The guy is big.

We're talking Prince. Bruce. We're talking, in fact, Raffi -- the 39-year-old, bearded, soft-spoken Armenian singer from Canada who has sold more than 7 million records and yesterday appeared in Washington for two sold-out shows at the Warner Theatre.

The Jagger of the Jell-O set.

The guy who clucked and quacked and crooned his way into millions of plastic Fisher-Price cassette players to become the first bona fide superstar of the 5-and-under crowd.

Yesterday's concert had everything: screaming, incontinent fans, tight security, toddler groupies sporting "Raffi Fan" sweat shirts. Okay, so the beverage of choice was apple juice, not tequila. And the scalpers outside were well-dressed mothers from McLean asking only the $8.50 face value of the ticket (in Manhattan, scalpers were reportedly commanding $300 for the hard-to-get seats).

As the crowd filed in, there was cause for some nostalgia among the mostly yupper-crust parents. "The last time I was here was to see Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band," said Nancy Prowitt, her 2-year-old son Peter Jr. in tow.

They wore baby Benetton and Esprit, Weeboks and Oshkosh. There was a brisk business in Raffi tapes ($10), records and his new video at a table set up in the lobby. After the lights dimmed and Raffi -- also known as "Waffi" to the R-impaired -- appeared in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans with his Rise and Shine Band, the cwowd was in a fwenzy. They shook their sillies out, clapped their crazies out, jumped their jiggles out and wiggled their waggles away.

They sang as one: "I like to eat, eat, eat eeples and baneenies ... I like to oot, oot, oot, ooples and banoonies."

It's not hard to understand why Raffi Cavoukias (he dropped the last name a decade ago) is the most popular children's entertainer in North America. His campfire- and calypso-inspired songs, his smash hits "Baby Beluga," "Brush Your Teeth" and "Willoughby Wallaby Woo" are as singable as they are silly.

"That's the key to my success," he says. "Parents don't have to leave the room."

He is sitting in the dressing room. It's 10 minutes to show time, and the mild-mannered singer seems rather prickly in person.

"Do you not have my press kit?" he asks, annoyed. "We shouldn't be doing this without a press kit."

He was born in Cairo of Armenian parents, moved to Canada with his family at the age of 10 and picked up the guitar as a teen-ager, listening mostly to Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Joni Mitchell.

He is on the short side, with dark hair and beard, his black chest hair peeking from an open shirt. His eyes are Bambi brown.

"It's very serious work for me," he says. "And everything I do is based on respect for the young child."

Is he religious?

"My spiritual feelings are quite private," he says brusquely.

He's been married to his wife Debi, a former nursery school teacher, for 11 years. In fact, it was Debi's mother who got Raffi started on his career, persuading him to begin recording and performing quality music for children.

"Debi opened my eyes to children, what kind of people they are."

Life on the road "is not all fun and games," he says. "My tour is as hard as Julio's {Iglesias} or Willie Nelson's."

Yes, he has groupies. "I'm sometimes recognized in Toronto. One time I was at the airport picking somebody up and I was wearing sunglasses. This 5-year-old girl came up to me and said, 'Raffi, is that YOU behind those glasses?' "

He used to go out to the lobby to meet his fans after the show, but he discontinued that after people stood waiting in line for hours.

He has released eight albums, his latest titled "Everything Grows," and was recently awarded the Order of Canada, the country's highest nonmilitary honor. "I'm not interested in celebrity for its own sake. I'm interested in celebrating the spirit in all of us."

And yes, he has considered the possibility of a superstar duet, maybe with Dolly Parton or Stevie Wonder. But only if it made sense "in the context of my career. I wouldn't do it to get played on the radio."

Raffi doesn't need the radio. When he plays L.A., fans such as Chevy Chase line up outside his dressing room. Actress Estelle Parsons was among the recent patrons haggling for a ticket to a New York show. And while he may be the only headliner who has to put up with fans having their diapers changed in the front row, he doesn't seem to mind.

How many children does Raffi have?

He looks annoyed. It's probably in the press kit. "None," he says.