It's the biggest band you've never heard of, unless you know a five-year-old, that is. The Wiggles are a famous foursome from Down Under, that is Australia, and they've conquered the pre-school set.

NPR's Rob Sachs has more.

ROB SACHS reporting:

Kids, get ready to rock

(Soundbite of the Wiggles song)

THE WIGGLES: (Singing) Toot, toot, chugga, chugga, big red car. We'll travel near and we'll travel far. Toot, toot, chugga, chugga, big red car, we're gonna ride the whole day long.

Ms. CATHY O'CONNELL(ph) (Radio Host): Once you've seen The Wiggles, once you've heard The Wiggles, it is pretty tough to go back to I love you, you love me. It really is.

SACHS: That's Cathy O'Connell, host of Kids Corner, a children's music show that airs on WXPN in Philadelphia.

She says the group has been able to stay on top because they've stayed true to their music.

Band member Greg Page explains.

Mr. GREG PAGE (The Wiggles): First and foremost, we're entertainers, because we get their interest by entertaining them, and then we educate once we've got their attention.

SACHS: And they do that by singing in all different styles, ranging from pop to reggae to Irish songs.

(Soundbite of song in foreign language)

SACHS: The Wiggles always seem to be having a good time. They each dress in a basic color, yellow, red, yellow, blue and purple, and they dance and hang out with other cool Aussies like Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. But as Cathy O'Connell explains, what sets them apart is the quality of their music.

Ms. O'CONNELL: They really have nailed down something that all the best composers have always known. And that is, you have to give people a hook, a pop hook that they're going to keep getting back to over and over again.

(Soundbite of the Wiggles song)

THE WIGGLES (Singing): Fruit salad, yummy,yummy. Fruit salad, yummy, yummy. Fruit salad, yummy, yummy. Yummy, yummy, yummy, yummy, fruit salad.

SACHS: Songwriting has always been a passion for Blue Wiggle Anthony Field. Before he started singing for kids, he and Jeff Fatt, aka Purple Wiggle, were members of the Aussie band, The Cockroaches. Back in the '80s, the Cockroaches went platinum, cranking out pop tunes like this one.

(Soundbite of the Cockroaches song)

THE COCKROACHES: (Singing) Hey, let's go, let's go, let's go. Hey, let's go, let's go, let's go. Hey, let's go, let's go, she's the one, she's the one.

SACHS: Okay, so you can see the repetitive lyric thing was working even back then. But after a decade of touring, Anthony did something that not a lot of rock stars do. He quit the band to study early childhood development. It was at Macquarie University in Sydney where Anthony met up with Murray Cook and Greg Peppers, that's Red and Yellow Wiggle for those of you keeping track. They also had musical backgrounds. For fun, the three started doing songs and skits at birthday parties and pre-school functions. After Jeff joined up and donned his purple shirt, the quartet was complete. Anthony says the new gig actually wasn't that much of a stretch.

Mr. ANTHONY FIELD (The Wiggles): It's funny, the Wiggles music isn't that far removed from what we did in the Cockroaches. It's just, just a different subject matter. Where the Cockroaches was all about, you know, girls and love and stuff like that, the Wiggles sing about hot potatoes and cold spaghetti, stuff like that.

(Soundbite of the Wiggles song)

THE WIGGLES: (Singing) Hot potato, hot potato; hot potato, hot potato; hot potato, hot potato, potato, potato, potato, potato.

SACHS: The Wiggles' popularity grew, and grew. Since 1991, their CDs, videos and books have all sold in the millions. They've added to their cast fun-loving characters like Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, and the ever-so-dashing Captain Feathersword. And don't forget the merchandising. There are Wiggles games, clothes, and of course action figures. They have a show that airs 17 times a week on the Disney Channel and tour internationally performing live.

Backstage before a concert at L.A.'s Gibson Amphitheater, the place was buzzing with kids, their parents, and a celebrity parent with his kid, Olympic Gold Medal skater Scott Hamilton.

Mr. SCOTT HAMILTON (Skater): Positive entertainment, you know. There's no good versus evil, none of that. It's all about singing and playing and dancing and just learning. You know, it's really, they really sneak that educational aspect in there kind of in a very stealth way. So we like that a lot. You're learning and you don't even know you're learning.

SACHS: Scott's excitement is typical of the mood before a Wiggles concert. The parents are giddy, but the kids, well, they're a little dazed, not quite sure where they are. Red Wiggle Murray Cook says it's all part of being a rock star, for tots.

Mr. MURRAY COOK (The Wiggles): Getting ready to get on the plane, this little boy walked past and he was dressed as me. And his parents saw me, but he didn't notice me. And when they pointed me out to him, he got all shy and hid behind his parents. So that sort of thing happens quite often.

SACHS: Right now, the Wiggles are on the third leg of their North American tour, 55 shows in six weeks. Taking the stage, the crowd squeals as the Wiggles emerge in their big red car. The kids are giddy with laughter and jump up and down as the band teaches them how to safely cross the street.

(Soundbite of the Wiggles song)

THE WIGGLES (Singing): Look both ways, look both ways...

SACHS: Rob Sachs, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of the Wiggles song)

THE WIGGLES: (Singing) Wait for the traffic...

BRAND: And there's more Wiggles at our web site,

(Soundbite of the Wiggles song)

THE WIGGLES: (Singing) Stop at the light, look both ways, look both ways again.

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