Country Legend Slim Whitman Passes

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• June 19, 2013
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Slim Whitman

Slim Whitman, noted for his high, ethereal yodeling style as well as for an innovative, successful TV music marketing campaign, has died in his home state of Florida.

Family members confirmed to CNN that Whitman passed away as a result of heart failure on Wednesday (June 19). He was 90 years old.

Whitman’s top-10 country hits included “Love Song of the Waterfall” (1952), “Indian Love Call” (1952), “Secret Love” (1954), “Rose Marie” (1954), “Singing Hills” (1954), “More Than Yesterday” (1965), “Guess Who” (1971) and “Something Beautiful” (1971). Between 1952 and 1982, he placed 37 titles on the country charts.

Born Otis Dewey Whitman on Jan. 20, 1923, the singer originally rose to fame as a radio entertainer in his hometown of Tampa, Fla. Manager Col. Tom Parker discovered him there in 1948. Whitman became a member of The Louisiana Hayride cast in Shreveport, La. in 1950 and signed a recording contract with Imperial Records shortly afterward.

During the era of honky-tonk music in the early 1950s, Whitman was unusual for drawing two of his biggest hits – “Indian Love Call” and “Rose Marie” – from the world of operetta.

He was also distinctive in that he was one of the few country stars who became an even bigger success overseas than he was in the U.S. “Rose Marie,” for instance, remained at No. 1 on the British pop hit parade for 11 straight weeks. It also became Australia’s best-selling record of that era. In 1957, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” became another top-10 U.K. success. In the 1970s in Great Britain, he was named the No. 1 international star four times.

Slim Whitman appeared in the 1957 feature film Jamboree and was a frequent television guest star throughout the 1960s. In the 1970s, he went on to make television history.

In 1979, Whitman produced a TV commercial for Suffolk Marketing. It advertised a compilation of his songs titled All My Best. As a result, the album became a Platinum disc and the best-selling TV record in history. He also successfully marketed the TV packages Just for You (1980), The Best (1982), Best Loved Favorites (1989) and 20 Precious Memories (1991).

These accomplishments revived his career on the TV talk-show circuit and led to new international concert tours. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The 1996 comedic film Mars Attacks! memorably used his recording of “Indian Love Call” to vanquish the invading Martians by causing their heads to explode. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) used Whitman’s “Love Song of the Waterfall” in its soundtrack.

Slim Whitman died at Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park, Fla. He is survived by daughter Sharon and son Byron Whitman, who is also a country singer.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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