My wife writes a blog about her life which you can read here. She talked about a song she sang as a little girl called “The Little Blue Man” by Betty Johnson. This was a very cool song in the fifties and you can hear it at her blog. The Little Blue Man was one of many novelty songs which came out of the fifties. It made us think of a famous number one which I’d like to spotlight in this post. That was “Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley.
Wooley grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma and did everything a cowboy does. But, music was his first love, even though he was not that successful at it. He first auditioned for the president of MGM records and sang all of his ballads. MGM didn’t think much of them and asked if he had anything else. He reluctantly brought out “Purple People Eater”. Three weeks later it was number one where it stayed for 6 weeks. Truly one of the great novelty songs of the fifties.
Sheb Wooley never again had that kind of success on the charts, but he became a fairly big actor. He’s most known for his role on “Rawhide” which starred a very young Clint Eastwood.
“Purple People Eater” hit number one on Jun 9, 1958. Of all the years of the 20th Century, I think 1958 is my favorite. This was the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years in high school. Eisenhower (Ike) was president and Khrushchev was in charge of Russia. You remember him and his banging his shoe on the table at the U.N. That happened later during Kennedy’s reign, I think. I saw a cool story from the week of Jun 9, 1958.
“Britain’s girl soldiers were up in arms today because the army says holding hands with boy soldiers is illegal. Members of the Women’s Royal Army Corps at Camp Hounslow, complaining that the army has cracked down on kissing and cuddling on or off the camp premises, cited the case of a girl lance-corporal and her soldier boy friend. They were court-martialed for kissing. She was demoted to private and transferred. He spent 14 days in the stockade. “It’s not fair,” the girls claim.”
I’d love to see a story like that today. In 1958, food was a little cheaper than today. Coffee was 79 cents a pound. Butter was 67 cents a pound and hot dogs could be bought for 39 cents a pound. Does anybody remember the Studebaker. A car that advertised 33.9 miles per gallon and this was when a gallon of gas cost about a quarter. You could buy a Studebaker for $1795. It was an automatic (which had to be mentioned in those days when everything was stick) and would easily hold 6 people.
There were only 16 teams in all of baseball. 8 in the National League and 8 in the American League. In June of 1958, San Francisco and the New York Yankees were number one in their respective leagues. Pogo, Joe Palooka and Mark Trail were comics that we read in the paper. And, of course, one of my favorites, Capt Easy was solving crimes and saving the world. On TV, we watched Wyatt Earp, Combat and Sergeant Bilko. I love the fifties and I particularly love 1958.
Here’s Sheb Wooley: