Sheb Wooley

Sheb Wooley

Sheb Wooley
Wooley in 1971
Background information
Birth name Shelby F. Wooley
Also known as Ben Colder,
Born (1921-04-10)April 10, 1921
Erick, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died September 16, 2003(2003-09-16) (aged 82)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Country, pop music
Occupation(s) Actor, singer
Years active 1955–1971
Labels MGM

Shelby F. "Sheb" Wooley (April 10, 1921 – September 16, 2003) was a character actor and singer, best known for his 1958 novelty song "The Purple People Eater".[1] He played Ben Miller, brother of Frank Miller in the film High Noon, played Travis Cobb in The Outlaw Josey Wales, and also had a co-starring role as scout Pete Nolan in the television program Rawhide.


  • Biography 1
  • Death 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Discography 4
    • Albums 4.1
    • Singles 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Wooley was born in Erick, Oklahoma, and was raised on a farm. He learned to ride horses at an early age and was a working cowboy and rodeo rider. He also played in a country-western band. Wooley tried to enlist during World War II, but was turned down for military service because of his rodeo injuries. Instead, he worked in the oil industry and as a welder. In 1946, he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and became a country and western musician. He married Edna Ethel Bunt in Fort Worth and they moved to Hollywood in 1949. When they crossed the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine on Christmas Day 1949, it was snowing.

Wooley appeared in dozens of western films from the 1950s through 1970s, most notably High Noon. In 1950 he appeared in Rocky Mountain with such veteran actors as Errol Flynn and Slim Pickens. In 1954, he played outlaw Jim Younger in the syndicated western series Stories of the Century. Wooley appeared four times in the syndicated western series, The Range Rider, starring Jock Mahoney and Dick Jones. He appeared in a 1953 episode of the The Lone Ranger entitled "Wake of War" and another episode entitled "Message to Fort Apache" in 1954. He appeared five times between 1951 and 1955 in another syndicated series, The Adventures of Kit Carson. He guest starred in The Cisco Kid in the role of Bill Bronson and as Harry Runyon in the episode "The Unmasking" of the CBS western My Friend Flicka. In 1958, he played Baxter in the movie Terror in a Texas Town. He appeared twice in the ABC western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.

Wooley's big break came when he was cast as the drover Pete Nolan in the CBS western Rawhide (1959–1966) with Eric Fleming, Clint Eastwood, and Paul Brinegar. He also acted in the films The Outlaw Josey Wales and Giant. Wooley co-starred as Cletus, the principal in the Gene Hackman film, Hoosiers.

In the 1940s, Wooley took an interest in his wife's young cousin, Roger Miller, who also grew up in Erick, Oklahoma. Wooley taught Miller how to play guitar chords and bought him a fiddle.

In the late 1950s, Wooley embarked on a recording career of his own with the song that made him famous, "The Purple People Eater". He followed with a series of lesser novelty hits. Wooley wrote the theme song for the long-running television show Hee Haw. In the UK he enjoyed a minor hit with the comedy single: "Luke The Spook" on the flip side was: "My Only Treasure" a ballad in the country and western tradition.

Wooley also had a string of country hits, his "That's My Pa" reaching No. 1 of Billboard magazine's Hot C&W Sides chart in March 1962. He was a regular on Hee Haw as the drunken country songwriter Ben Colder. He released music and performed as Ben Colder. Wooley also performed using his own name as well. Wooley had intended to record the song "Don't Go Near The Indians", but he was delayed by an acting job. Meanwhile, Rex Allen recorded the song and it was a hit. Wooley said he did not mind—he would do the sequel. His version was "Don't Go Near the Eskimos", about a boy in Alaska named Ben Colder (had never "been colder"). His song was so successful he continued using the name for forty years, one of his last recordings being "Shaky Breaky Car" (which parodied the song "Achy Breaky Heart").

His single "Hootenanny Hoot" was an Australian Top 10 hit in December, 1963; "The Love-in" (1967), was an acerbic commentary on the 1960s' counterculture.

Wooley is credited as the voice actor for the Wilhelm scream, having appeared on a memo as a voice extra for Distant Drums and later confirmed by his widow.[2][3] This particular scream recording has been used by sound effects teams in over 300 films.

Wooley continued occasional television and film appearances through the 1990s, including an appearance as Cletus Summers, principal of Hickory High School in the 1986 film Hoosiers.


In 1996 he was diagnosed with leukemia. He died at the Skyline Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2003 and was buried in Hendersonville Memory Gardens in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Personal life

Wooley married his manager, Linda Dotson, and had two daughters named Chrystie and Shauna.[4]



Year Album US Country Label
1956 Sheb Wooley MGM
1960 Songs from the Days of Rawhide
1962 That's My Pa and That's My Ma
1963 Tales of How the West Was Won
Spoofing the Big Ones (as Ben Colder)
Ben Colder (as Ben Colder)
1965 The Very Best
It's a Big Land
1966 Big Ben Strikes Again (as Ben Colder) 17
1967 Wine Women & Song (as Ben Colder) 44
1968 The Best of Ben Colder (as Ben Colder) 44
Harper Valley P.T.A. (Later The Same Day) (as Ben Colder)
1969 Warm and Wooley
Have One On (as Ben Colder)
1970 Big Ben Colder Wild Again (as Ben Colder)
1971 Live and Loaded (as Ben Colder)
1972 Warming Up to Colder (as Ben Colder)
1973 The Wacky World (as Ben Colder)


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US
CAN Country CAN
1955 "Are You Satisfied" 95 singles only
1958 "The Purple People Eater" 1
1959 "Sweet Chile" 70
1962 "That's My Pa" 1 51 That's My Pa and That's My Ma
"Don't Go Near the Eskimos" (as Ben Colder) 18 62 Spoofing the Big Ones
1963 "Hello Wall No. 2" (as Ben Colder) 30 131 Ben Colder
"Still No. 2" (as Ben Colder) 98
"Detroit City No. 2" (as Ben Colder) 90 Spoofing the Big Ones
1964 "Blue Guitar" 33 The Very Best
1966 "I'll Leave the Singin' to the Bluebirds" 34 single only
"Almost Persuaded No. 2" (as Ben Colder) 6 58 53 Big Ben Strikes Again
"Tonight's the Night My Angel's Halo Fell" 70 single only
1968 "Tie a Tiger Down" 22 Warm and Wooley
"Harper Valley P.T.A. (Later That Same Day)" (as Ben Colder) 24 67 18 82 Harper Valley P.T.A. (Later That Same Day)
1969 "Little Green Apples No. 2" (as Ben Colder) 65
"I Remember Loving You" 52 Warm and Wooley
"The One Man Band" 63 single only
1970 "Big Sweet John" (as Ben Colder) 47 Have One On
1971 "Fifteen Beers Ago" (as Ben Colder) 50 Live and Loaded


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External links

  • Official website
  • Allmusic Entry