Shelby F. "Sheb" Wooley (April 10, 1921 – September 16, 2003) was a character actor and singer, best known for his 1958 million selling novelty hit "The Purple People Eater". He played Ben Miller, brother of Frank Miller in the film High Noon, and also had a co-starring role in the television program Rawhide.
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, 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.
Wooley appeared in dozens of western films from the 1950s through 1970s, most notably High Noon. In 1954, he played outlaw Jim Younger in the syndicated western series Stories of the Century. Wooley appeared five times as Carl in the syndicated western series The Adventures of Kit Carson (1951-1955). He appeared in The Cisco Kid in the role of Bill Bronson. Wooley guest starred as Harry Runyon in the episode "The Unmasking" of the CBS western My Friend Flicka.
In 1958 Wooley became a regular member of the cast of Rawhide, a western television series about a cattle drive, starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. Playing the role of Pete Nolan, Wooley remained with the series for several years, writing some of the later scripts. He recorded an album, Songs from the Days of Rawhide (1961) and, in a similar vein, Tales of How the West Was Won (1963).
Also in 1958, a schoolboy told the film actor and songwriter Sheb Wooley a joke: "What has one eye, one horn, is purple, flies and eats people?" The answer was "A purple people eater" and, even though the riddle was as unfunny then as it is now, Wooley wrote a song about it. His recording of "Purple People Eater" topped the US charts for six weeks and sold over three million copies. It has since appeared on countless compilations and the total worldwide sales for this nonsense song are a staggering 100 million. He followed this a series of lesser novelty hits. Wooley wrote the theme song for the long-running television show Hee Haw.
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 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").
Wooley released music and performed as Ben Colder as well as under his own name with such parodies as 'Still No. 2,' 'Almost Persuaded No. 2,' 'Detroit City No. 2' and 'Harper Valley P.T.A."'His last charted country song came in 1971 with 'Fifteen Beers Ago,' a sendup of Conway Twitty's 'Fifteen Years Ago.' Wooley also wrote the theme song for the Hee Haw TV series. In 1968, the Country Music Association honored him with its comedian of the year award.
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. This particular recording of a scream has been used by sound effects teams in over 149 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, Wooley was diagnosed with leukemia and spent the next few years in and out of hospitals battling the condition. On September 16, 2003 Sheb Wooley passed away at the age of 82 at the Skyline Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee and was buried in Hendersonville Memory Gardens in Hendersonville, Tennessee.. The previous year Wooley had been honored by Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, who referred to the singer/songwriter/actor as an "American treasure." (Info mainly from Wikipedia)