Billy Edd Wheeler

Induction Year: 2000

Birth Name: Billy Edd Wheeler

Birth Date: 12-09-1932

Place of Birth: Whitesville, West Virginia

Billy Edd Wheeler is known as a country recording artist and the writer of country hits for Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr. and others. But songwriting is only one facet of this renaissance artist's life. Wheeler has been a poet and storyteller, a Navy pilot, a playwright, a teacher, a painter, a novelist, a humor writer and a magazine editor. Like Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein, he seemed capable of fulfilling any creative pursuit at any point in his life.

Wheeler was born in Whitesville, West Virginia. He studied at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina and graduated from Berea College in Kentucky in 1955. In 1958, Pat Boone recorded Wheeler's "Rock Boll Weevil," a song that fused the cotton-ruining boll weevil of blues and folk traditions with the then-burgeoning rock & roll craze. Wheeler decided not to put all of his efforts into rock & roll, instead working as an editor at magazine Mountain Life and Work, and training as a Navy pilot. He taught at Berea after his two years in the Navy, then studied drama at Yale before moving to New York to write plays and songs.

The top new folk group in the land, the Kingston Trio, took Wheeler's "The Reverend Mr. Black" to #4 on the Billboard pop chart in 1963, and Wheeler was soon in favor with folk and country audiences. His own version of the wry "Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back" became the rare country hit devoted to an outhouse: "Now it was not a castle fair, but I could dream a future there," he sang, in a song later included on Bobby Bare's groundbreaking 1967 concept album, A Bird Named Yesterday.

Wheeler didn't follow "Little Brown Shack" with any other big solo hits, but he fared well writing songs for others. His notables include "Jackson" for Johnny Cash and June Carter, "Coward of the County" for Kenny Rogers, "Gimme Back My Blues" for Jerry Reed and "Blistered" for Cash.

Wheeler has composed eight plays and musicals, six books of humor, two novels and plenty of other works. He's a member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, and he has honorary Doctor of Human Letters degrees from Berea College and Warren Wilson College.

"200 Lbs. O'Slingin' Hound"

Billy Edd Wheeler1972 #71 country

"A Baby Again"

Hank Williams Jr.1969 #16 country


Johnny Cash1969 #4 country, #50 pop

"Coward of the County"

(written with Roger Bowling)

Kenny Rogers1979 #1 country, #3 pop


(written with Jerry Duncan, Betty Gibson)

Billy Edd Wheeler with Rashell Richmond1981 #55 country

"Desert Pete"

Kingston Trio1963 #33 pop, #12 adult contemporary

"Fried Chicken and a Country Tune"

Billy Edd Wheeler1969 #62 country

"Gimme Back My Blues"

Jerry Reed1978 #14 country

"High Flyin' Bird"

Judy Henske1963 
Richie Havens1967 

"I Ain't the Worryin' Kind"

Billy Edd Wheeler1968 #63 country

"It's Midnight"

(written with Jerry Chesnut)

Elvis Presley1974 


(written with Jerry Leiber)

Johnny Cash & June Carter1967 #2 country
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood1967 #14 pop

"Long Arm of the Law"

(written with Roger Bowling)

Kenny Rogers1980 
Roger Bowling1980 #52 country

"Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back"

Billy Edd Wheeler1965 #3 country, #50 pop
Bobby Bare1967 

"Rock Boll Weevil"

Pat Boone1958 

"The Coming of the Roads"

Judy Collins1965 
Johnny Darrell & Anita Carter1969 #50 country
Peter, Paul & Mary1990 
Kathy Mattea2008 

"The Reverend Mr. Black"

(written with Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)

Kingston Trio1963 #4 pop
Johnny Cash1981 

"West Virginia Women"

Billy Edd Wheeler1969 #51 country

"Winter Sky"

Judy Collins1964 

Billy Edd Wheeler

Induction Year: 2000