Who was/is Sheb Wooley ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more


Sheb Wooley was born Shelby Wooley on April 10, 1921 in Erick, near the Texas border in western Oklahoma, halfway between Oklahoma City and Amarillo on Route 66. He took to music at an early age. "My dad could play a little fiddle and guitar," he recalls (a late forties' Calumet publicity blurb calls Bill Wooley "a famous old-time fiddle player"). "He could read music and sang bass in quartets."  By his mid-teens, influenced particularly by the nascent western swing of Tulsa-based and up-and-coming star Bob Wills, and by the decidedly different country music he heard on Grand Ole Opry broadcasts, he was writing songs and formed a band, the Plainview Melody Boys, which broadcast on the nearest radio station, KASA in Elk City, sponsored by a local hatchery. He describes the band as "five flat-tops and a banjo. I still remember the theme: ‘Now, if you like the way the Melody Boys play/Send us a card today, K-A-S-A.' " 


In 1940, Wooley married Melva Miller, whose cousin, raised by her father Elmer, was Roger Miller (b. 1936). Although he was married to Melva only a short time – she was the first of Wooley’s five wives – he would have a major impact on Roger's own musical development. "He was always around the house -- just like the little brother," Wooley remembers. "And Mr. Miller said that, ‘All Roger ever wanted to do was be like Sheb.' " After a stay on the West Coast, Wooley returned to Oklahoma and headed east as World War II came to and end. At a time when an ambitious Southwestern musician would more likely head to the bustling West Coast, Wooley opted instead for Nashville. 


"I listened to the Grand Ole Opry, " he says. "I was very much influenced by Bob Wills, but I liked the Grand Ole Opry music that they were doing down here. I liked Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Eddy Arnold -- those boys. I just saw myself as a songwriter and there were more of 'em here than on the West Coast. I had written some songs and I wanted to show 'em around. I'd made some little old home discs...I didn't know if I could write a song, but I brought 'em down to Nashville and I played 'em for Ernest Tubb. He listened to a lot of 'em for me and he said, ‘You know, you can make it as a songwriter. You got one song in here I would record, but Red Foley's got one out that's pretty close.' But that's all I needed was just a little bit of encouragement. He said, ‘I like your writing,' so that was enough for me, kept me going for several more years."


Wooley's first trip to Nashville was brief -- he managed a few guest appearances on WSM's Saturday Noontime Neighbors broadcast -- but he made some important contacts. Back in Oklahoma, he got a call from Jim Bulleit. "Jim Bulleit was head of Artists' Service at WSM -- they charged 15% for booking anybody who was on the Opry, took 15% whether they booked it or not. And Jim was doing that, and I met him then. Shortly after that he got caught in a smash, where he'd booked something at one price and reported it at another price -- he was raking some off the top for himself. So they let him go. And he told me then that he was gonna form a record company. I went back to Oklahoma and he called me one day, said, ‘I got a show I want you to do.' And I came down to Nashville."


Bulleit wanted Wooley to be a performing manager for a traveling troupe that he had booked throughout the Southeast. "He put together a show called Mountain Scandals," Wooley explains. "We had thirteen people on it and we all got in this old stretch-out, with the luggage stretched to the sky, about. You couldn't buy new tires -- it was right after the war. I averaged a blowout every fifty miles -- an awful lot of blowouts when you consider we toured North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and back up into Tennessee on a circuit they called the Kemp Time circuit. We played a bunch of theaters. I'd send him a check every week for eight hundred or a thousand bucks, something like that, whatever the profit was, and I didn't take anything for myself -- he told me to do that. He said, ‘Send it to me and I'll put it in an escrow account.' I didn't know what an escrow account was, but I just said all right. And I got back here, I figured I had about $3,500 or $4,000 coming, something like that. But he gave me $500, said, ‘Boy, that advertising is very expensive.' So, I guess he thought he owed me something. So he said, ‘I'm gonna put you on record.' So we did. I made the first Bullet record."


Much of what Wooley recorded from 1956 to the end of the decade has been collected in ‘Purple People Eater’ and ‘Wild And Wooley, Big Unruly Me’ -- pop like Do I Remember and quasi-rock like Let The Big Wind Blow, for example -- but the two examples here from Wooley's final 1956 session, his last before men like Speedy West and Billy Liebert disappeared from his dates in favor of pop and jazz sessionmen like Bob Bain, Jack Marshall and Red Callender, show the extent to which he was moving away from country at this time. Although The Lonely Man is western-themed lyrically (he would rerecord it for his ‘Rawhide’ album in 1960) , it was still essentially a pop song and performance for a pop audience, and it is particularly odd to hear the thirty-five-year old Wooley, whose deep and sometimes doughy voice often sounded even older than he was, croon the teen lyrics to First Day Of School, with saccharine backing. 

Excerpts From the booklet BCD15902 - Sheb Wooley - That's My Pa  Read more at: h Copyright © Bear Family Records

Read more at:

Copyright © Bear Family Records

Read more at:
Copyright © Bear Family Records


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