March 16, 1958
1991 - 1992
"Phillip Wilcher" is an Australian pianist and composer, also known as the Fifth Wiggle, since he was one of the founding members of the Wiggles (Australia's richest entertainers) who left the group just after the group's debut album in 1991. While the accounts surrounding his departure differ, he left the group shortly before the group became famous. His departure prior to the group's success has earned him comparisons to The Beatles' Pete Best - the famous "fifth Beatle" who left the group before the Beatles breakout.
He started playing the piano at age 8, and at 14 became the youngest published composer in Australia. At age 14 he wrote a song, "Summer Dance", which was performed on the Wiggles debut album as "Archie's Theme". According to his webpage, while the rest of the Wiggles were still students, Wilcher financed and wrote the majority of the Wiggles' debut album. Wilcher received two Australian Record Industry Awards from his contributions to the album, a Gold ARIA Award presented in April 1994 and a Platinum ARIA Award in October 1995. No formal acknowledgement Wilcher received these awards was made.
- Mischief the Monkey - Composition, Arrangement & Lyrics
- Lavenders Blue - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Archie's Theme - Composition & Arrangement
- Montezuma - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- A Froggy He Would A-Wooing Go - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Maranoa Lullaby - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Stars - Lyrics (w/Anthony Field)
- Star Lullaby - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Okki Tokki Unga - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- O Epoe Tooki Tooki - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Vini Vini - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Johnny Works With One Hammer - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- The Man In The Moon - Lyrics
- This Old Man - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Suo Gan - Arrangement (w/Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Greg Page)
- Joseph John's Lullaby - Composition (w/Brahms), Arrangement
- Desert Dreaming - Lyrics (w/Anthony Field)
In 1991, Wilcher worked with the early childhood music program at Macquarie University. He had previously worked as Assistant Editor for the Classical/Educational Division of the Sydney based music publishing house of J Albert & Sons Pty Ltd and also for the ABC. Anthony Field, a childhood development student, approached him about a music group Field was contemplating. Wilcher joined Greg Page, Jeff Fatt, Murray Cook, and Field from its earliest days through the production of the CD The Wiggles. Wilcher claims to have "contributed the most musically to the debut album." Documents archived in the National Library Of Australia support Wilcher's claim and would suggest that if it was not for Wilcher, The Wiggles debut album might never have happened. After having written and financed the majority of the 1991 eponymous debut album The Wiggles, which got the group a contract with the ABC to record a further two albums, Wilcher was soon to find himself dumped by Field.
"Get Ready to Wiggle" and "Dorothy the Dinosaur" were the only music videos that featured him and were only seen on ABC For Kids Video Hits and ABC For Kids Video Hits 2.
In 1992, Wilcher travelled to the United States to play for celebrations honouring the showman/pianist Liberace. He had previously been invited to play at similar celebrations in 1989 and 1990 and was invited to stay as a guest in the entertainer's Palm Springs home by his family. When he returned he was told that the group did not need him, and that a second album "Here Comes A Song" had been taped while he was overseas. Wilcher says he has no idea as to why he was kicked out of the group. The Wiggles, however, dispute this account. Dianna O'Neill, the group's spokeswoman, states that Wilcher wrote a letter of resignation. "There is no story. There was no fight, no fallout. Wilcher was just not so much into children's music, he was more into classical music."
Wilcher states he has never met or spoken with Dianna O'Neill and that he was advised to write a letter of resignation from the group so as not to incur future expenses for any further albums that might be recorded. As it was, he incurred expenses for the recording of The Wiggles second CD release "Here Comes A Song" which were later reimbursed him through subsequent royalties by the ABC. He remained a member of the Business Partnership until November 1992 and even after having left the group in 1991 appeared in the film clip for Dorothy The Dinosaur which was filmed in 1992.
Over the years, Wilcher's involvement with the group has been pretty much deleted. The debut CD was phased out, re-recorded, renamed, and re-released in 1998 with all of Wilcher's contributions deleted not long after the press discovered him as the original Fifth Wiggle in late 1997. The first article ever to appear about Wilcher's involvemnet which drew atention to him in the media was for Aussie Post Magazine and written by a journalist named Di Borrell. Wilcher states that he was never informed by The Wiggles or ABC that the debut album was being phased out and re-recorded. Wilcher indicates that he was too "reclusive" to be a Wiggle. Since leaving The Wiggles, Wilcher has led a successful career as a classical musician in Sydney, Australia. He has become a mentor to many an aspiring musician and composer. Wilcher has released several CDs. Pianist Jeanell Carrigan has recorded three CDs of Wilcher's music. He declares that he is "utterly satisfied by his creativity and that he could never be a Wiggle, not for any amount of money." In 2005 Publications by Wirripang released a CD of the composer's music in celebration of his 50th birthday year.
In 2005, Wilcher announced that he was selling off the last of Wiggles' memorabilia - which included handwritten lyrics by Greg Page and Anthony Field. It is understood that it was his hope to raise money for a foundation in honour of his late mother for cancer research.
In recent years, Phillip Wilcher has become one of the leading contemprary classical composers in Australia. His music is frequently broadcast by ABC-FM and 2MBS-FM. Two documentary programs on his work as a composer have been presented by 2MBS-FM: a two hour documentary titled "Phillip Wilcher and the French Connection" which was presented by Mike Smith for 2MBS-FM and a 30 minute documentray titled "Wilcher's World" by Jan Smith, also for 2MBS-FM. In 2008, Publications by Wirripnag released a Cd of his music played by Rachel Tolmie (oboe), Amand Muir (flute) and pianists Jeanell Carrigan and John Martin to honour his 50th birthday year. The Cd was titled "Into His Countenance" and spans a career of almost 40 years composing music.
The renowned Australian composer Miriam Hyde AO, OBE had this to say about the music of Phillip Wilcher:
"I find great satisfaction in the fact that we - Australia - have one composer who can succeed in a medium of sensitivity in spite of the ugliness and violence predominating in so many countries."
In reviewing the Wirripang CD release "Into His Countenance" honouring Wilcher's 50th birthday year in 2008, Wendy Reid of Cultured Views said:
"I believe this is a composer who is a unique creation, as if he belongs to another time, another world. No musician who plays his music comes away the same or feels unchanged by the experience."
Greg Page: "He (Phillip Wilcher) is quite a musical genius" [Greg Page: Now and Then "A Wiggly Genesis" Page 107, Harper Collins publishers)
The Wiggles used to call Phillip "Archie".
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