DIARY - 18 SEPTEMBER 2003
WOOLEY RIP AT 82
TO MAN IN BLACK
AND MAYBE PURPLE PEOPLE EATERS
and country comedy artist and hit writer Sheb Wooley had a premonition
he would join Johnny Cash in honky tonk heaven as he attended the man
in black's wake on Sunday September 14.
Wooley, 82, died of leukemia at the Skyline Medical Centre, Nashville,
just two days later.
"It was like God laid His hand on his shoulder and said, 'You'll
be the third to go,'" his widow Linda Dotson Wooley revealed after
he lost his five year cancer battle.
TV actor John Ritter, son of Country Music Hall of Fame member Tex, died
the day before Cash.
Wooley was distraught over the death of John - also a family friend.
Sheb had a role in 1952 movie epic 'High Noon,' in which Tex Ritter sang
the famed theme song.
"It was very peaceful," Linda, his manager and wife of 18 years,
"Sheb just closed his eyes. I'm sure he's already up there having
a ball with his old friend John R. Cash."
OKLAHOMA TO NASHVILLE
Wooley was born April 10, 1921, on farm near Erick, Oklahoma.
As a teenager he worked as a rodeo rider and formed his own band, 'The
Plainview Melody Boys.'
In the mid-1940s, he performed on radio stations WLAC and WSM in Nashville
and later had his own show on the Calumet Radio Network.
He signed to Bullet Records in 1946 and moved two years later to MGM Records
where he remained until 1973.
Wooley was a major musical influence on the late Roger Miller, related
to him by marriage.
Miller was only 11 when Wooley gave him his first fiddle.
AND ERROL FLYNN
movie career began in 1950 - he appeared first in 'Rocky Mountain' with
Tasmanian Errol Flynn.
In 1952 he played killer Ben Miller in the Gary Cooper-Grace Kelly classic
western, 'High Noon.'
Altogether, he acted in more than 60 films, among them Giant (1956) and
Wooley earned major recognition in 'War Wagon,' with John Wayne and Kirk
Douglas, 'Giant' with James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, 'Distant
Drums,' with Gary Cooper, 'Rio Bravo,' with John Wayne and a young Ricky
Nelson 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,' with Howard Keel.
From 1959 until 1967, Sheb strapped on gun and holster as a star in 105
episodes of highly rated TV series, Rawhide,' in which he played the part
of Pete Nolan.
Clint Eastwood, who also starred in the series, remembers that Wooley
wrote several 'Rawhide' scripts that helped launch the Eastwood career
from television to films. Other major TV roles included 'The Ed Sullivan
Show,' and 'American Bandstand,' and acting roles in 'Murder She Wrote,'
and 'The Doll Maker,' starring Jane Fonda.
PURPLE PEOPLE EATER
his first success on the pop charts.
His tune 'Are You Satisfied?' barely made a dent in 1955, reaching only
the No. 95 spot.
But three years later, he unleashed a monster with novelty tune, 'The
Purple People Eater.'
It sold three million copies in just three weeks and went #1 on the pop
charts and stayed there for six weeks and also became an huge hit in Australia.
It has sold millions of copies on novelty re-releases and was revamped
in the nineties as a bluegrass belter by kindred spirits the Austin Lounge
Lizards and won airplay on Nu Country.
"I first got the idea for "Purple People Eater" when a
songwriter friend of mine told me his son had come home from school with
a joke about a people eater from space," Wooley revealed at the song's
"I wrote the song in a matter of minutes - just dashed it off as
a sort of afterthought."
'That's My Pa,' another novelty effort in 1962, was his first #1 country
As Ben Colder,
Wooley scored six country and five pop hits with such parodies as 'Don't
Go Near the Eskimos' ('Don't Go Near the Indians'), 'Still No. 2,' 'Almost
Persuaded No. 2,' 'Detroit City No. 2' and 'Harper Valley P.T.A. (Later
That Same Day).'
His last charted country song came in 1971 with 'Fifteen Beers Ago,' -
a parody of Conway Twitty's 'Fifteen Years Ago' - which was later cut
by Asleep At The Wheel lead singer Ray Benson who recently a new solo
album Beyond Time which has been released here by Shock.
Wooley wrote the theme song for the Hee Haw TV series. In 1968, the Country
Music Association honoured him with its comedian of the year award.
On October 9, 2002, then U.S. Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee saluted
Wooley as an "American treasure" by reading a catalogue of his
achievements into the Congressional Record.
"He never strayed far from his roots," Thompson said, "and
always knew how to rope in an audience."
AT JOHN CASH PARKWAY
funeral is Monday September 22 "at high noon" at First Baptist
Church in 106 Bluegrass Commons, Hendersonville, Tennessee and is open
to the public.
Survivors include his widow, Linda Dotson Wooley of Hendersonville, Tennessee,
and two daughters, Christie Wooley of Nashville and Shauna Dotson of London.
Also by brother, Bill, of Ruidosa, New Mexico and two grandchildren -
Dylan Nicole Perrigo of California and Austin Shelby Ehrhart of Nashville.
And, with the humour that Wooley would appreciate visitation is Sunday,
September 21 at Hendersonville Memory Gardens & Funeral Home - 353
John Cash Parkway,
Further info - www.shebwooley.com
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