‘I took a gamble and never looked back’: The humble man who became the world’s best whistler – and changed his life forever

David Morris was twice persuaded by friends to try something different after they discovered he had a unique musical gift.

More than a decade later, his remarkable sound would continue to be heard by millions around the world.

David, who has lived all his life in Saddleworth, had already been named Britain’s best cornet player back in 1975.

READ MORE: Beautiful village over Manchester looks frozen in time – but not everything is as it seems

But it was a remarkable global competition held across the pond that continued to change his life forever.

In 2003, David participated in the annual World Whistling Championships in Louisburg, North Carolina, for the first time.

That would be the only time – before he returned home to the beautiful village of Dobcross with the title.

David Morris, who has lived in Saddleworth all his life
David Morris, who has lived in Saddleworth all his life

David, who studied at Hulme Grammar School for Boys in Oldham, says he developed his flute skills while still playing the corn and never had a lesson.

He told Manchester Evening News : “When I used to learn another piece, I tried to whistle it. That was when people discovered I had the flair for it.

“I was lobbied by some friends to make a CD with a brass band backing, and it did pretty well.

“Then I participated in the World Cup in 2003 and that was where my life changed.

“This guy from the north is taking over to America and beating them in their own backyard.”

After releasing his first CD – Whistles down from the wind the year before, David whistled the world championships.

David Morris recorded his first CD in 2002 and went on to record four more
David Morris recorded his first CD in 2002 and went on to record four more

Again, it was his friends who pushed him to enter the competition.

David said: “They had found the event online and said I should try it, they thought I would do well.”

The championships are well known in the United States, and in the year of David, the event was broadcast nationwide by CBS.

He participated in the two-day championship and whistled in both the classic and popular category.

David was one of seven finalists to complete the first round before continuing to be named the winner.

Encouraged by the warm reception he received after his victory, including news coverage on television in the Northwest, David decided to quit his job as an herbal medicine salesman and become a professional whistler.

The former musical director of the Dobcross Silver Band would go on to record five CD albums and make countless live appearances as a whistler.

He said: “I have been back to America 15 times for concerts, twice in New Zealand. I have performed in Europe and across the UK.”

David also continued to appear in several national TV shows such as This morning,Blue Peter and The One Show .

But that was his several appearances on BBC Radio 2 during that Chris Evans and Friday night is music night shows, it would lead to David’s next big breakthrough.

In 2014, composer Anne Dudley contacted a music agency and asked for a whistler to take part in a new advertising campaign for TSB bank.

David said: “The guy who was a partner in the agency used to be a professional violinist and was in the BBC concert orchestra when I was a guest on Radio 2.

David after a performance on The One Show in December 2012 with Chris Evans, Alex Jones and James May
David after a performance on The One Show in December 2012 with Chris Evans, Alex Jones and James May

“He remembered me and said there was ‘a guy up north somewhere’. He found me, Anne showed my website and she said ‘this is the guy we want’.

“And that was it – I went down to record it. That campaign lasted for 12 different ads.”

David, who has four grandchildren, added: “[My family] was very excited and very supportive. I think they were pretty proud of it. “

After the lengthy TSB campaign, David’s whistle further appeared in commercials for Mini, San Pellegrino and Klarna.

His unique sound was also heard in cinemas around the world in 2018 when he starred in the Hollywood smash sequel Oh mother!Here we go again , which was also scored by Anne Dudley.

David’s famous flute formed the background for Julie Walters’ arrival on the island of Kalokairi – far from Saddleworth’s brass band concerts in which he would play the grain.

But less than two years later, the world was shaken by the coronavirus pandemic, which brought David’s live whistling shows to a shocking halt.

“It’s been awful,” he said.

“There was nothing for 18 months. When you like to perform but you can’t, it’s pretty frustrating.”

Fortunately, the reservations returned to David’s shows, having performed on a number of occasions since the Covid restrictions were relaxed in the summer and with shows lined up for 2022.

“This is my job now,” David added.

“I took a bet and never looked back.”

To hear some of David’s whistle and find out more, see his website here.

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