"The Purple People Eater" is a song written and performed by Sheb Wooley, which is the novelty song to end all novelty songs. It's one of the few rare cases where a pure novelty made it to #1 on the charts, for one thing. It's also unusually long-lived, popping up again and again in cartoons, TV commercials, YouTube videos, and film soundtracks.
The song is notable for a confused impression people tend to get from it, which may be intentional. The creature's full description is "a one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater," but the lyrics make it clear that this is a creature who eats purple people. Yet whenever anyone is asked to depict the figure, they invariably make the creature itself purple, suggesting that it will eat people of any old color. It's a natural impression to get considering the hail of adjectives. Incidentally, we also know that it isn't a one-eyed creature who eats "one-horned flying purple people," because the lyrics also have the creature "playing rock 'n' roll music through the horn in his head," and also it is the creature, itself, who flies because the lyrics say it "came down to Earth and lit in a tree."
The song got its own Disney Channel film in 1988 with Purple People Eater, in which a young boy plays the song and accidentally summons the creature itself, who then befriends him on an adventure. Neil Patrick Harris plays the boy, who later went on to play Doogie Howser M.D..
The song was used in the soundtracks for the films Contact (1997), Parents (1989), and Monsters vs Aliens (2009).
The same technique used to make the high voices (speeding up the recording - especially successful for The Chipmunks), is also used to produce the tinny sounding saxophone solo at the end.
The song shouts out to current novelty hits of the time, such as The Royal Teens' "Short Shorts
" and The Champs' "Tequila
Apparently, the creature is also a fan of Little Richard, as he sings something resembling "Tutti Frutti
" about 1:30 in.
This was Sheb Wooley's only Hot 100 hit; however, he also scored a #1 on the country charts with "That's My Pa" and many double-digit charting singles otherwise. His music career lasted about 15 years, and besides that he was also an accomplished actor of both TV and film. He always played in westerns.