Though he was once known as "America's Favorite Folksinger," Slim Whitman was, for the majority of his career, more famous in Europe than in the United States. Best remembered for his early-'50s hit singles like "Love Song of the Waterfall," "Indian Love Call," and "Singing Hills," Whitman was an excellent yodeler known for singing mellow, romantic and clean-cut songs.
As a child, Slim Whitman (born Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr.) became infatuated with music and learned to yodel listening to Montana Slim and Jimmie Rodgers records. At age 17, he married 15-year-old Geraldine Crist, a preacher's daughter. The newlyweds moved to a 40-acre farm south of Jacksonville, FL, where Whitman worked as a meat packer. While working in the plant, he suffered an accident and lost two fingers on his left hand. After the accident, he began working in a Tampa shipyard. During World War II, Whitman served in the US Navy, where he learned to play guitar. Following the war, he returned to the shipyard and also joined a local minor-league baseball team, the Plant City Berries. Whitman remained with the team through 1948, but then began building a singing career at several Tampa radio stations, eventually creating a back-up band, the Variety Rhythm Boys.
Slim Whitman got his first big break after Colonel Tom Parker -- who was managing Eddy Arnold at the time -- heard him singing on radio station WFLA. Parker landed a contract with RCA for Whitman by the end of 1948. After reluctantly complying with the label's request to change his first name to "Slim," he released his first single, "I'm Casting My Lasso Towards the Sky" -- eventually to become his theme song. He made his national debut on the Mutual Network's Smokey Mountain Hayride in the summer of 1949, and the following year joined the Louisiana Hayride. Despite his national exposure, Whitman's career wasn't making much of an impact and he was forced to take a job as a part-time mailman.
In the early '50s, he released a cover of Bob Nolan's "Love Song of the Waterfall," which became his breakthrough hit, peaking at number ten on the country charts; the follow-up single, "Indian Love Call," made him a star, peaking at number two on the country charts and crossing over into the pop Top Ten. Both sides of his next single -- "Keep It a Secret" / "My Heart Is Broken in Three" -- were also major hits and he continued to have a string of Top Ten hits into the mid-'50s. In 1955, his title song for the film Rose-Marie became a smash on both sides of the Atlantic; following its success, Whitman joined the Grand Ole Opry, and then went to Britain in 1956 as the first country singer to play the London Palladium. Throughout the late '50s and early '60s, he had a string of British hits, including "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Unchain My Heart," and "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen."
Although he was experiencing great success in the UK, Whitman's career was in neutral in the US. After 1954's "Singing Hills," he had only two Top 40 hits in the course of a decade. In 1965, he bounced back into the country Top Ten with "More Than Yesterday." For the next few years, he had a series of minor country hits, including "Rainbows Are Back in Style" (1968), "Happy Street" (1968) and "Tomorrow Never Comes" (1970). Throughout the early '70s, he continued to have minor hits, but in 1974, he retired from active recording.
In 1979, Whitman 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 sold four million records and became the best-selling television-marketed album in history. After its success, the label released Just for You in 1980 and The Best in 1982. Between 1980 and 1984, Whitman had a small run of minor hits, highlighted by 1980's number 15 hit, "When." In the late '80s, he returned to television-marketed albums, releasing Slim Whitman -- Best Loved Favorites in 1989 and 20 Precious Memories in 1991. During the '90s, Whitman recorded infrequently but continued to tour successfully, particularly in Europe and Australia. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Music Guide
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Birth name||Ottis Dewey Whitman|
|Born||20 January 1924|
|Origin||Tampa, Florida, U.S.|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, vocalist, songwriter|
|Label(s)||RCA Records, Imperial Records, Suffolk Records|
Slim Whitman (born January 20, 1924 in Tampa, Florida) is an American country music singer and songwriter. Whitman lives in Middleburg, Florida.
Born Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr., he is one of the best-selling and most influential artists in country music history and yet at the same time is one of the most unrecognized by the American public at large. Growing up, Whitman liked the country music of Jimmie Rodgers that he was hearing on the radio but did not embark on a musical career until the end of World War II after he had served in the South Pacific with the United States Navy.
Whitman is a self taught left-handed guitarist. Whitman is right-handed, but he lost almost all of the second finger on his left hand in an accident. Ottis Whitman worked at a shipyard in Tampa while developing a musical career, eventually performing with a band known as the "Variety Rhythm Boys". Whitman's first big break came when agent Colonel Tom Parker heard him singing on the radio and offered to represent him. Signed with RCA Records, he was billed as the cowboy singer, "Slim Whitman" and released his first single in 1948. He toured and sang at a variety of venues including on the popular radio show, the Louisiana Hayride.
Nevertheless, he was not able to make a living from music and had to keep a part-time job. That changed in the early 1950s after he recorded a version of the Bob Nolan hit "Love Song of the Waterfall" that made it into the country music Top 10 chart. His next single, "Indian Love Call", was even more successful, going to the No.2 position. (It was used in the 1996 film "Mars Attacks!" as Whit's yodeling and lilting melodies proves fatal to the invading Martians and "saves" the world.)
A yodeler, Whitman avoided the "down on yer luck-buried in booze" songs, preferring instead to sing laid-back romantic melodies about simple life and love. Critics dubbed his musical style "countrypolitan," due to its fusion of country music and a more sophisticated crooner vocal style.
In 1955, in the United Kingdom, he had a No.1 hit on the pop music charts with "Rose Marie". With eleven weeks at the top of the charts, the song set a record that lasted for thirty-six years. Soon after recording this big hit, Whitman was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry and in 1957, along with other musical stars, he appeared in the film musical, Jamboree. Despite this exposure, he never achieved the level of stardom in the United States that he did in Britain, where he had a number of hits during the 1950s and 60s. Throughout the early 1970s, he continued to record and was a guest on Wolfman Jack's musical television show, The Midnight Special. At the time, Whitman's recording efforts were yielding only minor hits and in 1974, he stopped making new records.
In 1979, Whitman filmed a TV commercial to support Suffolk Marketing's release of a greatest hits compilation, titled All My Best, which went on to be the best-selling TV-marketed record in music history, with almost 1.5 million units sold. Just For You (also under the Suffolk umbrella), followed in 1980, with a commercial that claimed Whitman "was number one in England longer than Elvis and The Beatles". The Best followed in 1982, with Whitman concluding his TV marketing with Best Loved Favorites in 1989, and 20 Precious Memories in 1991. During this time he would tour Europe and Australia with moderate success.
On the strength of his hearty success with the Suffolk recordings, Whitman was briefly considered as a replacement for John Lennon for a series of Beatles reunion concerts in 1981 commemorating Lennon's passing. This plan was abandoned when both Paul McCartney and George Harrison opted for individual responses instead.
For his contribution to the recording industry, Slim Whitman has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1709 Vine Street. In 2003, Rob Zombie used his song "I Remember You" in his directorial debut House of 1000 Corpses.
In late January 2008, a false rumor of Mr. Whitman's death spread through the internet, believed to have been started by an erroneous report posted on the website of the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. Upon learning of the rumor, country singer George Hamilton IV even dedicated and sang a hymn in Whitman's honor at a concert appearance.