From Red Wiggle to rock star: Murray Cook's musical evolution with The Soul Movers

The Wiggles was a big part of my childhood, and it was a bit of a thrill to get to meet one of them alongside his new singing partner in The Soul Movers, Lizzie Mack. (I resisted the urge to ask to pose with Wiggles fingers).

The Wiggles was a big part of my childhood, and it was a bit of a thrill to get to meet one of them alongside his new singing partner in The Soul Movers, Lizzie Mack. (I resisted the urge to ask to pose with Wiggles fingers).

Whether he's performing in a Melbourne laneway bar or taking to the stage in front of thousands for bushfire relief, there are four words Murray Cook always hears: "You were my childhood."

For more than 20 years, Cook was the much loved red Wiggle, providing guitar, vocals and songwriting as well as signature dance moves like "the monkey".

I'm someone who grew up watching and listening to the Wiggles, and although I never got to see them in concert as a child, meeting one of the originals as an adult more than made up for it.

These days, Cook is lead guitarist of The Soul Movers - an increasingly popular soul-rock band making audiences dance around the world - a role he took on as a new challenge after retiring from The Wiggles.

Yet despite nearly 10 years retirement from the iconic children's group, his shoulder length hair and lack of red skivvy, Cook is still recognised as a Wiggle.

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Even in a small cafe in Tomakin on the South Coast of NSW, a somewhat unlikely place to spot an Australian icon, at least five people asked Cook for a photo.

One woman declared she couldn't wait to tell her grandchildren.

"It's actually really gratifying and I feel very proud to have that effect on people," Cook said.

"But I also think people know that The Wiggles is where I came from but The Soul Movers is where I am now."

Murray Cook and Lizzie Mack stayed in Tomakin last week to give a preview performance of their upcoming Evolution tour. Photo: Maeve Bannister

Murray Cook and Lizzie Mack stayed in Tomakin last week to give a preview performance of their upcoming Evolution tour. Photo: Maeve Bannister

Cook was in town with The Soul Movers lead singer and co-writer Lizzie Mack for a preview of an upcoming music tour of their new album, Evolution.

Mack said the band was looking forward to be back on the road performing live, after COVID restrictions put a stop to it.

"We make people dance, laugh, drink and forget their worries, that's really our job," she said.

"Without that there is an element of feeling like you're failing as a musician, but even last night [at Smokey Dan's in Tomakin], people could cheer, people could clap, people could get up and come near us for a photo.

"It's all part of the long road to healing."

Current band line up of The Soul Movers. Photo: Supplied

Current band line up of The Soul Movers. Photo: Supplied

The Soul Movers have performed in big cities, at festivals and overseas, yet Cook said nothing could beat an audience in a regional town.

"I grew up in Orange [in central NSW] and any bands that came through, you couldn't wait to see them, because you're so starved for live music in small towns," he said.

"Regional audiences are just great fun too, I find that they're really receptive and they're not as jaded!"

In November last year, Cook underwent open heart surgery and said the outpouring of well wishes from Wiggles and Soul Movers fans was incredible.

"The power of music kept me going. I was back onstage six weeks after the surgery and the audience kept me up there," he said.

"It was nice getting back fairly quickly, because people do worry about you."

The Evolution album is all about pop and colour, and is sure to get audiences dancing. Photo: Supplied.

The Evolution album is all about pop and colour, and is sure to get audiences dancing. Photo: Supplied.

In the eight years since joining The Soul Movers, Cook said he had well and truly found his challenge and fulfillment.

"The great thing about working with Lizzie is it's our band and we write the songs, we set the direction, we do all those things, so it's really satisfying," he said.

"People do come to our shows out of curiosity to see what I'm doing and leave being Soul Movers fans, so it's great we can continue the relationship that way."

Cook and Mack have worked together for the past eight years and enjoy writing songs together. Photo: Supplied.

Cook and Mack have worked together for the past eight years and enjoy writing songs together. Photo: Supplied.

Mack agreed, and said often people were shocked by just how good a musician Cook is.

"There are some people that have come to our shows just to see Murray but within a few minutes you see the look on their faces like, 'Holy shit, you can really play, he can really play guitar!' and we have them dancing in no time," she said.

"Three albums down the track we feel we know who we are and our identities quite well but it has taken eight years for that."

The Soul Movers will be performing at the Harmonie German Club in Canberra on Friday, July 2 and Smokey Dan's in Tomakin on Saturday, July 3.

Tickets for the Canberra show are available here and for the Tomakin show here.

This story From Red Wiggle to rock star: Murray Cook's musical evolution first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.