The Old Grey Whistle Test: Facts Behind The Programme


The Old Grey Whistle Test took over from Disco 2, which ran from September 1970 to July 1971.

The programme was commissioned by Sir David Attenborough.

The show was devised by producer Rowan Ayers, whose son was Kevin Ayers.

The name was derived from a Tin Pan Alley phrase. Whenever a new record was pressed up, it would be played to doormen. They were know as Old Greys, because they wore grey suits. If they could remember a song after one or two plays and whistle the tune, then the record was said to have passed The Old Grey Whistle Test.

The programme was famously parodied by The Fast Show, with their popular Jazz Club sketches.

Rick Wakeman made six appearances on _TOGWT _– with Yes and solo. That is the most by any artist.

The initial budget per show was a meagre £5000.

The figure in the opening titles was known as The Starkicker.

The show’s theme music was Stone Fox Chase by a band called Area 615.

Richard Williams, Melody Maker editor at the time, was the first host. Bob Harris, who is most associated with TOGWT, took over in 1972. He left in 1978, to be succeeded by Anne Nightingale. When she departed in 1982, David Hepworth, Mark Ellen, Andy Kershaw and Richard Skinner were all used as presenters.

In 1983, the show changed title to the Whistle Test. It finished with a live broadcast on New Year’s Eve 1987, running through to the early hours of New Year’s Day 1988.

The first show featured America, Alice Cooper and Lesley Duncan.

See Led Zeppelin on TOGWT