Friday, 21 June 2013

Slim Whitman - Country Singer Dies aged 90

Slim Whitman 20 Jan 1924 - 19 June 2013

An Obituary review, looking at his career highlights, International fame and UK chart success.

Slim Whitman Montage

Slim Whitman, the easy listening yodeller/singer and songwriter known for the 1952 hit "Indian Love Call," died Wednesday June 19, 2013 in Jacksonville, Fla. He was 90. His death from heart failure was confirmed by his son-in-law.
Roy Beagle, who is married to Whitman's daughter Sharon, said the singer-songwriter who was born Ottis Dewey Whitman Jr. was admitted to hospital on Tuesday."He died last night at the Orange Park hospital at about 12:45 this morning of heart failure," Beagle told Reuters. "We had a 90th birthday party for him in January and he looked good, but he had been in failing health since then."
He yodelled throughout his career and had a three-octave singing range. He said yodelling required a lot of rehearsal. "It's like a prize fighter. He knows he has a fight coming up, so he gets in the gym and trains. So when I have a show coming up, I practise yodelling."

The sweeping falsetto vocals of "Indian Love Call" (1952 - writers Herbert Stothart, Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, Rudolf Friml) helped the single sell 1 million copies, as well as reach No. 2 on the country chart. It also became a Top 10 pop hit.

His 1955 hit single "Rose Marie" >> Audio (written by Herbert Stothart, Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, Rudolf Friml) held the Guinness World Record for the longest time at number 1 (11 weeks, 30 July - Week Ending Oct 15, 1955) on the UK Singles Chart.
In the U.S., his "Indian Love Call"(1952) and "Secret Love" (1953) reached No.2 on the Billboard country chart.
In addition, the single "Rose Marie" reached the Top 5 on the country chart in 1954.


Born - 20 Jan 1924, Otis Dewey Whitman, Jr., the singer grew up in the Tampa, Fla., area. His family was musical and he became intrigued by Jimmie Rodgers' records and found that he could emulate his yodel. Because of a stammer he was unhappy at school and left as soon as he could.

1938 - At age fifteen he sang at the Church of the Brethren and there he met the new minister's daughter, Géraldine "Jerry" Crisp. They fell in love and Whitman married her two years later. After graduating from high school, Whitman took a job in a meat packing plant. He later found work during the war as a shipfitter and boilermaker at a Tampa shipyard.

1941 - Married Geraldine Crisp (She died 2009; one son, one daughter); he regarded his marriage as crucial to his success as she gave him standards he might otherwise have lacked. Despite being a country singer (and however improbable this may sound), he never sang about bar-rooms and adultery.

1943 - Joined the Navy. He was stationed on the USS Chilton in the South Pacific. It was onboard the Chilton that Whitman found a guitar and began to play. The left-handed Whitman restrung the guitar upside-down . Each week, during happy hour, he entertained the sailors by either boxing or singing. His singing was so popular that his captain blocked his transfer to another ship - fortunately for Whitman, as the other ship was sunk with all hands lost. After his discharge he was a pitcher for the Plant City Berries.

1948 - Rose to fame as a radio entertainer in his hometown. Manager Col. Tom Parker discovered him there in. Parker, who would later become famous as Elvis Presley's manager, heard Whitman on WFLA  and helped him get signed to RCA. At the beginning of Presley's career, he toured as the opening act for Slim Whitman. Whitman received $500 per show while Elvis Presley received $50. He crossed paths with Presley in July 1954 when he starred at a concert in a Memphis Park. Presley was mistakenly billed as "Ellis Presley" in one ad for the show. According to Peter Guralnick's book "Last Train to Memphis," Presley's brief, energetic turn on stage caused a wild reaction from the crowd. When Whitman came on for his performance, he told the audience: "You know, I can understand your reaction, 'cause I was standing backstage and I was enjoying it just as much as you

1949 - He recorded for RCA-Victor. After moderate success with "I'm Casting My Lasso Towards The Sky" and "Birmingham Jail".

1950 - He became a member of The Louisiana Hayride cast in Shreveport, La. in  and signed a recording contract with Imperial Records shortly afterward.

1952 – 1954 - Whitman earned eight Top 10 hits for Imperial Records. Whitman's first Top 10 country single was 1952's "Love Song of the Waterfall" >> Audio [It was rediscovered after being used in the 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind]

1955 - Whitman joined the Grand Ole Opry cast.

1957 – He appeared in the feature film Jamboree and was a frequent TV guest throughout the 1960s

1968  - He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Walkway of Stars

1971- He landed his final Top 10 singles in with "Guess Who" (No.7) and "Something Beautiful (To Remember)" at No.6

1979 - Experienced another unexpected return to the spotlight thanks to a telemarketing campaign, with sales reportedly in the millions. He filmed a television commercial to support Suffolk Marketing's release of a collection of his Greatest Hits. On the strength of the commercials, ALL MY BEST the 20 track complilation sold four million records and became the best-selling television-marketed album in history.

1980s - Career revival as a cult icon. He signed with Cleveland International Records and returned to the Top 15 with "When." He recorded two more records with Cleveland: “That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine” (No.69), and “Can't Help Falling In Love” (No.54).

1989  - Suffolk released another Whitman compilation in, entitled JUST FOR YOU.

1990s - Whitman remained a popular touring act in Europe and Australia. "Indian Love Call" also played a comical role in the 1996 film, Mars Attacks!.

1991 - Whitman told the Associated Press that he wanted to be remembered as "a nice guy." "All of a sudden, here comes a guy in a black and white suit, with a moustache and a receding hairline, playing a guitar and singing Rose Marie," "I don't think you've ever heard anything bad about me, and I'd like to keep it that way.
 I'd like my son (Bryon) to remember me as a good dad. I'd like the people to remember me as having a good voice and a clean suit."
Slim was named "International Male Vocalist" at The Wembley Festival and, in 1991, Slim and his son Byron headlined at the final Festival.

2010 - In June he released his final album of new material, TWILIGHT ON THE TRAIL (Rangeland Records; UPC 884501337724)
This album had been in the works for eight years. It was recorded at Hilltop Studios in Nashville TN. The “very cream of studio musicians” were used (Harold Bradley, Ron Oates, Jimmy Capps, Bob Mater,Jon Kornau, Andy Reiss, and Weldon Myrick).The track "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" featured his son Byron - Available on Amazon UK - CD BABY

Died – Heart failure at Orange Park Medical Center, Orange Park, Florida 19 June 2013.

Whitman wasn’t an inductee into the Country Music Hall Of Fame but he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame [1709 Vine Street] in Holland both a rose and tulip have been named after him.
Despite his international fame, Beagle [son-in-law] said Whitman was the happiest living a low-key life in Florida.
"He really enjoyed the farm and fishing more than anything else," he said.
Whitman is survived by his daughter Sharon, his son, Byron, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Whitman's wife of 67 years, Alma "Jerry" Crist Whitman (songwriter, embroiderer , daughter of a church minister) died in 2009 as a result of kidney failure.

International Fame

Although Whitman was once known as "America's Favorite Folksinger," he was more popular in Europe than in the United States, particularly in Britain where he did many tours.
He was the country singer/Lady Killer that UK country-lasses went crazy for in 1953!

The 1970 UK Slim Whitman tour was supported by four acts who had all won notable awards at the 'Great Britain's Country Music Awards Show' (where Country Fever won 'Best Group') . This was Whitman's first UK tour in 14 years and included dates at the London Palladium, Hammersmith Odeon (Apollo), Sunderland Empire and Liverpool Empire.

The 1976 tour was one of Slim's longest comprising 32 dates. Jon Derek with backing band (Jeannie Denver and the J.D. Band) were the support. Jon also compered the entire tour. On the final date at the London Palladium, Alan 'Fluff' Freeman presented Slim Whitman with a Gold disc for sales of his current album 'Happy Anniversary'.

Whitman became the first country star to top a London Palladium bill and he toured the UK on a variety bill with the comedian Tommy Trinder and specialist acts.
A young Paul McCartney saw him at the Liverpool Empire and realised he could play the guitar left-handed. Whitman couldn't play any other way because he had lost part of a finger in an accident at a meat-packing plant.
Beatle George Harrison cited Whitman as an early influence: "The first person I ever saw playing a guitar was Slim Whitman, either a photo of him in a magazine or live on television

In November 1991 he joined Bryan Adams on stage at Wembley Arena and sang "Rose Marie", which had topped the chart for a record 11 consecutive weeks. He then presented Adams with a plaque for breaking his 36 year achievement with "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”.

"I have sold 120 million records," Whitman said in interview. "Half of those could be in Europe.""We toured everywhere, Australia, New Zealand. I had a six-week tour of Africa," he added. "All that started with England."

His long-time friend, Grand Ole Opry star George Hamilton IV, credits Whitman for the rise of country music internationally.
"He was the key, pivotal figure in spreading country music internationally, long before the rest of us," Hamilton said in an interview after learning of Whitman's death.
"He was just a wonderful, gracious Southern gentleman and a dear friend. We toured together several times over there and our paths continued crossing at the Wembley Festival," he said, referring to the International Festival of Country Music at Wembley Arena.

Slim Whitman UK Charts History

UK Singles

No.1 “Rose Marie” in July 1955 (written by Herbert Stothart, Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, Rudolf Friml ).
It was the Biggest hit of the year, with 11 weeks on the top of the chart. Frankie Laine was on the receiving end of a big hit denying him a chart topper.
As 1955 was heading to a close, Jimmy Young managed a second chart topper with "The Man From Laramie” .

The 1920s operetta “Rose Marie” , which tells how a Canadian Mountie always gets his woman, was staged on Broadway in 1924, and two songs became standards, the title song and "Indian Love Call".

No.7 “Indian Love Call in July 1955  >>  Audio
No.15 “China Doll” in Sept 1955    >> Audio
No.19  Tumbling Tumbleweeds” in March 1956  (writer Bob Nolan) 
 >> Audio  
No.16  I'm A Fool” in April 1956 (writer Bob Nolan)  >> Audio
No.29  “I'm A Fool” (Re-entry) in May 1956 
No.24 “Serenade” in June 1956  (writers Nicholas Brodszky / Sammy Cahn) -
No.8  “Serenade” (Re-entry) in July 1956  
No.7 “I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen” in  April 1957 written by John Macdonald, Thomas Westendorf  (45-HLP 8403)  Audio >> Audio
No.14 “Happy Anniversary” in October 1974  >> Audio

UK Albums

THE VERY BEST OF SLIM WHITMAN (1976; LP: United Artists Records UAS 29898) ) entered the UK album charts at No.1 in 1976 – Cover Art

RED RIVER VALLEY (1977; LP: UAS 29993/ United Artists Records) was his second and final No.1 in the UK. It spent four weeks at the top of the chart in 1977 – Cover Art

HOME ON THE RANGE (1977; LP: United Artists Records UATV 30102) peaked at No.2. – Cover Art

"Rose Marie" performed Live  >> YouTube

Discography Links:

Bear Family Records - Rose Marie is a six-disc, 162-track box setCollectors Edition containing all of Slim Whitman's remastered recordings between 1949 and 1959, including all of his early sides for RCA Victor and his classic singles ("Singing Hills," "Indian Love Call," "Rose-Marie," "Love Song of the Waterfall") for Imperial Records - Amazon UK - Track Details


Download “Indian Love Call” - MP3  (192kbps)

Slim Whitman “That's How The Yodel Was Born” (Elton Britt)
 >> YouTube
Specially compiled for "The Slim Whitman Appreciation Society of Great Britain.
Pressings by Deroy. ©1974

Interesting Links
Slim Whitman Collection Double-LP Collectors Edition - Ebay
Country Music People Front Cover March 1987 Vol. 18 No.3 - Image  (Showing: Byron Whitman, Slim Whitman, Wally Whyton, George Hamilton IV)

Click here to read Alan Cackett's Slim Whitman feature first published back in 1971 in Country Music People
Country Music People 1971 Slim Whitman feature  - Original print image

Album Review
Click To View

Maverick Magazine editor Alan Cackett said on page 4 of the Jan/Feb 2003 issue - "I'd been raised on my parents' Slim Whitman records and increasingly found myself turning more and more to country music” – view the Magazine online

You can read Alan’s review (2.5 Stars) of the 2on1 CD titled “Straight From the Heart/Tomorrow Never Comes” on Page 106 - Magazine online Catalog No. BGOCD1064 – Cover Art
It’s available from - Proper

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