Thursday, February 10, 2011

Celebrating the Career of Sheb Wooley

The guy in the picture is Sheb Wooley. I know him as Cletus, the principle in Hoosiers. I didn't realize until this week that Sheb also wrote and recorded the popular novelty song "The Purple People Eater," which topped the charts in 1958. He also appeared on Hee Haw and The Muppet Show as drunken cowboy crooner Ben Colder and had notable roles in several westerns in the 1950s and 60s.

Perhaps Sheb's greatest contribution to American art and entertainment was the Wilhelm Scream, a sound effect that has appeared in more than 250 movies and television shows. Wooley recorded the scream as a voice extra in 1951's Distant Drums, a "Florida western" about the Second Seminole War. Apparently the director needed a scream for a scene in which a soldier is bitten by an alligator and dragged underwater. The scream owes its name to Private Wilhelm, a character in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River who makes the sound when shot by an arrow. Here is a montage of 50 years of film scenes use the Wilhelm Scream

Sadly, Sheb Wooley died in 2003. Were he alive today, he would turn 90 on April 21. In his honor, we should all take time that day to watch a movie that includes the Wilhelm Scream. (Any Star Wars or Indiana Jones movie is eligible.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished watching Errol Flynn's Rocky Mountain on DVD and while going through the credits on, I found out who Sheb Wooley was--the principal of Hickory High. I had no idea Sheb has such a great career and in looking up info on him, I found your wonderful site. Just wanted to say Kudos and hello!
Joe Keenan
Forest Grove, OR

10:14 PM  

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