After the success of their previous album, David Crosby and Graham Nash took the band that played on the album out on tour in the summer and fall of 1975. In the course of recording sessions for this album, both were invited to add vocals to a project by Stephen Stills and Neil Young that would become that pair's only duo album to date, Long May You Run credited to the Stills-Young band. What could have been a potential CSNY reunion got torpedoed by Stills and Young wiping the other pair's vocal contributions from the master tapes; Crosby and Nash opted not to return to the Stills-Young sessions but complete this album instead. Crosby and Nash would tour again to support this album in 1976, but by the end of the year would reunite with Stills for the second CSN trio album, released in 1977. That album would successfully reactivate the trio on a more or less permanent basis, and there would not be a new Crosby & Nash studio album for another 28 years.
As on their previous two albums, the instrumental backing was provided by the group of session musicians known as The Section, here consisting of keyboardist Craig Doerge, guitarist Danny Kortchmar, and drummer Russell Kunkel, along with multi-instrumentalist David Lindley and bassist Tim Drummond and known as 'The Mighty Jitters' when on tour with the duo. Many tracks for this album, including "Time After Time," "J.B.'s Blues," and "Marguerita" were left over from the sessions for Wind on the Water.
Both this album and its predecessor exemplify the sub-genre of soft rock prevalent in much of mid-1970s popular music. With two gold albums in a row, the duo's success on records had outstripped that of their former partner Stills, whose only gold album certification among his most recent five albums had been the one in tandem with Young. Yet, when the opportunity arose, the pair agreed to join up with Stills and continue as Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Sessions took place at Rudy Recorders in San Francisco, and the Sound Lab in Los Angeles. Whistling Down the Wire was reissued for compact disc on January 11, 2000, on MCA Records. It was made available again as part of MCA's new manufacture on-demand process.