SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 17: The Wiggles perform during Woolworths Carols in the Domain on December 17, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. Woolworths Carols in the Domain is Australia's largest Christmas concert featuring some of Australia and the world's best-loved artists performing Christmas songs and carols. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images for Active TV)
Photo: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images for Active TV
Photo: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images for Active TV

Interview with founder of the Wiggles, in Atlanta for first time in eight years with mostly new cast

Originally posted Sunday, August 18, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Australia has brought pop culture a bumper crop of amazing actors (e.g. Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman) and musicians (e.g. INXS, AC/DC, Sia).

And the country is also home to one of the biggest acts catering to toddlers in history:  the Wiggles. The group has been around for nearly three decades and have released an astonishing 53 studio albums. 

In other words, parents who grew up singing “Fruit Salad” and “Hot Potato” now have kids doing the very same thing. 

But the Wiggles that return to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Monday, August 19 after an eight-year absence from Atlanta are mostly new. At the end of 2012, three of the original members retired en masse, leaving just blue-shirted Anthony Field, now 56. (Buy tickets here.)

Three newbies took over. Lachlan Gillespie replaced purple-shirted Jeff Fatt. Simon Pryce took over for red-shirted Murray Cook. And in the most radical move, Emma Watkins became the first female Wiggle, taking over for yellow-shirted Greg Page

The new members melded in quickly and not surprisingly, the key demographic (ages 3 to 8) didn’t get too hung up on personnel changes the way teens might if, say, the members of One Direction were suddenly swapped out.

Field said in an interview while he was in Austin that he stuck around because “I’ve always loved it. I love the music and writing music and traveling. The audiences are just sensational. I wasn’t ready to retire.”
The younger newcomers, who are not so new anymore since they joined six years ago, “gave us new energy,” he said. As the elder statesman, he said he plays more instruments than he used to.

The breakout star, Field said, has been bubbly Emma, 29. “She is by far the most popular,” he said. And since this is a kids’ group and not an adult rock band packed with competing egos, Field said “the boys are not worried about it. We’re happy for her. There’s no jealousy. She does all the work!” 

He quickly ticked off Emma’s skills, which are vast: “She speaks French and Dutch and both American and Australian sign language. She’s a beautiful ballet dancer. She’s just a lovely person. She’s so warm. Children hadn’t had a female role model except for [secondary character] Dorothy the Dinosaur.”

Plus, Field said she is like MacGyver and figures stuff out much faster than the rest of them.  

This 28-city tour is the first big American visit the Wiggles has had in several years. The 75-minute show will be a blend of older songs and newer ones. And it still features a Wiggle who falls asleep at random times. (It used to be Jeff. Now it’s Lachlan.)

Field, before his time with the Wiggles, was part of a traditional rock band named the Cockroaches, which had a few hits in Australia in the 1980s and toured with INXS.

And he knew INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence way back when. 

“I used to live near him,” Field recalls. “I’d see Michael on his balcony. There were women everywhere. He was always a rock star.” 


The Wiggles

6:30 p.m., Monday, August 19, 2019

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.