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Slim Whitman

Slim Whitman
Slim Whitman 1968.JPG
Whitman in 1968
Background information
Birth nameOtis Dewey Whitman Jr.
Also known asO. D. Whitman
Slim Whitman
The Smilin' Starduster
Born(1923-01-20)January 20, 1923
Oak Park, Tampa, Florida, U.S.
DiedJune 19, 2013(2013-06-19) (aged 90)
Orange Park, Florida, U.S.
GenresCountry and Western music, folk music, easy listening Contemporary Christian music
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1948–2010
LabelsRCA Victor, Imperial, London, United Artists, Epic, Suffolk, Rangehood
Associated actsByron Whitman, Virginia Lee, Harold Bradley, Elvis Presley (toured with), Chet Atkins.

Ottis Dewey Whitman Jr.[1] (January 20, 1923 – June 19, 2013), professionally known by the stage name Slim Whitman, was an American country music, western music and folk music artist singer-songwriter and instrumentalist those known for his yodeling abilities and his smooth, high, three-octave-range falsetto in a style christened as "countrypolitan". He personally stated that he had sold in excess of 120 million records, although the recorded sales figures give 70 million, during a career that spanned over seven decades, and consisted of a prolific output of over 100 albums and around 500 recorded songs, that not only consisted of country music, but also of contemporary gospel, Broadway show tunes, love songs and standards.[2] In the 1950s, Whitman toured with Elvis Presley as the opening act.[3][failed verification] In the 1990s a new generation was exposed to Whitman through his songs featured in the film Mars Attacks!; his iconic "Indian Love Call" would kill the invading Martians every time the record was played.

Popularity in Europe

Although once known as "America's Favorite Folk Singer", he was consistently more popular throughout Europe, and in particular the United Kingdom, than in his native America, especially with his covers of pop standards, film songs, love songs, folk tunes, and melodic gospel hymns. His 1955 hit single "Rose Marie" spent 11 weeks at #1 on the UK Singles Chart and held the Guinness World Record for the longest time at number one on the UK Singles Chart for 36 years until Bryan Adams broke the record in 1991 and was listed in British Hit Singles & Albums. In the US, his "Indian Love Call" (1952) and a reworking of the Doris Day hit "Secret Love" (1953) both reached No. 2 on the Billboard country chart. Whitman had a string of top ten hits from the mid-1960s and into the 1970s and became known to a new generation of fans through television direct marketing in the 1980s. Throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, he continued to tour extensively around the world and after several years of non-studio recording, produced a new album (his final recording) Twilight on the Trail released in 2010


Early life

Whitman was born in Oak Park, Tampa, Florida, on January 20, 1923,[4][5][6] one of six siblings[citation needed], to Ottis Dewey Whitman Sr. (1896-1961)and Lucy Whitman (née Mahon) (1903–1987). Growing up, he liked the country music of Jimmie Rodgers and the songs of Gene Autry, but he did not embark on a musical career of his own until the end of World War II, after he had served in the South Pacific with the United States Navy. While aboard ship he would sing and entertain members aboard. This resulted in the captain blocking his transfer to another ship—hence saving his life, as the other ship later sank with all hands lost. Whitman's early ambitions were to become either a boxer or a professional baseball player.

Early career

Whitman was a self-taught left-handed guitarist, though he was right-handed. He had lost almost all of the second finger on his left hand in an accident while working at a meat packing plant.[7] He worked odd jobs at a Tampa shipyard while developing a musical career, eventually performing with bands known as the Variety Rhythm Boys and the Light Crust Doughboys. He was briefly nicknamed The Smiling Starduster after a stint with a group called The Stardusters. Whitman's first big break came when talent manager "Colonel" Thomas Parker heard him singing on the radio and offered to represent him.[7] After signing with RCA Records,[7] he was billed as "the cowboy singer Slim Whitman", after Canadian singer Wilf Carter, who was known in the United States as Montana Slim. Whitman released his first single in 1948, "I'm Casting My Lasso Towards The Sky", complete with yodel. He toured and sang in a variety of venues, including the radio show Louisiana Hayride.

At first he was unable to make a living from music, and kept a part-time job at a post office. That changed in the early 1950s after he recorded a version of the Bob Nolan hit "Love Song of the Waterfall", which made it into the country music top ten.[4] His next single, "Indian Love Call", taken from the light operetta Rose-Marie, was even more successful, reaching number two in the country music charts and appearing in the US pop music chart's top ten.[4]

Hit Recordings

A yodeller, Whitman avoided country music's "down on yer luck, buried in booze" songs, preferring instead to sing laid-back romantic melodies about simple life and love. Critics dubbed his style "countrypolitan," owing to its fusion of country music and a more sophisticated crooning vocal style.[8] Although he recorded many country and western tunes, including hits "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", "Singing Hills", and "The Cattle Call", love and romance songs like "Serenade", "Something Beautiful (to remember)", and "Keep It a Secret" figured prominently in his repertoire.

Rose Marie, Red River Valley (album) and Home on the Range (album)

In 1955 he would have a No.1 hit on the pop music charts in the United Kingdom with the theme song to the operetta "Rose Marie." With nineteen weeks in the charts and eleven weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart,[9] the song set a record that lasted for 36 years. In 1956 he became the first-ever country music singer to perform at the London Palladium.[10] Soon after, 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 other hits during the 1950s.[9] Throughout the early 1970s, he continued to record and was a guest on Wolfman Jack's television show The Midnight Special.[10] At the time, Whitman's recording efforts were yielding only minor hits in the US. The mid-1970s were a successful time for Whitman in the UK Albums Chart. In 1976 a compilation album, The Very Best of Slim Whitman, was number one for six weeks, staying seventeen weeks on the chart. Another number one album followed in 1977 with Red River Valley: four weeks at number one and fourteen weeks on the chart. Later the same year his album Home on the Range made number 2 on the chart and amassed a chart stay of thirteen weeks, only to be kept from the top place by 20 Golden Greats by the Supremes.[9][11]

TV marketing

The TV albums briefly made Whitman a household name in America for the first time in his career, resulting in everything from a first-time appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson to Whitman being parodied in a comic skit on SCTV with him (played by Joe Flaherty) starring in the Che-like male lead in an Evita-like Broadway musical on the life of Indira Gandhi. More importantly, the TV albums gave him a brief resurgence in mainstream country music with new album releases on major labels and a few new singles on the country charts. During this time he toured Europe and Australia with moderate success.

False obituary

On January 20, 2008, on what was, coincidentally, Whitman's 85th birthday, a premature obituary believed to have been started by an erroneous report was published by the Nashville Tennessean newspaper and later picked up virally on the newspaper's website.[12]

Twilight on the Trail

Whitman released studio album "Angeline" in 1984, after which he continued to tour although many compilation of Whitman's recording appeared after this, it would be some 18 years before he would head back to the studio in 2002, and after 8 years in production, Whitman would release one final album "Twilight on the Trail" featuring western standards such as Gene Autrys hit Back in the Saddle Again and the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans television theme song. It was produced by his son Byron Whitman and featured many well-known session musicians, including long-time band member Harold Bradley.[10]

Personal life

After 1957 Whitman lived at his estate, Woodpecker Paradise, in Middleburg, a city located south of Orange Park, Florida, in Clay County.[13][14]

In 2009 Whitman's wife of 67 years, Alma Geraldine "Jerry" Crist Whitman, born in Kansas, died at the age of 84. She was a songwriter and embroiderer, daughter of church minister A.D. Crist. Together they had a daughter, Sharron Beagle (b. 1942), and a son, Byron Keith Whitman (b. 1957). They also had two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[15] Byron is a performer and music producer, has released a number of recordings, and toured and recorded with his father on numerous occasions.

Slim Whitman died of heart failure[16] on June 19, 2013, at age 90, surrounded by family at Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park, Florida.[17][18]


For his contribution to the recording industry, Slim Whitman was given the accolade of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1709 Vine Street.[19]


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. Guitars were definitely coming in."[20] When a young Paul McCartney purchased his first guitar, the left-handed musician was unsure how to play an instrument that was manufactured and strung for a right-handed player. It was not until McCartney saw a picture of Whitman playing left-handed that he re-strung his guitar so that he too could play left-handed.[21][22] American pop singer Michael Jackson cited Whitman as one of his ten favorite vocalists.[23]

The 1996 film Mars Attacks! features Whitman's rendition of "Indian Love Call" as a weapon against alien invaders.[10][24] In 2003, Rob Zombie used Whitman's version of "I Remember You" in his movie directorial debut in House of 1000 Corpses.[10]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country US UK[25]
1954 America's Favorite Folk Artist Imperial
Slim Whitman and His Singing Guitar London
1956 Slim Whitman and His Singing Guitar - Vol. 2
Slim Whitman Sings Imperial
1959 My Best to You
Country Favorites
1960 I'll Walk with God
Songs of the Old Waterwheel
1961 I'll Never Stop Loving You
Just Call Me Lonesome
Cool Water
Annie Laurie
Once in a Lifetime
1962 Forever
Heart Songs & Love Songs
I'm a Lonely Wanderer
1963 Yodeling
Country Songs / City Hits
Irish Songs the Slim Whitman Way
1964 All-Time Favorites
1965 Love Song of the Waterfall 20
More Than Yesterday (More Country Songs & City Hits) 28
1966 God's Hand in Mine
A Travelin' Man
I'll Walk with God
A Time for Love
1967 15th Anniversary Album 25
Country Memories 42
1968 In Love the Whitman Way 16
Happy Street 34
1969 Slim!
Christmas Album
1970 Tomorrow Never Comes United Artists
1971 Guess Who 31
It's a Sin to Tell a Lie 23
1972 The Best of Slim Whitman
1973 I'll See You When
25th Anniversary Concert
1974 Happy Anniversary 44
1975 Everything Leads Back to You 42
The Very Best of Slim Whitman 1
1976 Red River Valley 1
1977 Home on the Range 2
1978 Ghost Riders in the Sky 27
1979 Slim Whitman's 20 Greatest Love Songs 18
1980 Till We Meet Again
Songs I Love to SingA 25 175 Cleveland Int'l
Christmas with Slim Whitman 47 184
1981 Mr. Songman
I'll Be Home for Christmas
1984 Angeline
1988 Magic Moments (compilation)
1989 Best Loved Favorites (compilation)
1991 20 Precious Memories (compilation)
Cowpoke (compilation) EMI
1997 The Very Best of Slim Whitman – 50th Anniversary Collection (compilation) 54
1998 The Legendary Slim Whitman – Traditional Country (compilation)
2010 Twilight on the Trail (compilation)
  • ASongs I Love to Sing also peaked at No. 24 on the RPM Country Albums chart in Canada.


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US UK[25] CAN Country
1949 "I'm Casting My Lasso Towards the Sky" singles only
"Please Paint a Rose on the Garden Wall"
"I'll Never Pass This Way Again"
"Birmingham Jail" 15
1950 "Restless Heart"
"Wabash Waltz"
1952 "Love Song of the Waterfall" 10 America's Favorite Folk Artist
"Bandera Waltz"
"In a Hundred Years or More" single only
"Indian Love Call" / 2 9 7 Favorites
/ "China Doll" 15
"An Amateur in Love"
"Keep It a Secret" 3
"My Heart Is Broken in Three" 10 America's Favorite Folk Artist
1953 "All That I'm Asking Is Sympathy" Slim Whitman Sings
"Song of the Old Waterwheel" America's Favorite Folk Artist
"There's a Rainbow in Every Teardrop" singles only
"Danny Boy"
"North Wind" 8
"Lord, Help Me Be as Thou"
1954 "Secret Love" 2 Favorites
"Rose Marie" 4 1
"Beautiful Dreamer"
"Singing Hills" 4 single only
1955 "The Cattle Call" 11 Favorites
"Roll on Silvery Moon" Slim Whitman Sings
"I'll Never Stop Loving You" singles only
"Song of the Wild"
1956 "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" 19 Slim Whitman Sings
"I'm a Fool" 14 16
"Serenade" 8
"Whiffenpoof Song" singles only
"Smoke Signals"
1957 "Careless Love"
"I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" 93 7 Slim Whitman Sings
"Unchain My Heart" Country Favorites
"Careless Hands" My Best to You
1958 "Candy Kisses"
"Put Your Trust in Me"
"At the End of Nowhere"
1959 "I Never See Maggie Alone"
"Tree in the Meadow"
"A Fool Such as I"
"Roll River Roll" Cool Water
1960 "I'll Walk with God" I'll Walk with God
"Wind" Cool Water
"Ramona" Just Call Me Lonesome
1961 "Just Call Me Lonesome"
"The Bells That Broke My Heart" 30
"Once in a Lifetime" Cool Water
"The Old Spinning Wheel" Annie Laurie
"It Sure Looks Lonesome Outside"
1962 "Annie Laurie"
"Backward, Turn Backward" I'm a Lonely Wanderer
"Blues Stay Away from Me" Heart Songs & Love Songs
"The Wayward Wind" Sings
1963 "Love Letters in the Sand"
"So Long Mary" All-Time Favorites
"Broken Down Merry-Go-Round"
"My Wild Irish Rose" Irish Songs the Slim Whitman Way
"Maria Lena" single only
1964 "Tell Me Pretty Words" 48 All-Time Favorites
"I'll Hold You in My Heart" Country Songs / City Hits
"Virginia" Love Song of the Waterfall
1965 "Reminiscing"A Reminiscing
"More Than Yesterday" 8 More Than Yesterday
(More Country Songs & City Hits)
"The Twelfth of Never" 17
1966 "I Remember You" 49 134 A Travelin' Man
"One Dream" 54 A Time for Love
1967 "What's This World A-Comin' To" 56
"I'm a Fool" 61 15th Anniversary Album
"The Keeper of the Key" 65 Country Memories
1968 "Rainbows Are Back in Style" 17 6 In Love the Whitman Way
"Happy Street" 22 10 Happy Street
"Livin' On Lovin' (And Lovin' Livin' with You)" 43
1969 "My Happiness" 43
"Irresistible" 61 Slim
1970 "Tomorrow Never Comes" 27 Tomorrow Never Comes
"Shutters and Boards" 26
1971 "Guess Who" 7 121 5 Guess Who
"Something Beautiful (To Remember)" 6 23 It's a Sin to Tell a Lie
"It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" 21
"Loveliest Night of the Year" 56
1972 "Little Drops of Silver" single only
"(It's No) Sin" 51 The Best of Slim Whitman
1973 "Hold Me" 73 I'll See You When
"Where the Lilacs Grow" 88
1974 "It's All in the Game" 82 Happy Anniversary
"Happy Anniversary" 14
"Foolish Question" I'll See You When
1975 "Everything Leads Back to You" Everything Leads Back to You
"Mexicali Rose"
1977 "Red River Valley" Red River Valley
1980 "Where is the Christ in Christmas" Christmas with Slim Whitman
"When" 15 17 Songs I Love to Sing
"That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine" 69
"I Remember You" (re-recording) 44
1981 "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" 54 Mr. Songman
"If I Had My Life to Live Over"
"My Melody of Love"
1984 "Cry Baby Heart" Angeline
  • A "Reminiscing" peaked at No. 4 on the RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks chart in Canada.

Soundtrack appearances




  1. ^ "Slim Whitman, a country singer, had a distinctive high-pitched yodel". Christian Science Monitor. June 19, 2013. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  2. ^ Martin, Douglas (June 19, 2013). "Slim Whitman, Yodeling Country Singer With a Regular-Guy Image, Dies at 90". Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  3. ^ Reaney, Patricia (June 19, 2013). "Legendary country singer Slim Whitman dead at 89". Reuters. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (June 19, 2013). "Slim Whitman obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  5. ^ Terry Spencer, Slim Whitman Dead: Country Singer Dies At Age 90, Huffington Post, 19 June 2013
  6. ^ "Slim Whitman: A Living Legend on the First Coast". May 17, 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas (June 19, 2013). "Slim Whitman, Yodeling Country Singer With a Regular-Guy Image, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  8. ^ "Slim Whitman". Daily Telegraph. London. June 19, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  9. ^ a b c "Slim Whitman". Official UK Charts. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Slim Whitman, US country singer, dies at 90". BBC News. June 20, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. HIT Entertainment.
  12. ^ Treen, Dana (January 24, 2008). "Singer says rumors that he is dead aren't true". The Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville.
  13. ^ "Slim Whitman's Home and property ("Woodpecker Paradise")". Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  14. ^ "Many of the area's music landmarks no longer exist". The Florida Times. July 5, 1998. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  15. ^ "Wife of Slim Whitman dies at 84". Jacksonville.
  16. ^ Spencer, Terry (June 19, 2013). Slim Whitman Dead: Country Singer Dies At Age 90. The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  17. ^ "Country singer Slim Whitman, 90, dies overnight". First Coast News. Archived from the original on June 21, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  18. ^ Bortzfield, Bill (June 19, 2013). Local country star Slim Whitman has died. The Florida Times Union. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  19. ^ Martin, Douglas (June 19, 2013). "Slim Whitman, Yodeling Country Singer With a Regular-Guy Image, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  20. ^ Harrison, George (2000). The Beatles Anthology. New York: Chronicle Books. p. 28.
  21. ^ Miles 1997, p. 21.
  22. ^ Larkin, Colin (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music: Slim Whitman entry. Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-726-6
  23. ^ Marsh, Dave; Bernard, James (1994). The New Book of Rock Lists. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 362.
  24. ^ "1923–2013: Country star Slim Whitman of Middleburg has died". Jacksonville. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  25. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 600. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  26. ^ "Slim Whitman". Retrieved October 29, 2019.

External links

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