music. Over the years, the show would feature performances by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and many others.

“The Old Grey Whistle Test” came to an end in 1987, but its legacy lives on. The show helped to introduce many people to new and exciting music, and it played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of the 1970s. Today, it is remembered as one of the most important music programs of its time, and its influence can still be felt in the music industry today.

Old Grey Whistle Test Presenters

The show’s presenters were an essential part of its success, and each presenter brought their unique personality and style to the show.

David Attenborough commissioned the program, which was created by Rowan Ayers.

The show’s first presenter was Richard Williams, a music journalist who had previously worked for Melody Maker and The Times. Williams’ knowledgeable and enthusiastic approach made him a popular figure on the show, and he was known for his insightful interviews with musicians.

In 1972, Williams was replaced by ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, a radio DJ who brought new energy to the show. Harris was known for his laid-back style and his ability to connect with the musicians he interviewed. He was also responsible for introducing many American acts to British audiences, including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Emmylou Harris.

Bob Harris would become the presenter most associated with the show. Bob was a radio DJ with the nickname, ‘Whispering Bob Harris’, on the account of his low-toned whispering radio voice.

In the mid-1970s, the show’s line-up was expanded to include a rotating cast of presenters, including Annie Nightingale, Mark Ellen, and David Hepworth. Each presenter brought their unique style to the show, and their diverse musical tastes ensured that the show remained fresh and engaging.

Another one of the show’s popular presenters was Andy Kershaw, who joined the show in 1984. Kershaw was a passionate advocate for world music, and he used his platform on the Old Grey Whistle Test to showcase artists from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Kershaw’s enthusiasm for world music helped to popularize the genre in the UK, and his influence can still be felt today.

Other presenters over the years would join the line up including Ian Whitcomb, Annie Nightingale, Andy Kershaw, David Hepworth, Mark Ellen, Richard Skinner, and Ro Newton.

The Old Grey Whistle Test was a groundbreaking show that helped to shape the musical landscape of the UK. Its presenters played a crucial role in the show’s success, and their knowledge, passion, and personality helped to make the show a beloved institution. Today, the show remains a cultural touchstone, and its presenters are remembered as icons of British music television.

Unknowns who became known

Music performances from non-chart artists who became known later on such as Roxy Music, David Bowie, Elton John, Alice Cooper, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Roger Daltrey from THE WHO, John Lennon, Dire Straits, Gary Numen. The list is vast all first appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test

The show ran from 1971 to New Year’s 1988 on the late-night BBC 2 slot and rebooted on BBC 4 up to 2018.

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The origin of the name, “The Old Greys”

The name seems to arrive from a real term, “The Old Greys” that was given to elderly service people working in the buildings where music writing and publication happened, back from the Tin Pan Alley days in the USA. These people would be exposed to the songs and those who could retain part of the melody or hook whistling or humming it, would be a sign that these tunes were likely to be a success. This was known as passing the “Old Grey Whistle Test”.

Theme tune of the Old Grey Whistle Test “Stone Fox Chase”

Area Code 615 was the name taken from the dialling code for Nashville and used by the country rock band of the same name. The harmonica playing tune “Stone Fox Chase” by Charlie Mccoy is the theme tune of the programme.

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Though Stone Fox Chase, would be the bands most recognisable music, the band was made up of largely session players for other music greats of the time.

The Old Grey Whistle Test theme tune

Courtesy of YouTube shared Link

Which bands appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test?

999Elkie BrooksKing CrimsonRuss Ballard
10CCEllen FoleyKissing The PinkRy Cooder
AC/DCElton JohnKris KristoffersonSad Café
AceElvis CostelloLandscapeSaga
Adam and the AntsEmerson Lake and PalmerLarry CoryellSandy Denny
Adam ClaytonEmillie KeyLarry Mullen Jr.Sandy West
Adam FaithEmitt RhodesLaurie WisefieldScorpions
After The FireEmmylou HarrisLene LovichSeals & Crofts
Al Di MeolaEmory Gordy Jr.Lenny WhiteSean Tyla
Al StewartEric ClaptonLeo KottkeSecret Affair
Alan DarbyErik RussellLeo SayerShawn Phillips
Alan ShacklockErnest CateLeon RedboneSimon Emmerson
Alan StivellEurythmicsLeon RussellSimon Raymonde
Alan WhiteEverything But The GirlLeon WilkesonSimple Minds
Albert LeeFabulous PoodlesLes DavidsonSiouxsie and the Banshees
Alexis KornerFairport ConventionLesley DuncanSiouxsie Sioux
Alice CooperFamilyLevel 42Sir Douglas Quintet
Alice StuartFannyLieber StollerSister Sledge
Alison StattonFashionLight of the WorldSmall Faces
Allan HoldsworthFiat LuxLinda LewisSmokie
Allen CollinsFischer Z.Linda RonstadtSniff 'n The Tears
Allez AllezFishLindisfarneSoft Cell
Altered ImagesFlamin' GrooviesLindsey BuckinghamSonny Terry
Alvin LeeFleetwood MacLink WraySonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
AmericaFocusLita FordSouthside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
Andrew BaileyForeignerLittle BobSpandau Ballet
Andrew GoldFrank InfanteLittle FeatSparks
Andrew McCrorie-ShandFrank ZappaLittle Steven and the Disciples of SoulSpirit
Andrew Pryce JackmanFreddie KingLone StarSpliff
Andy DiagramFreeezLori LiebermanSplit Enz
Andy EllisonFun Boy ThreeLoudon Wainwright IIISqueeze
Andy Fairweather LowFuzzboxLouisiana RedStackridge
Andy MackayG.B. Zoot MoneyLowell GeorgeStanley Clarke
Andy PeakeGallagher & LyleLuther GrosvenorStealers Wheel
Andy RobertsGang of FourLynsey de PaulSteel Pulse
Andy WardGarland JeffreysLynyrd SkynyrdStefan Grossman
Angie BowieGary FletcherMadnessStephen Bishop
Ann WilsonGary MooreMagazineStephen Fellows
Anna McGarrigleGary NumanMaggie BellSteppenwolf
Annabel LambGary RossingtonMaggie DunneSteve Blacknell
Annette PeacockGary U.S. BondsMaggie ReillySteve Ellis
Annie LennoxGavin HodgsonMagna CartaSteve Farr
Ant GlynneGene ClarkManfred MannSteve Forbert
Arlo GuthrieGene OctoberManfred Mann's Earth BandSteve Goodman
Ashley HoltGenesisMarcella DetroitSteve Hillage
AswadGeoff DugmoreMari WilsonSteve Hogarth
Atlanta Rhythm SectionGeorge BensonMarillionSteve Howe
Au PairsGeorge CummingsMark BrzezickiSteve Nieve
Average White BandGeorge DukeMark KellySteve Parry
Aztec CameraGeorge TerryMark KingSteve Rothery
B.B. KingGerman GonzalesMark KingsmillSteve Simpson
Bad CompanyGerry RaffertyMark KnopflerSteven Severin
Barbara ThompsonGil Scott-HeronMarshall CrenshawStevie Nicks
Barclay James HarvestGirlMartin GordonStevie Wonder
Barry De SouzaGladys Knight & The PipsMarty GrebbStone the Crows
Barry DevlinGlen D. HardinMartyn ShieldsStuart Adamson
BauhausGlen MatlockMasayoshi TakanakaStuart MacKillop
Baz WattsGolden EarringMatthew SeligmanSupertramp
Be-Bop DeluxeGongMeat LoafSutherland Brothers & Quiver
Ben E. KingGordon GiltrapMedicine HeadSwans Way
Ben SidranGraham BroadMeghann LoneyT.V. Smith
Beth KeyGraham DeakinMel WessonTalking Heads
Big CountryGraham NashMichael AppletonTasavallan Presidentti
Bill BrufordGraham ParkerMichael ChapmanTears for Fears
Bill CobhamGrateful DeadMichael Des BarresTed Nugent
Bill NelsonGreensladeMichael KaroliTéléphone
Bill WithersGreg JamesMick FleetwoodTelevision
Billy BraggGreg KihnMick JaggerTerry Bozzio
Billy DuffyGregg AllmanMick KarnTerry Cashman
Billy FrancisHank DeVitoMick PearlTerry Reid
Billy JoelHans VandenburgMick RonsonThe Baker-Gurvitz Army
Billy PowellHans WatermanMick TaylorThe Beach Boys
Billy PrestonHarry ChapinMickey NewburyThe Bluebells
BlancmangeHarvey AndrewsMicky JonesThe Boomtown Rats
BlondieHazel O'ConnorMik GlaisherThe Chevalier Brothers
Blood Sweat & TearsHeartMike AbsalomThe Chieftains
BloodstoneHeavy Metal KidsMike EdwardsThe Comsat Angels
BlueHellmut HattlerMike HuggThe Country Gazette
Bob BurnsHenry GrossMike OldfieldThe Crickets
Bob DaisleyHenry McCulloughMike O'NeillThe Cult
Bob HenritHerman Brood & His Wild RomanceMike RutherfordThe Damned
Bob MarleyHolger CzukayMollie MarriottThe dB's
Bob WestonHolly VincentMontroseThe Doobie Brothers
Bob 'Willard' HenkeHomesick JamesMorris PertThe Doors
Bobby TenchHot TunaMott the HoopleThe Drifters
Bonnie RaittHoward JonesMuddy WatersThe Edgar Winter Group
BonoHoward WerthNancy WilsonThe Edge
Brian EnoHudson FordNatural Acoustic BandThe Everly Brothers
Brian MayHughie FlintNazarethThe Fabulous Thunderbirds
Bridget St JohnHuman Sexual ResponseNeil BrewerThe Faces
Brinsley SchwarzHumble PieNeil SedakaThe Go-Go's
Brownie McGheeHuw Lloyd LangtonNeil YoungThe Icicle Works
Bruce SpringsteenIain MatthewsNenaThe Inmates
Bruce ThomasIan AndersonNew MusikThe J. Geils Band
Bruce WatsonIan AstburyNew York DollsThe Jags
Bruce WoolleyIan BroudieNick LoweThe Jam
Bryan FerryIan DuryNicko McBrainThe Jim Carroll Band
Bryn HaworthIan EmesNicoThe Jimmy Castor Bunch
BudgieIan GillanNigel HarrisonThe Kinks
Buffy Sainte-MarieIan MacLeodNigel OlssonThe Knack
BuzzcocksIan MosleyNils LofgrenThe Manhattan Transfer
Caleb QuayeIggy PopNina HagenThe Members
Calvin HayesIke TurnerNine Below ZeroThe Monochrome Set
CamelInga RumpfOle FickThe Motels
CanIrmin SchmidtOllie HalsallThe Motors
Canned HeatIt's ImmaterialOrange JuiceThe Move
Carl RadleJack BruceOrchestral Manoeuvres in the DarkThe Movies
Carla BleyJackie LyntonOsibisaThe Mystery Girls
Carmelo LuggeriJackson BrowneOtway & BarrettThe Only Ones
Carole KingJaki LiebezeitOxThe Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Casey CameronJaki WhitrenPat BenatarThe Passions
Cat StevensJames Christopher StevensonPat TraversThe Police
Catherine HoweJames LitherlandPatrick MorazThe Pretty Things
Charles O'ConnorJamie OldakerPatti SmithThe Psychedelic Furs
Charlie DoreJamie StewartPaul BradyThe Racing Cars
Charlie HarrisonJan AkkermanPaul BrettThe Rezillos
Chas CronkJance GarfatPaul GambacciniThe Roches
Chas HodgesJanis IanPaul JonesThe Rolling Stones
Cheap TrickJapanPaul KingThe Rubinoos
CherJD SoutherPaul SimonThe Runaways
Chester ThompsonJean-Jacques KravetzPaul YoungThe Selecter
Chick CoreaJean-Luc PontyPercy JonesThe Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Chris CutlerJean-Michel JarrePersia NumanThe Sisters of Mercy
Chris DiffordJeff BerlinPete AtkinThe Skids
Chris HarleyJeff DuffPete KircherThe Smiths
Chris HillmanJeremy MeekPete SinfieldThe Sound
Chris MaclachlanJerry Lee LewisPete TrewavasThe Spinners
Chris MasuakJesse Colin YoungPeter CalicherThe Strawbs
Chris ParrenJesse WinchesterPeter FilleulThe Style Council
Chris ReaJethro TullPeter FramptonThe Teardrop Explodes
Chris SquireJim CapaldiPeter GabrielThe Tourists
Chris SteinJim CrocePeter WolbrandtThe Truth
Christine McVieJim DiamondPhil ChenThe Tubes
Chuck MangioneJim RodfordPhil CollinsThe Undertones
Claire HamillJimmy CameronPhil LynottThe Vibrators
Clark DatchlerJimmy DestriPhil SpaldingThe Wailers
Clem BurkeJimmy GriffinPhil WaldenThe Waitresses
Clem ClempsonJimmy HastingsPhilippe CatherineThe Waterboys
Cliff WilliamsJimmy LockhartPhillip Goodhand-TaitThe Weather Prophets
Clifford T. WardJimmy PagePlanxtyThe Who
Climax Blues BandJo DunnePocoThe Winterbabies
Clive JohnJoan ArmatradingPrefab SproutThin Lizzy
Cockney RebelJoan JettPremiata Forneria MarconiThomas Dolby
Cocteau TwinsJoe ElyPublic Image Ltd.Thompson Twins
Colin BentleyJoe JacksonQueenTim Buckley
Colin BlunstoneJoe PartridgeRab NoakesTina O'Neill
Colin GibsonJoe WalshRachel SweetTina Turner
Colin TullyJohn CaleRain ParadeTodd Rundgren
Country Joe McDonaldJohn Cooper ClarkeRalph McTellTom Barlage
Cousin Joe PleasantJohn DensmoreRamonesTom McGuinness
Cozy PowellJohn DummerRandy NewmanTom Paxton
CrawlerJohn DunstervilleRay SawyerTom Petty
Crazy HorseJohn EntwistleRaymond FroggattTom Petty & The Heartbreakers
CrowbarJohn EtheridgeReg BrooksTom Robinson
Curtis MayfieldJohn EvanREO SpeedwagonTom Verlaine
Dan HartmanJohn GiblinRic SandersTom Waits
Danny BakerJohn GiffordRich GilbertTommy West
Danny McIntoshJohn GoldrosenRichard DiganceTony Banks
Daryl HallJohn GoodsallRichard StrangeTony Butler
Daryl StuermerJohn HalseyRichard ThompsonTony Colton
Dave CousinsJohn HiattRichie HavensTony Connor
Dave EvansJohn KayRick JamesTony Fernandez
Dave KellyJohn LennonRick JonesTony Hughes
Dave LambertJohn MartynRick VitoTony Kaye
Dave LloydJohn MayallRick WakemanTony Stevens
Dave MasonJohn McBurnieRickie Lee JonesToyah Willcox
Davey JohnstoneJohn McVieRicky NelsonTrace
David A. StewartJohn MellencampRik ElswitTrevor Rabin
David AcklesJohn OatesRita CoolidgeTrevor Williams
David BowieJohn OtwayRitchie BlackmoreTrust
David FosterJohn PrineRobby KriegerTubeway Army
David GatesJohn Valentine CarruthersRobert FarrarTurning Point
David LawsonJohn WareRobert GordonTygers of Pan Tang
David McWilliamsJohn WeiderRobert KingU2
David SanciousJohn WettonRobert PlantUdo Lindenberg
David SinclairJohn WoltersRobert SmithUFO
David StewartJohnnie WalkerRobert VincentUltravox
Dean FriedmanJohnny FeanRobert WyattUpp
Debbie HarryJohnny RiversRoberta FlackUriah Heep
Dee MurrayJohnny WinterRobin GuthrieUtopia
Del ShannonJon AndersonRobin TrowerVan Halen
Dennis LocorriereJon LordRock & Roll AllstarsVan Morrison
Denny LaineJonathan KellyRod ArgentVickie Perks
DevoJoni MitchellRod StewartVictory Tischler-Blue
Dick MorrisseyJosé van IerselRodney CrowellVinegar Joe
Dickey BettsJudas PriestRoger ChapmanViolent Femmes
Dini LamotJudd LanderRoger DaltreyWalter Egan
Dire StraitsJudee SillRoger DeanWang Chung
Dobie GrayJudi PulverRoger GloverWhitesnake
Don McLeanJudie TzukeRoger McGuinnWildwood Kin
Don Van VlietJules ShearRoger NewellWilko Johnson
Dory PrevinKarsten VogelRoger TaylorWillem Ennes
Dr. FeelgoodKate BushRoman HollidayWindle Davis
Dr. HookKate McGarrigleRonnie LaneWinston Hislop
Duane EddyKazuhiko KatoRonnie LeahyWishbone Ash
Duncan BrowneKeith GemmelRonnie Van ZantX-Ray Spex
Duran DuranKeith MulhollandRory GallagherXTC
Eamon CarrKeith WestRoxy MusicYella Cameron
Earl CateKenny CraddockRoy BuchananYes
Eddie and the Hot RodsKevin AyersRoy DykeYukihiro Takahashi
Eddie JobsonKevin BaconRoy HarperYvonne Elliman
Eddie MoneyKevin CoyneRoy Young
Edgar WinterKiki DeeRoye Albrighton
Edward KingKim MenzerRupert Hine
Elizabeth FraserKim WildeRush
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1 year ago

Anne Nightingale ran a live John Lennon tribute on The Old Grey Whistle Test, i think they struggled to find people to come in on air

1 year ago

Bob Marley in 73, that must have been one great episode

1 year ago

The Old Greys, as in playing new tracks to doormen, why where they so influential one wonders

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