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Purple People Eater: Wikis


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"The Purple People Eater"
Single by Sheb Wooley
B-side I Can't Believe You're Mine
Released June 1958
Format 7 inch 45 R.P.M.
Genre Pop/Novelty
Length 2:11
Label MGM
Writer(s) Sheb Wooley
Sheb Wooley chronology
"I Found Me an Angel" / "So Close to Heaven"
"The Purple People Eater" / "I Can't Believe You're Mine"
"The Chase" / "Monkey Jive"

"The Purple People Eater" is a novelty song, written and performed by Sheb Wooley, that reached #1 in the Billboard pop charts in 1958.

"The Purple People Eater" tells how a strange monster (described as a "one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater") descends to earth because it wants to be in a rock 'n' roll band. The premise of the song came from a joke told by the child of a friend of Wooley's; Wooley finished composing it within an hour.[1]

The monster isn't necessarily purple but rather it is purple people that the monster eats, as shown in the following excerpt:

"I said Mr Purple People Eater, what's your line?
He said eating purple people, and it sure is fine
But that's not the reason that I came to land
I wanna get a job in a rock 'n roll band"

The ambiguity of the song was present when it was originally played on the radio. In responses to requests from radio DJs, listeners drew pictures that show a "people eater" colored purple.[1]

The voice of the purple people eater is a sped up recording, giving it a voice similar to, but not quite as high-pitched or as fast, as Ross Bagdasarian's "Witch Doctor", another hit from earlier in 1958; and "The Chipmunk Song" which was released late in 1958. (The Chipmunks themselves eventually covered "Purple People Eater".) The sound of a toy saxophone was produced in a similar fashion as the saxophone was originally played at a reduced speed.[1]

The song invokes phrases from several other hit songs from that era: "Short Shorts", by The Royal Teens, and "Tequila", by The Champs, both from earlier in 1958; and "Tutti Frutti" from 1955.

The Sheb Wooley version crossed to the Billboard R&B listings, and while it did not make Billboard's country chart, it reached #4 on the Cashbox country listing.



The enduring popularity of the song led to the nicknaming of the highly effective Minnesota Vikings defensive line of the 1970s, whose team colors include purple.[5]

The character was used as the basis for a feature film in 1988, with an all-star cast ranging from Neil Patrick Harris, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ned Beatty, Shelley Winters, and (a very young) Thora Birch, to musicians like Little Richard, Chubby Checker, and Wooley himself.

Cover versions

The following artists have covered the song:


  1. ^ a b c "Purple, Man, Purple". Time. July 7, 1958.,9171,863580,00.html. Retrieved July 1, 2009.  
  2. ^ [1]Behrends, Ehrhard, "Five minute mathematics." AMS Bookstore, 2008. ISBN 0821843486, 9780821843482. Page 77. Discusses this article, and notes lack of associativity in English.Retrieved April 24, 2009
  3. ^ [2]Pulfer, Mike, "Ask a stupid question." Cincinnati Enquirer, March 25, 2002. Says it should have been written "purple-people eater" to make clearer the apparent intent that "purple" refers to the people eaten. Retrieved April 24, 2009
  4. ^ "Some records are meant to make you bust a gut." Beaumont Enterprise, June 7, 2002 (Newwsbank Article ID: 0206070061, subscription) Says the "flying purple people eater... ate purple people." Retrieved April 24, 2009
  5. ^ "The Purple People Eaters". Bob Lurtsema's Viking Update. Retrieved July 1, 2009.  
  6. ^

External links

Preceded by
"All I Have to Do Is Dream" by The Everly Brothers
Billboard Top 100 number-one single (Sheb Wooley version)
June 9, 1958 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Yakety Yak" by The Coasters

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