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Rolf Harris - Entertainer

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Rolf Harris, all-round entertainer on British television, came across from Australia in the 1960s to the UK and tried to break into show business. He could paint and make strange noises that had both rhythm and pitch, but most importantly of all, he could do this and tell a story all at the same time.

So Rolf began as a children's entertainer. Painting on a large canvas with cans of housepaint and various brushes and sticks, the picture would develop from a series of splashes of colour into something quite extraordinary and beautiful. All the while he would tell a story or sing a song.

The Man and his Music

He played a piece of fine aluminium called a wobble board, the digereedoo1, and the Jew's harp2. His singing took off and he was soon recording chart successes such as 'Two Little Boys', 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport', and 'Jake the Peg (with the extra leg)'. But sadly his cult status wore off as the children grew up, but his lyrics are still the subject of many people's memories.

He presented himself to the next generation of kids as a cartoon illustrator and presented Rolf's Cartoon Club before diversifying and presenting Animal Hospital, a documentary series looking at England's largest veterinarian hospital. But he was soon back at the top of the charts when an Australian TV show asked all their guests to perform their own version of Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven' as the playout. Rolf's version, complete with wobble board, proved the most popular and was soon released as a single reaching the top five in the UK music charts.

Rolf will always be remembered for the fact that, during his numerous drawings (and when they were at their messiest), he would turn to the camera and ask 'Can you tell what it is yet?' before finishing it off.


Rolf received the MBE from Queen Elizabeth II and then ten years later was awarded the OBE. Rolf is also a Member of the Order of Australia. The Queen has had her birthday portrait painted by Rolf, which was filmed by the BBC and shown on BBC1 on New Year's Day 2006. The Queen appeared relaxed and comfortable, completely ignoring the TV cameras while she chatted with Rolf about the weather, grandchildren and their shared love of art - Rolf informed the Queen that his grandfather had painted her grandfather. On 17 June, 2006, Rolf was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

1This is an Aboriginal instrument.2This is a small instrument that is held between the teeth and strummed with the fingers.

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