The Five Minute Interview: Bob Harris, radio and television presenter

"I'm not just a hippy telling people to listen to the colours of music."

‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, 62, is a television and radio presenter currently working for BBC Radio 2. He rose to prominence as a Radio 1 DJ on the Sounds of the 70s show, before moving in to television as the presenter of the iconic music programme The Old Grey Whistle Test. Bob has been successfully fighting prostate cancer since diagnosis in March 2007 and is Patron to Sound & Vision which takes place on 26 February 2009 at Abbey Road Studios raising money for Cancer Research UK. For more information visit his website:

If I weren't talking to you right now I'd be…

Building programs for my Saturday night show on Radio 2. I’d be getting ready, preparing playlists and listening to lots of music.

A phrase I use far too often...

Would have to be “and like that”. I tend to say it a lot, perhaps as a way to leave all my sentences open ended but it’s totally subconscious.

I wish people would take more notice of...

Rubbish at the side of the road. It says so much about the modern world that we’re still willing to live like that. I live in Oxfordshire and the drive between my village and Didcot is awful. It looks as though the entire population of Didcot use the A4130 as a dustbin.

A common misperception of me is...

That I’m just a big hippy who tells people to listen to the colours of the music. I was 20 in 1966 so I was very much in the middle of all that sixties stuff and I think many people think I never really grew out of it. It seems a lot of people still think I’m a bit of a hippy in a haze.

The most surprising thing that ever happened to me was...

Finding myself in the studio for the first program I ever did as I’d really come from nowhere. I hadn’t gone down the whole pirate radio, Radio Luxembourg route that other young DJ’s had. I’d never even been on the radio before and suddenly found myself filling in for John Peel who was off sick. Despite my having no experience, I knew right away that this is where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life.

What advice would you give to newcomers in your profession?

Just be yourself and find your own niche. John Peel, Steve Wright, Chris Evans et al didn’t get anywhere by simply copying someone else. They were themselves and got where they did by being unique.

I am not a politician but...

I’d sort out all that rubbish I mentioned earlier! I really would. When you go to America you see guys in bright yellow jackets doing community service. I totally support that. It’s turning their negative acts into something positive and benefits society far more than having them sat in a cell somewhere.

I'm good at...

Making rocky road chocolate biscuits. I use a Nigella Lawson recipe and my three children absolutely love it. They marvel at my culinary skills, not because I’m any good but rather for the novelty value of having dad cooking.

But I'm very bad at...

Anything practical. My wife Trudie despairs of my attempts to make or build things. When I’m in the studio I can quite easily drive the desk and very rarely make mistakes. But if something does go wrong, that’s it, I’m at a total loss.

The ideal night out is...

Just sharing an evening with my wife. We both work so hard, particularly Trudie who basically runs our production company WBBC, so getting time together is a rarity. Ideally we’d just pop to the local pub, the White Heart in Fyfield, where we know lots of people and can relax. Add a few friends to the mix and we’re all set.

In moments of weakness I...

Turn to my wife. It’s so funny, in moments of stress I rely on her completely. Whenever anything happens I phone Trudie and she’ll talk me through it. She’s such an incredible organiser and can really get things done, whereas I can be utterly hopeless in a tricky situation.

You know me as a radio and television presenter but in truer life I'd have been...

A writer. I wrote my autobiography a few years ago and loved every minute of the process. I find writing a very portable profession. You just need a lap top or a typewriter and you’re away.

The best age to be is...

29. I’m a fervent believer that age equals wisdom and the things you learn as you get older can be incredibly important. But - and it is a big but - at 29 you have elements of life experience while still being young and energetic enough to have a rip-roaring time.

In a nutshell, my philosophy is…

Karma, instant karma. Karma is a very big thing for me – what goes around really does come around. Good things will always come from good things while do something wrong and you can be sure that karma will bite you back.

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