'It's Been a Great Ride In Our Big Red Car,' Founding Members Say
Three founding members of the Australian group today announced they'd leave behind their famous colored skivvies -- an Aussie term for a thin sweater -- and pass them on to the next generation by year's end.
A statement on their official website said the Wiggles would embark on a Celebration Tour at the end of the month for dates visiting Singapore, Britain, US, Canada and New Zealand. The group will head home for their final Australian tour in November and December.
In a move no-one saw coming, Jeff Fatt (Purple Wiggle), Murray Cook (Red) and Greg Page (Yellow) today announced they'd retire from the group to spend more time with their respective families. But the three will stay on to take "backstage creative roles," according to a statement.
Only Anthony Field (Blue Wiggle) will return in a performing role, where he will work alongside new Wiggles Emma Watkins, Lachlan Gillespie, and Simon Pryce.
"We want to thank all our Wiggly fans -- it's been a great ride in our big red car," the group said in a statement on its official Website. "We are really looking forward to saying farewell and having one last dance with everyone during the tour."
On the back of hits like "Hot Potato" and "Big Red Car," the Wiggles have sold more than 30 million albums and DVDs combined, and are familiar to many millions of youngsters and their parents around the world. Metallica's James Hetfield, Robert De Niro, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker and Shaquille O'Neal have been spotted at Wiggles shows.
At the peak of their fame, the Wiggles were named Australia's top earning entertainers for successive four years running, generating up to $45 million each year and hitting the road for up to 520 annual shows. Nowadays, they've slowed to about 350 shows a year.
The founding members formed the Wiggles in 1991, having met while studying Early Childhood Education at Sydney's Macquarie University. Field, as the story goes, had an idea to record an album of children's music as he thought it might help him land a job as a teacher.
Two of the band members had a stint in the 1980s pop band the Cockroaches, which had a domestic hit with the song "She's the One.".
In one career highlight back in 2003, the Wiggles performed 12 sold out shows at Madison Square Garden, a feat which blew the mind of Coldplay's Chris Martin. "We played a few nights there that sold out really fast, So we were like, 'OK. We're really the big boys'," Martin was quoted in a March 2007 feature published in Britain's The Observer. "Then we got told the Wiggles had sold it out for a week, playing three times a day."
In 2005, the Wiggles became the first entertainers to win the Australian government's Exporter Of the Year award.
Last October, in the year of the Wiggles' 20th anniversary, the group collected their 10th ARIA Award on a night when they were also inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
Speaking before the show, Field told this reporter, "We're at the stage where we're getting people thanking us for the shows we'd done when they were kids, 20 years ago. It's fun to think we've been doing it 20 years."
Today's retirement surprise comes just four months after the band controversially sacked its youngest member, Sam Moran, to reinstate founding member Greg Page.