Rod Hull, 1935- 1999
Rod Hull will be always remembered for his crazy antics with his Emu puppet. He became a hugely popular entertainer during the 1970’s and 80’s with a string of TV shows.
Born Rodney Stephen Hull on the 13th August, 1935, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. He attended Delemark Road School and the County Technical School, in the town of Sheerness. After national service with the RAF, he qualified as an electrician.
Rod Hull married his first wife Sandra Carter in 1958; they had two daughters, Deborah and Danielle. The marriage lasted until 1973. Five years later he married second wife Cheryle Hylton. Cheryle already had a daughter, Catrina. The couple went on to have three children together: Toby, Amelia and Oliver
A fan of the football club Bristol Rovers, whom with the squad of that time, he recorded a song called “Bristol Rovers All the Way” in 1974.
With his success came the trappings: Cars Houses, but it would be the purchase of Restoration House in Rochester that proved to be his undoing. He purchased the house in the late 1980’s for a reported £270,000. An obsessive desire to restore the property to it’s former glory meant the cost of renovations got out of hand. To add to his woes Hull found he had neither the money to complete the renovations or pay his tax bill and so, in 1994, Rod Hull was declared bankrupt.
Following the bankruptcy Cheryle, who had been instrumental in Hull’s success moved back with the children to her home country of Australia, whilst Rod remained in England, relocating to a Shepherd’s cottage in East Sussex.
in 1956 Hull moved to Australia in 1956. He got his first job in television as a lighting technician with TCN Channel 9 in Sydney. Whilst working for Channel 9 he began appearing on air, notably as Constable Clot in Kaper Kops which was a regular segment in the channel’s children’s afternoon programming. The Clot character proved very popular and had soon gained his own segment, Clot in the Clouds, which depicted Constable Clot daydreaming about having other professions, such as a world-famous brain surgeon, ‘Blood Clot.’
Still in Australia and still with Channel 9, Hull worked with Marilyn Mayo as co-host of a children’s breakfast TV programme called The Super Flying Fun Show where he played a wacky character named ‘Caretaker Clot,’ an extension of his Kaper Cops role.
It was in The Super Flying Fun Show that Hull first used the Emu puppet. Over the years there have been conflicting reports as to how this came about: The 2003 BBC documentary Rod Hull: A Bird in the Hand states bluntly, “In fact, Emu was a Channel Nine creation”. Other sources cite a Channel Nine producer, Jim Badger, who said that he had requested a reluctant Hull to use Emu. Rod Hull assigned to himself full authorship of Emu, stating, “Sure I found him in a cupboard, but I had put him there in the first place. I concocted him, nobody else.” However it came about Emu soon became a regular part of Hull’s set on cabarets back in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Returning to Britain in 1971, Hull signed with International Artists. It wasn’t long before his success down under spring-boarded him to success in Britain. He began to appear on a number of children’s and adult light entertainment shows, making his first UK TV appearance on the ITV show Saturday Variety. However it was the 1972 Royal Variety performance that catapulted Rod Hull and his Emu to fame. During the after-show line-up Hull destroyed the Queen Mother’s bouquet. So notable was the event that it lead to Hull appearing in many other shows.
In 1975, Rod Hull and Emu got their own kids TV show Emu’s Broadcasting Company on the BBC .
Running until 1980 it would be the first of a number of kids TV shows over the years that followed.
In 1982 a move to ITV saw Emu’s World.
Emu’s All Live Pink Windmill Show 1984, Emu’s Pink Windmill Show 1986 Emu’s Wide world 1987 and Emu’s World a sixth and final series in 1988. (all based around Emu’s World). Following the end of Emu’s World Hull went off to Canada where he recorded a series similar to Emu’s Broadcasting Company: Emu TV. These shows were brought back to the UK, edited with some short additional segments featuring the Grotbags character and the Pink Windmill kids. Subsequently they were broadcast on ITV in 1989, this would be the last live action show to feature the duo. Hull would write and lend his voice to one more TV series featuring Emu and that was the animated Rod ‘n’ Emu in 1991.
Alongside the various TV shows Hull appeared on many variety and chat shows over the years both in the UK and the USA. The most notable of which was the now famous Parkinson. Michael Parkinson himself would later reveal that of the many guests he had interviewed during his career, he would always be remembered for “that bloody bird”.
As the 1990’s rolled on Rod Hull was seen less frequently on TV, although alongside Emu he did appear in a number of TV commercials.
The duo were also Pantomime regulars.
On 17th March 1999, Hull climbed onto the roof of his bungalow, to adjust his TV aerial. He slipped from the roof and fell through an adjoining greenhouse. Consequently he suffered a severe skull fracture and chest injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. Following a coroner’s inquest, Coroner Alan Craze, recorded a verdict of accidental death.