Rolf Boldrewood

Rolf Boldrewood

Boldrewood, Rolf: see Browne, Thomas Alexander.
Rolf Harris CBE, AM (born 30 March 1930), is an Australian musician, singer, composer, painter, and television host.


Named after Rolf Boldrewood, an Australian writer his mother admired, he was born in Bassendean, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, Australia, to Cromwell ("Crom") Harris and Agnes Margaret Harris (née Robbins) who had emigrated from Cardiff,Wales. He is the nephew of Australian artist Pixie O'Harris, (1903-1991), i.e. Rhona Olive Pratt, née Harris.

As an adolescent and young adult Harris was a champion swimmer being the Australian Junior 110 yards Backstroke Champion in 1946 and Western Australian state champion over a variety of distances and strokes during the period 1948–1952. Harris attended Perth Modern School in Subiaco, and the University of Western Australia. He met his wife, the Welsh sculptress and jeweller Alwen Hughes, while they were both art students, and they married on 1 March 1958. They have one daughter, Bindi Harris (born 10 March, 1964), who studied art at Bristol Polytechnic and is now a painter.

Music and art

Harris had experience in Perth on television in its early years, with his rapid drawing style and flair for amusing entertainment. He moved to England as an art student at City and Guilds Arts School, Kennington, South London at the age of 22, notably illustrating Robert Harbin's Paper Magic (1956). Harris returned to Perth after art school and was involved in children's television shows. Some years later he returned to the United Kingdom to live. He has regularly returned to Perth over the years for family visits.

Harris has been credited with inventing a simple homemade instrument called the wobble board. This discovery was accidentally made in the course of his work when he attempted to dry a freshly painted hardboard with added heat, from hearing the sound made by the board as he held the board by the short edges to cool off. He suggests the effect can best be obtained through faint bouncing of a tempered hardboard or a thinner MDF board between the palms of one's hands.

In 1959 he worked on TVW-7's first locally produced show Spotlight. During his time at TVW he recorded his hit "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport". The song was recorded on a single microphone placed above him in the TV studio. The song was sent to record company EMI in Sydney and it was soon released as a record. Rolf Harris offered four unknown backing musicians 10 percent of the royalties for the song, but they decided to take a recording fee of 28 pounds between them because they thought the song would be a flop The novelty song was originally titled "Kangalypso" and featured the distinctive sound of the "wobble board" which was played by "wobbling" it back and forth. The original recording of the song issued in Australia was considered controversial by some listeners because of the lyrics: "Let me abos go loose, Lew/ Let me abos go loose/ They're of no further use, Lew/ So let me abos go loose". The verse appears to refer to Aboriginal servitude and captivity in a whimsically approving manner. In addition, the word "abo" was beginning to be seen as a term of abuse at the time. Most of the rest of the song refers to animals in captivity. The offending verse did not feature in later versions of the song. In 2006 Harris expressed his regret about the original lyrics.

Harris sang "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" (with The Beatles singing backing vocals) in the first edition of the From Us To You BBC radio shows, in December, 1963. Harris completely customized the original lyrics to a version that was especially written for The Beatles:

"Cut yer hair once a year boys"
"Don't ill-treat me pet dingo, Ringo"
"George’s guitar's on the blink, I think"
"Prop me up by the wall, Paul"
"Keep the hits coming on, John"

Harris went on to use an array of unusual instruments in his music, including the didgeridoo (the sound of which was imitated on "Sun Arise" by four double basses), Jew's harp and, later, the stylophone. Harris has played the didgeridoo on two albums by English pop singer Kate Bush, 1982's The Dreaming and 2005's Aerial. His biggest hit, however, was a gimmick-free rendering of the sentimental song "Two Little Boys" (1969), a departure for him in that he usually recorded either his own compositions or traditional songs. Harris also created one of his most famous roles in the 1960s, Jake the Peg.

He also made several television appearances in which he would paint pictures on large boards in an apparently slapdash manner, with the odd nonsense song thrown in, but with detailed results. This was often accompanied by the phrase "Can you tell what is it yet?" just before the painting became recognisable. These appearances led to a string of TV series based on his artistic ability, notably Rolf Harris's Cartoon Time on BBC1 in the 1980s and Rolf's Cartoon Club on CITV in the early 1990s. He also hosted a successful variety TV series in Canada, which was a second home to Harris during the 1960s. In 1967 he hosted the BBC's A Song for Europe contest and provided UK commentary at that year's Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna.

In his appearance on the BBC's Desert Island Discs, on which guests are invited to choose eight pieces of music they would wish to have with them if stranded on a desert island, Harris famously chose eight of his own records, the only artist ever to have done so.

In 2000, Harris, along with Steve Lima released a dance track called "Fine Day" which entered the top 30 in the UK charts at that time. A 'Killie-themed' version was recorded and scheduled for release in March 2007 to coincide with the Scottish football club's appearance in the Scottish League Cup final after the song was adopted by the fans in 2003. One of the lyrics referred to the hypothetical situation in which Kilmarnock could be 5-0 down, which ironically was similar to the final score of 5-1.

In November and December 2002, under Charles Saumarez Smith's direction, London's National Gallery exhibited a collection of Harris's art. He was also commissioned to paint a portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II for her 80th birthday, which was unveiled by Rolf Harris on 19 December 2005 at Buckingham Palace. In his words, it is an impressionistic rather than photographic depiction. Some commentators found it to be offensive and unbecoming of the Queen, but the Queen herself expressed her approval at the painting after her final sitting, particularly with the way in which Harris had painted her smile. The story of the painting featured as a special edition of Rolf on Art. The special, called "The Queen by Rolf", was broadcast on BBC One on 1 January 2006. In his painting of the portrait of the Queen, Rolf Harris was following a family tradition — Harris' grandfather painted a portrait of the Queen's grandfather, King George V (in which King George V was inspecting the troops).

In 2005, Rolf played the didgeridoo on Kate Bush's album Aerial, contributing vocals to the songs 'An Architect's Dream' and 'The Painter's Link'. He also appears on the video to the lead single King of the Mountain dancing with a white jumpsuit in a reference to Elvis Presley, one of the themes of the song.

1982 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

Matilda, the winking kangaroo was the mascot for the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. When Matilda arrived at the stadium, she 'winked' to the crowd as she went around the stadium track — then her 'pouch' opened and several young children (about 5 years old to 7 years old), dressed as joey kangaroos, rushed out (then ran to — and jumped on — a number of trampolines which had been set up especially for them).

Harris, who was standing, complete with wobble board, at the back of a small truck, then sang a special rendition of his hit song "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", which included some lyrics especially written for the Opening Ceremony:

Let me welcome you to the Games, friends,
Welcome you to the Games
Look, I don't know all of your names, friends,
But let me welcome you to the Games.

Following his singing of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", Harris sang "Waltzing Matilda". As well as a video tape recording of the Opening Ceremony being released, the music for the Opening Ceremony was released as an album and an audio tape, with Harris as one of the featured artists.

"Stairway to Heaven"

Harris' career received a boost in 1993 when his cover version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" became a hit, reaching number 7 of the UK singles chart. Harris originally performed the song, live, during an appearance on the television comedy show The Money or the Gun. Harris' version of the song recreated the song in the style of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", complete with wobble board and didgeridoo solos. Although he had the sheet music, Harris claims that he had not heard the original version when he recorded his; as such, he disavows any claim that his version was intended to be irreverent or humorous. Harris' version was one of 28 versions of the song performed on the show — and his version is one of the 25 versions of the song which was released on the The Money or the Gun's Stairways to Heaven videotape and CD (Harris' single comes from the same recording of his version of the song).

Recordings and appearances

Harris also recorded a version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" around this time. He performed The Divinyls' "I Touch Myself" — accompanied only by his wobble board — for Andrew Denton's Musical Challenge on the MMM Breakfast Show (the recording was released on the first Musical Challenge compilation album in 2000). Later that year he made his first appearance at the Glastonbury Festival in what was seen as a novelty act. He played it again in 1998, 2000 and 2002.

Harris has also recorded an Australian Christmas song called "Six White Boomers", about a joey Kangaroo trying to find his mother during Christmas time, and how Santa Claus used six large-size male Kangaroos (Boomers), instead of Reindeer (to put an Australian spin on the traditional story) to pull his sleigh and help the little joey find his "Mummy".

Television career

Harris has had a long career on British television, chiefly on the BBC. He was already a well-known face on television when The Rolf Harris Show first appeared in 1967, and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s this series in various formats remained a popular light-entertainment staple, latterly being broadcast on Saturday evenings as Rolf on Saturday OK? Between 1988-1992 he presented Rolf's Cartoon Club, a children's show which combined Harris' love of art with showings of children's cartoons. The show also gave out tips to children on how to draw and create easy animation techniques, like flickbooks.

Harris was also the commentator for the United Kingdom in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest.

From 1994-2004, he was the host of the reality television programme Animal Hospital, which chronicled the real-life activity of a British veterinary practice. Rolf then adopted a Border Collie that had been abandoned at the vets, named Rocky. Rolf presented 19 series of Animal Hospital for BBC One. It was five times winner in the Most Popular Factual Entertainment Show category of The National TV Awards.

More recently, he presented Rolf on Art, which highlighted the work of some of his favourite artists, including van Gogh, Degas, Monet and Gauguin. Rolf on Art which made TV history when it gained the highest TV ratings ever for an Arts programme, is now in its sixth year. On 26 September 2004 Harris fronted a project to recreate John Constable's famous The Hay Wain painting on a massive scale, with 150 people contributing to a small section. Each individual canvas was assembled into the full picture live on the BBC, in the show Rolf on Art: The Big Event. He was named as one of the Radio Times list of the top 40 most eccentric TV presenters of all time in July 2004.

The story of Rolf Harris' portrait painting of Queen Elizabeth II featured as a special edition of Rolf on Art, broadcast on BBC One on 1 January 2006. Harris's portrait of The Queen was voted by readers of the Radio Times the third favourite portrait of Her Majesty. The royal portrait was exhibited at Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, and was exhibited on a tour of public galleries in the UK.

On 15 July 2006, Harris appeared on the British TV programme Richard & Judy to promote the stopping of the Canadian seal hunt. On the show, he also sang his own song, "Slaughter on the Ice", which he had written after a trip to Canada.

In September 2006 the Royal Australian Mint launched the first of the new 2007 Silver Kangaroo Collector's Coin series. Harris was commissioned to design the first coin in the series. For the third year running, Harris designed and painted the official Children In Need Christmas card. Harris has presented three series of the BBC art programme Star Portraits with Rolf Harris. In 2007, a documentary A Lifetime in Paint about Harris' work as an artist - from the early years in Australia to the present day - was screened on BBC One, followed by a Rolf On Art special titled Rolf on Lowry.

In November 2007 at exhibition of Harris' new paintings was held at Portland Gallery, London. In December 2007 a new DVD titled Rolf Live! was released through his website.

Rolf on Art: Beatrix Potter was screened on BBC One in December 2007.


Rolf Harris was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) on 17 June 2006, having previously been created a Member (MBE) in 1968 and an Officer (OBE) in 1977.

On 26 January 1989, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM)

In 1975 he was appointed King of Moomba

On 1 July 2008, Harris was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, he was joined on-stage by The Seekers to perform "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" and his Jake the Peg routine.


Title Release date Notes Label
Rolf Harris Sings At The Down Under Club 1959 Queensway Records
Sun Arise 1963 Epic
The Original Sun Arise 1963 Epic
The Court of King Caractacus 1964 Epic
All Together Now 1965 MFP
Man With The Microphone 1966 Columbia Records
At the Cave, Vancouver (live) 1966 Capitol
Shamus O'Sean The Leprechaun 1966 MFP
It's A Rolf World 1968 Capitol Records
The Rolf Harris Show 1968 Columbia Records
Rolf Harris Live! At The Talk Of The Town 1969 Columbia Records
Mary's Boy Child 1970 Columbia Records
Instant Music 1971 Columbia Records
Jake The Peg In Vancouver Town 1971 Capitol Records
The Boy From Bassendean 1972 Rolf Harris Enterprises
In Many Moods 1973 Columbia Records
You Name It 1973 Canadian Release Capitol Records
Mirrored Image 1976 EMI Records
Turn On 1976 Canadian Release Capitol Records
Rolf On Saturday OK? 1979 BBC
Cartoon Time Favourites 1987 BBC
Ideal 1991 EMI Records
Rolf Rules OK? 1992 Polygram Music / Australian Broadcasting Commission
Animal Magic 1996 EMI Records
Bootleg 1999 Rolf Harris Enterprises
Definitive Rolf Harris 1999 EMI
She'll Be Right 1999 Festival Records and EMI Records
70/30 2000 Rolf Harris Enterprises
The Best Of Rolf Harris 2000 EMI Records
King Rolf 2001 Disky


Date Title UK chart position Catalogue
21 July 1960 "Tie My Kangaroo Down Sport" / "Nick Teen And Al K. Hall" 9 Columbia 45-DB 4483
1961 "Tame Eagle" / "Uncomfortable Yogi" N/A Columbia 45-DB 4556
1961 "Six White Boomers" / "I've Lost My Mummy" N/A Columbia 45-DB 4740
25 October 1962 "Sun Arise" / "Someone's Pinched My Winkles" 3 Columbia 45-DB 4888
28 February 1963 "Johnny Day" / "In The Wet" 44 Columbia 45-DB 4979
1963 "I Know A Man" / "Living It Up" N/A Columbia DB 7064
1964 "Ringo For President" / "Head Hunter" N/A Columbia DB 7349
1964 "The Court Of King Caractacus" / "The Five Young Apprentices" N/A Columbia DB 7450
1965 "Iko Iko" / "Sydney Town" N/A Columbia DB 7554
1965 "War Canoe" / "Linda" N/A Columbia DB 7669
1965 "Jake The Peg" / "Big Dog" N/A Columbia DB 7803
1966 "Hev Yew Gotta Loight, Boy?" / "Animals Pop Party" N/A Columbia DB 8014
1967 "Fijian Girl" / "You Got What It Takes" N/A Columbia DB 8168
1967 "If I Was A Richman" / "Booralola" N/A Columbia DB 8191
1967 "I've Never Seen Anything Like It" / "Willy, Willy" N/A Columbia DB 8285
1967 "Pukka Chicken" / "Here Come The Bees (Love Has Gone)" N/A Columbia DB 8314
1968 "Hurry Home" / "Paris With You" N/A Columbia DB 8349
1968 "The Bloke That Invented Beer" / "Have A Beer" N/A Columbia DB 8475
16 April 1969 "Bluer Than Blue" / "The Monster" 30 Columbia DB 8553
22 November1969 "Two Little Boys" / "I Love My Love" 1 Columbia DB 8630
1970 "Tennessee Birdwalk" / "Ned Kelly" N/A Columbia DB 8700
1970 "Mary's Boy Child" / "Christmas Is Here" N/A Columbia DB 8730
1971 "Take Back The Things (That We Said)" / "Salvation Army Citadel" N/A Columbia DB 8762
1971 "A Ram Sam Sam" / "Go Back Home" N/A Columbia DB 8838
1972 "So Earlye In The Evenin'" / "Watch Your Step" N/A Columbia DB 8876
1972 "She'll Be Right" / "Jindabyne" N/A Columbia DB 8961
1972 "Tutankamun" / "A Friend Like Me" N/A Columbia DB 8905
1974 "Papillon" / "Relax With Rolf" N/A EMI 2154
1974 "Little Pal" / "Lazy Day" N/A EMI 2238
1974 "Presbyterian Church" / "Black Midnight Swamp" N/A EMI 2286
1975 "Happy Birthday, Father Christmas" / "MacAdam" N/A EMI 2380
1976 "Yarrabangee" N/A EMI 2462
1978 "Back To W.A." / "Old Man Emu" N/A Interfusion K7322
1979 "Stuck On The Ice" / "The Gendarmes' Duet" (With Crom Harris) N/A Columbia DB 9069
1981 "Hey Jimmy Johnson" / "Ginger Tom" N/A Rolf Harris Enterprides RHE 1
1981 "War Canoe" / "Linda" (Re-Issue) N/A EMI 5244
1982 "The Dreaming" / "Dreamtime" (Kate Bush, both tracks feature Rolf on didgeridoo) 48 EMI 5296
1985 "Tommy (From 88 Pine)" / "Pavlova" N/A Tembo Records TML 111
1991 "Stylophonia" / "Stylophonia" (Land Of Aus Instru-Mental) (Two Little Boys, featuring sampled Rolf Harris vocal. Rolf performed and promoted the song on T.V.) N/A T.A. Scam Recordings MFD 005
1991 "Sun Arise" / "Two Little Boys" (Re-Issue) N/A EMI EM 210
1992 "Stylophonia" ('92 Vocal Re-edit)/ "Stylophonia" (Two Little Boys, featuring sampled Rolf Harris vocal. Rolf performed and promoted the song on T.V.) N/A T.A. Scam Recordings MFD 005
13 February 1993 "Stairway To Heaven" / "Stairway To Heaven" (By The Australian Doors) 7 Vertigo VER 73
12 December 1995 "Ego Sum Pauper" / "Ego Sum Pauper" (Rolfamix) / "Old Shep" 92 Rolf Harris Enterprises CD RHE 9
1 June 1996 "Bohemian Rhapsody" / "This Is A Didgeridoo" 50 Living Beat LBECD 41
25 October 1997 "Sun Arise" / "Sun Arise" (808 State Remix) 26 EMI CDROO 001
14 October2000 "Fine Day" / "Fine Day" (Remix) 24 Tommy Boy TBCD 2155


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