From ‘Cockroach’ beginnings, Wiggles still on the move

Emma Smith with The Wiggles at UB Center for the Arts

Anthony Field, the remaining original Wiggle, talks with LSY! reporter Emma Smith. (Photo by Rebecca Wojcinski)

In 1991, Anthony Field and three friends started a band called The Wiggles. Two decades later, the group is still rocking out about fruit salad, hot potatoes and the virtue of wearing glasses.

But there’s a twist.

Now, in 2013, there are three new Wiggles: Emma Watkins, Simon Pryce and Lachy Gillespie. They replaced three of the original members – Greg Page, Jeff Fatt and Murray Cook – who decided to retire.

The new Wiggles are still wiggling on tour and having a great time.

“The Wiggles has been such a great 23 years, traveling around the world, singing songs to children and families,” says Anthony, whose job has taken him from the United States to Abu Dhabi to China.

‘Cockroach’ beginnings

Who would have thought a band named bugs would transform into a pop-rock group for preschoolers? That is exactly what happened.

The story begins in Anthony’s early 20s, when he formed a surf band called The Cockroaches with his brothers and a friend (and future Wiggle) Jeff Fatt.

The Cockroaches continued playing and touring together, but after a while Anthony got tired of being in the same band doing the same thing over and over. He decided to use his early-childhood education degree to start a new band which would soon influence children around the world.

In 1991, Anthony, Jeff , Murray and Greg started The Wiggles, which became a popular children’s band and hit television show in Australia and eventually across the world. Over the years, new members occasionally joined the band, but the biggest change happened in 2012, when Murray, Greg and Jeff retired.

Now, here in 2013, The Wiggles consists of Anthony and his three new bandmembers.

“I’m still quite a new Wiggle – it’s still the beginning – but I’m loving it,” says Emma, the first female Wiggle, who actually was a fan of the group when she was a toddler in Australia.

Like the original group, each Wiggle has a different personality and a little something to represent who they are. Anthony wears a blue shirt, black pants and black shoes, and is always carrying around his guitar with his signature Wiggles logo on the strap. Anthony is known for eating healthy snacks, so if kids cannot remember his name, they remember that he wears a blue shirt and loves to eat healthy foods.

Emma wears a yellow shirt matched by a big bow in her hair, a black skirt and shoes with yellow bows on each. At shows, children love to bring Emma many different types of bows.

Lachy wears the purple costume and like his predecessor Jeff, falls asleep a lot. As he did with Jeff, Anthony asks the kids to help wake Lachy during The Wiggles’ performances.

Simon wears a red shirt with black pants and shoes and is known for his low singing voice.

“With us coming in as the new Wiggles, we were just expected to be ourselves,” says Simon, who’s also a successful singer in Australia who’s played the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.

The group members have great personalities off the stage too. They love interacting with their audience, both young and older.

“The parents watch the children, and the children watch us,” says Lachy. “It’s a full circle, it’s really nice. The parents are smiling, the children are smiling, and everyone is having a good time.”

They tweet their fans all the time. For example, when we tweeted Anthony a question about how he’s lasted 20 years in this grueling job, he quickly responded: “Well, lots of black coffee, fruit salad and good people around me! I love it, come and do the follow up in 20 yrs!”

Talking to you

The Wiggles hope to influence kids so they live a happy and healthy life. When they talk to kids on TV or at shows, they always use the word “you” instead of “boys and girls.” The reason is they want kids to feel like they’re talking directly to them.

It works. Some of The Wiggles’ iconic songs are “Hot Potato” and “Fruit Salad” (which they taught me in our interview!). The band has even turned down opportunities to endorse some foods because they were unhealthy choices.

The group’s influence goes beyond food. Recently, the Wiggles started performing a song about wearing glasses.

“I wore glasses at school and got bullied because I was a bit of a nerd,” Emma said. “I still wear glasses.”

As Emma said that, The Wiggles broke into their glasses song — something they do often in interviews, as we learned. And although The Wiggles’ audience is little kids, their business is big. For example, one media report said The Wiggles pulled in $45 million in 2009.

Maintaining that multimillion-dollar pace is tough. The Wiggles spend most of their time on the road, performing for children around the world. Years back, Anthony became very ill. He had a hard time performing, and felt sick all of the time. His doctor told him that he needed to start doing certain exercises to get back in shape and be healthy again. Anthony did, and he wrote a book sharing his story.

And he’s still wiggling.

“We’ve enjoyed every show we’ve every done,” he says. “It’s been a hoop-dee-do ride from the start.”

Emma Smith, LSY! teen reporter, Mount St. Mary Academy


  1. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and also the rest of the site is very good.

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