UPDATE: This show, due to have taken place on Tuesday March 22, has been postponed until April 6 as Bob Harris has tested positive for Covid-19. Tickets will remin valid

FAMED for his velvet-smooth voice, warm personality and gentle amiability, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris is a broadcasting legend – a fond friend on the airwaves to millions of radio listeners who have never even met him.

So why is Oxfordshire’s superstar DJ and all-round nice guy on tour with a presenter who, at first appearances at least, seems the polar opposite?

Pugnacious and provocative, brash and outspoken, Danny Baker is whip-smart and opinionated, upbeat and loud, with a punchy ‘Sarf’ London manner which could not be further from Bob’s soothing, honeyed tones.

Yet, it turns out, the pair are best mates – having first met in the mid-90s when Danny was profiling the former Old Grey Whistle Test presenter for a series he was then hosting, called Heroes of Television.

Both having been – in the nicest possible way – ‘around the block’ a bit, they hit it off. And now they are on the road, pooling their showbiz anecdotes of lives well-lived to packed houses of fans with a show called Harris and Baker’s Backstage Pass.

On Tuesday they play Oxford’s New Theatre – a hometown show for Bob, who lives near Steventon. And it was among the apple trees and daffodils of his beautifully kept garden that I caught up with him to ask him how the tour was going... and what on earth possessed him to embark on such a venture?

Oxford Mail:

Legendary broadcaster, Bob Harris in his studio at his home in Steventon. Pic: Damian Halliwell

“It’s really great,” he purred in his trademark luscious tones. “As people we are very different but it absolutely works. We have a mutual respect for each other and come at it from very different points but that’s what makes it. We are like wine and cheese – two very different things that go well together.

“We just mesh on stage in a magical way. We have no idea what’s going to happen and no two gigs are the same. We sit and reminisce and share amazing stories.”

Yet, to their delight, the shows are going down a storm, audiences eager to hear their showbiz tales garnered through long careers in radio and television in the orbit of many of the greatest names in pop and rock.

And, in Bob’s case, there aren’t many names he hasn’t hung out with – whether it be John Lennon, George Harrison, Marc Bolan, Queen, Brian Wilson, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie – even joining him to sing on his classic tune Memory of a Free Festival.

Danny, who cut his teeth on the NME, has followed a different trajectory, presenting for LWT and BBC TV, commercial radio and BBC Radio 1 and 5 and London, helming now-forgotten chat and game shows, fronting football programmes and – who could forget – appearing in tacky ads for Daz washing powder. There have been highs and lows, huge popularity and hurtful maulings from the Twitter mob.

But all of it has given the cocky Millwall fan an unparalleled insight into the ‘industry’ and lurid tales of some of its most colourful characters.

Oxford Mail: Harris & Baker Image - Credit Karla Gowlett

Harris & Baker. Pic: Karla Gowlett

Neither would suggest modern music isn’t as much fun as it was (well, Danny would, to be fair), but there’s no doubt they lived through the best of it – and got up close and personal with the naughtiest of it. And this is their chance to spill the beans.

“We have different musical tastes, but that adds to the flavour of it,” says Bob – who is these days a darling of the country music scene, presenting his own bob Harris Country show on Radio 2 and compering the huge Country 2 Country festival at London’s O2 Arena.

While the shows are improvised and unique, a few of the best stories crop up each night.

“Every night Danny tells us how he was in Led Zeppelin for 35 minutes and how Marc Bolan gave him the shirt off his back, and I talk about about my friendship with David Bowie. But everything else us fresh.”

Oxford Mail:

Legendary broadcaster, Bob Harris in his studio at his home in Steventon. Pic: Damian Halliwell

The night before, he says, they played Northampton – his old hometown – where he received a standing ovation as he walked on stage. After two years of pandemic solitude he says it has been invigorating and life-affirming.

“The warmth is incredible,” he says emotionally. “I can’t wait to play Oxford because here I’m a local. And it’s wonderful to play the New Theatre.”

And there’s a chance for us to ask the pair a question too.

“The first half is free form,” says Bob. “Then, in the interval, Danny puts pens and paper at the front of the stage for the audience to write questions and I encourage people to tweet questions to me. That takes up the whole of the second half, but the most we’ve ever got through is three. We do tend to digress!”

I ask him where the idea of the collaboration came from. The answer was suitably showbiz – as it always is with Bob.

“Well, it was Robert Plant’s idea,” he says, modestly, regaling with me with how the Led Zep singer saw them in action at a festival in Worcestershire and suggested a national tour.

“Robert saw us together and said it was one of the best gigs he’d been to in years. One of the first shows we did was in Salford and Peter Kay was there and said the same thing.

“Something happens when we are on stage.”

He admits Danny has sometimes been misrepresented, unfairly, but says he has found a true friend in the fellow music lover.

“Anyone that knows Danny knows he’s got the most open of open minds and is a lovely, lovely guy – and is so sharp.”

And cheeky, it seems.

“He goes out first and describes me as having a voice like a vibrator in six feet of sand... and that sets the tone.”

He laughs: “ I feel like I’m bursting with enthusiasm, but actually I am. To be out on stage with Danny feels fantastic!”

Harris and Baker’s Backstage Pass is at the New Theatre, Oxford, on April 6. Go to Harrisandbaker.com

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