Sheb Wooley

Died September 16th, 2003

Sheb Wooley -- of “Purple People Eater” Fame -- Dead at 82 Edward Morris 09/16/2003

Singer, songwriter and actor Sheb Wooley -- who also recorded a series of parody hits as Ben Colder -- died Tuesday (Sept. 16) at Skyline Medical Center in Nashville. He was 82. Wooley had suffered from leukemia for the past five years, his widow, Linda Dotson, told CMT.com.

However, she said he had been strong enough to go with her to Johnny Cash’s wake on Sunday (Sept. 14). While there, she continued, he seemed to falter: “It was like God laid His hand on his shoulder and said, ‘You’ll be the third [country music figure] to go,’” Dotson observed. (TV actor John Ritter, son of Country Music Hall of Fame member Tex Ritter, died the day before Cash.)

Shelby F. Wooley was born April 10, 1921, near Erick, Okla. While a teenager, he worked as a rodeo rider and formed his own band. In the mid-1940s, he performed on radio stations WLAC and WSM in Nashville and subsequently had his own show on the Calumet Radio Network. He signed to Bullet Records in 1946, moving two years later to MGM Records where he remained until 1973. Wooley was a major musical influence on Roger Miller, who was related to him by marriage. Miller was only 11 when Wooley gave him his first fiddle.

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