Hayes was known for maintaining a smiley order over the puppets on the popular ITV show while dressed in lurid outfits such as floral shirts or yellow dungarees for more than 1,000 episodes between 1974 and 1992.
Read more Hayes was surrounded by his family when he died in hospital from pneumonia, according to his agent, Phil Dale. Geoffrey passed away in hospital with his wife, Sarah, and son, Tom, by his side, Dale said.
The family would like to express their thanks to the many fans over the years, as it always gave Geoffrey so much pleasure to know that he and his Rainbow team had given so much fun to TV and theatre audiences over the years.
The pre-school show was seen as a British answer to the US childrens hit show Sesame Street, but on a much cheaper budget. It featured three other characters: Bungle, a boyish teddybear played by various actors in a bear suit, and two puppets – George, a slow-witted pink hippo, and Zippy, a know-it-all yellow felt robot with a grating voice.
Hayes presided with a gleeful enthusiasm and occasional flash of exasperation. Hayes threat to silence Zippy by fastening up his mouth was the one element of suspense on the show.
He said the secret to the programmes popularity was that it was full of magic, innocence and imagination. He added: Practically all the time people come up to me and it really breaks me up because they thank me for being part of their childhood. It makes me want to cry sometimes.
Hayes did have other acting roles, including stint as DC Scatliff in the BBC series Z Cars. But after Rainbow he struggled to find work and complained of being typecast as the Rainbow presenter.
Directors could only think of me as Rainbows Geoffrey, he told the Daily Express. He even spent time stacking shelves at a Sainsbury supermarket.
Later he embraced his association with Rainbow by appearing in a nostalgic stage version of the programme at the Edinburgh festival.
He also appeared in pantomimes and TV gameshows including an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2002 and Pointless Celebrities in 2015. He joked that the one good thing to come out of the cancellation of the Rainbow was earning loads of money as an ironic postmodern icon.
Ronnie Le Drew, the actor who played Zippy, said Well all miss him terribly. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live he added: He was really kind to everybody and always charming.
Tributes to Hayes reflected the affection for the show from those who grew up in the 1970s and 80s. His death comes just four days after that of John Cunliffe, the creator of another childrens TV favourite Postman Pat.
The Sooty Show, a rival TV puppet show which still tours UK with live performances, tweeted this tribute:
Were very sorry to hear about the death of Rainbows Geoffrey Hayes. Geoffrey presented over 1,000 episodes of Rainbow, some of which featured Matthew Corbett (pictured below) and Sooty himself. Thank you for all the great memories, Geoffrey. pic.twitter.com/2oRKpmzbbr
Following the sad death of childrens presenter Geoffrey Hayes, let's look at one of the most infamous banned TV episodes of all time…
We were saddened to hear of the death of Geoffrey Hayes, the TV presenter who fronted the classic lunchtime kids show Rainbow from 1974 to 1993. Geoffrey was an island of sanity in a household that played host to Bungle, George and Zippy.
But memories of Hayes and his affable TV personality led us to come across this old internet oddity. Now only available in a grungy, virtually unwatchable upload, this is a peculiar episode of the much-loved pre-school programme in which virtually every line has some lewd meaning.
George, the gentle hippo announces: Yesterday we played with each other's balls. Are we going to play with our friend's balls today? To which Bungle replies: Yes, and we can play with our twangers as well."
Geoffrey then turns to the camera and asks: Have you seen Bungles twanger? Zippy replies: Oh I have, I showed him how to pluck with it."
And so on. The sequence gets even ruder with the arrival of Rainbows in-house musical trio Rod Jane and Roger, who lead the team in a ditty called The Plucking Song.
Was it aired? Was it a pilot episode that remained in the vaults? Of course it wasnt. The whole thing was a joke. A very, very rude – and private – joke.
Back in the late 1970s, a regular tradition in television circles was the Christmas Tape. This was a compilation of outtakes, bloopers and specially shot material (usually with a more adult tone than usual) designed to be watched at Christmas parties.
As the tape rolled and a few drinks and snacks went down, the people who worked at the TV stations would see presenters drop their guard and even send themselves up for the amusement of their co-workers.
The BBC were old hands at this, even giving theirs titles: White Powder Christmas and Good King Memorex. And TV legend Doctor Who even got in on the act.
The tapes became so well known in the industry that presenters and actors would yell Merry Christmas VT! when they cocked something up, as they knew they could be destined for the dreaded Christmas Tape.
Other, independent broadcasters got in on the act. The Rainbow clip dates from 1979 and was, as Geoffrey Hayes recalled, part of Thames Televisions bid to win the best Christmas tape of the year. The vulgar script was written by none other than Roy Skelton, the voice of Zippy and George, and also known for voicing the Daleks in the 1970s. We can honestly say that the Rainbow team upped the ante that year.
Hayes explained to a Rainbow fan site: Ours wasn't an outtake, we specially did it. It was specially scripted and we did it and I never saw it! We did it and Thames won it, but what they actually won, I don't know. But I never saw the video. I can't remember much about it except for Zippy with a banana."
If nothing else, the infamous Rainbow clip is testament to Geoffrey Hayes comic genius, that he can deliver such blatant innuendos completely straight-faced. He was and remains a TV legend.