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Slim Whitman

Slim Whitman

Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr. (January 20, 1923 – June 19, 2013), known professionally as Slim Whitman, was an American country music and western music singer, songwriter and instrumentalist known for his yodeling abilities and his smooth high three octave range falsetto. He stated that he had sold in excess of 120 million records. In the 1950s Whitman toured with Elvis Presley.Although once known as Americas 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" 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 "Secret Love" (1953) both reached number two on the Billboard country chart. Whitman had a string of 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 release new material, Whitman garnered a new generation of fans when his music was featured in the 1996 film Mars Attacks!, in which every time an old lady (played by Sylvia Sidney) and her resourceful grandson (Lukas Haas) plays his music, the heads of the invading aliens explode. His last album, Twilight on the Trail, produced by his son Byron Whitman was a cover of western standards including the Gene Autry single Back in the Saddle Again and was released in 2010.BiographyWhitman was born Ottis Dewey Whitman Jr, in Tampa, Florida, on January 20, 1923. 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.Whitman, a self-taught left-handed guitarist was right-handed, but he had lost almost all of the second finger on his left hand in an accident. He worked at a Tampa shipyard while developing a musical career, eventually performing with a band known as the Variety Rhythm Boys. Whitman's first big break came when talent manager "Colonel" Thomas Parker heard him singing on the radio and offered to represent him. After signing 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 radio show Louisiana Hayride.At first, he was not able to make a living from music and kept 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, which made it into the country music top ten. His next single, "Indian Love Call," was even more successful, reaching number two in the country music charts and appearing in the pop music charts top ten in the US.A yodeller, 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 style "countrypolitan," owing to its fusion of country music and a more sophisticated crooning vocal style. Although he recorded many western tunes, love and romance songs figured prominently in his repertoire.In 1955 in the United Kingdom, he had a No.1 hit on the pop music charts with "Rose Marie." With nineteen weeks in the charts and eleven weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart, 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. 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. Throughout the early 1970s, he continued to record and was a guest on Wolfman Jack's television show The Midnight Special. 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 amassing a chart stay of thirteen weeks only to be kept from the top place by 20 Golden Greats by the Supremes.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 making the country charts. During this time he toured Europe and Australia with moderate success.In late January 2008, a false rumor of his death spread through the internet, believed to have been started by an erroneous report posted on the web site of the Nashville Tennessean newspaper.In 2010, after more than 8 years in production at the age of 85, Whitman released the album, Twilight on the Trail, his first new studio album (CD) in 26 years, produced by his son Byron Whitman and featuring many well known session musicians, including long time band member Harold Bradley.Personal lifeAfter 1957 Whitman lived at his estate Woodpecker Paradise, in Middleburg, a city located south of Orange Park, Florida, in Clay County.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 as well as the daughter of a church minister, Mr A.D. Crist, founder of The Church of the Brethren. Slim and Jerry had a daughter, Sharron Beagle; and a son, Byron K. Whitman, who is also a performer and music producer who has released a number of recordings and who toured and recorded with his father on numerous occasions. They have two grandchildren and two great-grandchildrenSlim Whitman died of heart failure on June 19, 2013 at age ninety, surrounded by family at Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park, Florida.HonoursFor 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. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Walkway of Stars in 1968.LegacyThe late American pop singer Michael Jackson cited Whitman as one of his ten favorite vocalists. 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." 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 wasn't until McCartney saw a picture of Whitman playing left-handed that he re-strung his guitar so that he too could play left-handed.The 1996 film Mars Attacks! features Whitman's rendition of "Indian Love Call" as a weapon against alien invaders. In 2003, Rob Zombie used Whitman's song "I Remember You" in his movie directorial debut in House of 1000 Corpses.

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