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Wild and Wooley Novelty Songs

Published: 9/16/2013
Sheb Wooley (Wikimedia Commons)
Sheb Wooley (Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1950s, the novelty song went through a surge of popularity. Singing one of the greatest novelties of the decade was character actor and country singer Sheb Wooley, who gave the world the goofy tale of "The Purple People Eater." The 1958 comedy classic rose to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart – a seriously unlikely feat for a novelty song today – and it inspired a feature film, an “Operation”-style game, and a nickname for the Minnesota Vikings' defensive line.

Wooley, who died 10 years ago, had a number of odd claims to fame. He taught a young Roger Miller – his cousin-in-law and future “King of the Road” country music star – to play guitar. Wooley was the voice of the "Wilhelm scream," a stock sound effect used in more than 200 movies, including the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” series. He played the school principal in “Hoosiers” and an outlaw in “High Noon.” And of course, he introduced us to a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater.



Now you know some fun facts about Sheb Wooley and his hit novelty song – but what about the other great novelty songs that have made us chuckle through the years? How much do you know about classics like "Witch Doctor" and "Yakety Yak"? Take our quiz and find out!





Written by Linnea Crowther

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