Jeff Fatt of The Wiggles, 2007
|Birth name||Jeffrey Wayne Fatt|
21 July 1953|
Casino, New South Wales, Australia
|Instruments||Keyboard, accordion, vocals|
|Associated acts||The Cockroaches, The Wiggles|
Jeffrey Wayne Fatt AM (born 21 July 1953) is an Australian musician and actor. He was a member of the children's group The Wiggles from its founding in 1991 to 2012, and was also in the 1980s and 1990s pop band The Cockroaches.
Early life and education
The son of Chinese parents who owned a large retail store in Casino, New South Wales, Fatt had aspirations to become an architect, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in industrial design. Anthony Field described him as a "bush kid" who "first learned to let his keyboard do most of the talking". He opened a public address equipment business with his brother in Sydney when he began playing keyboard for the rockabilly band The Roadmasters, and was recruited by Anthony and Paul Field to join The Cockroaches.
After The Cockroaches disbanded in the early 1990s, Anthony Field asked Fatt, who was renovating his house at the time, to help them record The Wiggles' first album in 1991. Fatt reported, "I got this call from Anthony: 'Hello, Anthony. Go away, go away. I'm not interested,' you know. He's always got these ideas for things. He said, 'I've got this idea, come down to the studio.'" Fatt's response to Field's request was, "Sure but how long will it take?" Field reported that as Fatt had done for The Cockroaches, he was "a musical backbone for The Wiggles".
As a Wiggle, Fatt wore a purple skivvy. He originated the Wiggles character Henry the Octopus and has occasionally voiced Wags the Dog, and performed those voices when other actors took over the roles. Fatt reported that it took twelve months to "learn the language of preschool", including addressing children using the inclusive "everybody", instead of "boys and girls", and that The Wiggles' first performances were traumatic for him because he was not used to being around children.
Fatt's schtick was sleeping at odd times, which led to a Wiggles catchphrase and the title of one of their songs, "Wake Up, Jeff!" Fatt was the oldest Wiggle and was well known for his "laid-back personality", which according to Field, made him "invaluable company on the road". As Sam Moran has said, when referring to the development of The Wiggles' shticks, "Jeff really does fall asleep", and Fatt reported, "The irony is I'm a very light sleeper in the nighttime. I will invariably have a snooze before the show". Fatt was the only member of The Wiggles without a background in early childhood education; he stated that was the reason falling asleep was chosen as his shtick, "because it was a way of getting me involved in the shows without actually having to do anything". Field claimed Fatt's shtick endeared Fatt to their audiences and called it "a simple audience participation and interaction gag we've done since the start of the group". Kathleen Warren, the group's former professor at Macquarie University and their consultant for their shows and DVDs, believed that the shtick empowered children, and Paul Field reported that children in The Wiggles' audience felt "great excitement" and were disappointed if not given the opportunity to help Jeff in this way. Anthony Field reported that although in the early days of the group, they took turns falling asleep, it became Fatt's shtick because "it was a perfect fit".
On 17 May 2012 it was announced that Fatt along with Greg Page and Murray Cook, would be retiring at the end of the year. Wiggles cast member Lachlan Gillespie replaced him as the purple Wiggle. Fatt and the others are expected to remain involved with the creative and production aspects of the group.
In what Paul Field called "one of the highlights of their 15 years of being together", Fatt, along with the original members of The Wiggles, was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Australian Catholic University in 2006. All five members of the band were awarded another honorary doctoral degree in 2009 from Macquarie University. Fatt, along with the other three original Wiggles, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in January 2010 "for service to the arts, particularly children's entertainment, and to the community as a benefactor and supporter of a range of charities." Fatt also received an ARIA Hall of Fame Award with The Wiggles in 2011.
In early July 2011, Fatt underwent heart surgery after feeling unwell for several weeks and having a blackout. He was diagnosed as having a heart arrhythmia and was fitted with a pacemaker at Sydney's Mater Hospital. His surgery was "urgent but routine" and Fatt was expected to recover completely. He missed the summer US tour as a result, after not missing a show in 20 years.
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