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Oklahoma Musicians Making the News

April 10, 2002

Historian's Notes

Almost everyone has heard of the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater, but not everybody knows who wrote it or that they were from Oklahoma. One of the prime goals of the almanac is to educate the audience on the history and culture of the state; and, while I’m not sure exactly how, I know that Sheb Wooley fits in there somewhere. I also thought that it was interesting that the little town of Erick produced not only the prodigious Wooley, but Roger King of the Road Miller as well.

Resources

I read in one of the Oklahoma trivia books that Wooley was from Erick and when I visited I saw the street and avenue named after Wooley and Miller. Most of the information for the almanac came from Sheb Wooley’s website www.shebwooley.com as well as other various online sources found using Google.

Almanac Transcript

Oklahoma musicians making the news this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm your host Steven Knoche Kite.

During the early days of the Cold War the threat of nuclear devastation lay heavy on the minds of most citizens. This constant mental state of fear led to, some believe, an increase in UFO sightings around the country. The UFO craze of the mid-fifties was widespread and managed to impact even the pop music world. During that period there were numerous rock-n-roll songs dealing with aliens, UFOs as well as the struggles of visiting Martians as they attempted to learn the latest dance steps.

Perhaps no UFO rock-n-roll number was as popular as the well known Purple People Eater. The song came out in 1958 and was an instant success. According to the song's composer, within three weeks after its release the Purple People Eater had sold over three million copies and was certified gold. The song remained in the number one slot for six weeks and to date over 100 million copies have been sold.

The song had an unlikely creator in one Sheb Wooley, a musician, actor and comedian most known for his work in the Country and Western genre. In addition to his numerous musical releases, Wooley appeared in the TV western Rawhide, and has had roles of various sizes in over fifty feature films including High Noon, The War Wagon, Rio Bravo and Giant. The corn-com Hee Haw debuted in 1969 not only featuring Wooley as an original cast member but also using the now famous theme song written by Wooley as well.

Most people it seems consider having multiple personalities something of a liability, but Sheb Wooley revels in his alter ego: the infamous Ben Colder. Wooley, as the rough and tumble Ben Colder, issued over the years a number of country comedy albums that would today fall into the "politically un-correct" category.

If you feel the need to get closer to the phenomenon that is Sheb Wooley you might travel to his birthplace of Erick, Oklahoma in the southwest corner of the state. Once in Erick you can stroll at your leisure down Sheb Wooley Avenue. Before you proclaim yourself "king" of that road, however, be sure to stop for a moment of contemplation at the intersection of Sheb Wooley Avenue and Roger Miller Blvd.

It was in this week of 1921 on April 10th that Sheb Wooley made his first appearance in the world. We're baking cakes and blowing out the candles this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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