A stalwart figure on the pre-rock'n'roll West Coast country scene, Sheb Wooley scored a big pop hit with the novelty song "The Purple People Eater," and was a successful character actor in a number of films and TV shows, most notably in "High Noon" and the long-running series, "Rawhide. Wooley later created his alter-ego, the drunken-slob country singer, Ben Colder, a character he frequently portrayed on the "Hee Haw" variety show. Although his later work was almost exclusively devoted to parody material ala Homer & Jethro or Don Bowman, in his early years Wooley recorded some pretty decent hillbilly music. Here's a quick look at his career...
Sheb Wooley "White Lightnin' (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight)" (Bear Family, 2012)
A nice set of post-WWII hillbilly music from songwriter Sheb Wooley, who is perhaps best remembered as a novelty artist, particularly for his 1958 pop hit "Purple People Eater." That tune is not included here, but there is ample evidence that Wooley had been mining comedy themes for years, with songs such as "Don't Stop Kissing Me Goodnight," "Rover Scoot Over," and "Freight Train Cinders In My Eyes." Working in California, he had top talent working with him in the studios, kings of twang such as Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant, who helped shape the vigorous, rock'n'boogie flavor that defined the West Coast country sound. I've never been a huge fan of Wooley's humor, but it's nice to hear his early work, when he was still a real-deal country cat, and helps establish his place in the same scene that nurtured artists such as Buck Owens and Tommy Collins. Plus, a single-disc collection is so much more digestible than Bear Family's old Wooley box sets. Definitely worth a spin!
Sheb Wooley "Texas Tango" (BACM, 2005)
For more of Wooley's hillbilly roots, this disc's a doozy! Like all BACM releases, this highlights rare and little-known recordings not anthologized elsewhere... A great companion to the various Bear Family discs. (Available through the British Archive of Country Music specialty label.)
Sheb Wooley "Rawhide/How the West Was Won" (Bear Family, 1995)
A reissue of two western-themed Wooley albums, 1960's Songs From The Days Of Rawhide and Tales Of How The West Was Won, two albums that tied into his role as Pete Nolan on the Rawhide TV show. Thankfully, they also both precede his "Ben Colder" persona...
Sheb Wooley "The Purple People Eater" (Bear Family, 1997)
Sheb Wooley "That's My Pa" (Bear Family, 1998)
A 4-CD box set...
Sheb Wooley "Wild And Wooley, Big Unruly Me" (Bear Family, 1999)
Sheb Wooley "22 Best Of The Best: Ben Colder/Sheb Wooley 1921-2003" (Gusto/Tee Vee, 2005)
Sheb Wooley "Sheb Wooley" (MGM, 1956)
Sheb Wooley "Songs From The Days Of Rawhide" (MGM, 1960)
Sheb Wooley "That's My Pa And That's My Ma" (MGM, 1962)
Sheb Wooley "Tales Of How The West Was Won" (MGM, 1963)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Spoofing The Big Ones" (MGM, 1963)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Ben Colder" (MGM, 1963)
Sheb Wooley "The Very Best" (MGM, 1965)
Sheb Wooley "It's A Big Land" (MGM, 1965)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Big Ben Strikes Again" (MGM, 1966)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Wine Women And Song" (MGM, 1967)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "The Best Of Ben Colder" (MGM, 1968)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Harper Valley P.T.A. (Later The Same Day)" (MGM, 1968)
Sheb Wooley "Warm And Wooley" (MGM, 1969)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Have One On" (MGM, 1969)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Big Ben Colder: Wild Again" (MGM, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Vienneau)
Most of these country parodies are savagely unfunny, but his anti-hippie lyrics on "What Is Youth" (a spoof of Johnny Cash's equally topical "What Is Truth") are actually pretty clever... A good pop-culture relic of the Generation Gap era of the American culture wars. The rest of the album is terrible, though: the Ben Colder vocals will get on your nerves pretty quickly.
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Live And Loaded" (MGM, 1971)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "Warming Up To Colder" (MGM, 1972)
Sheb Wooley (as Ben Colder) "The Wacky World" (MGM, 1973)
Hick Music Index