Slim Whitman occupies a unique spot in the world of music. Lots of would-be sophisticates have poked fun at him for years, a practice that probably reached its peak in 1996 when the silly sci-fi movie Mars Attacks! utilized one of his yodeling songs (“Indian Love Call”) as the only weapon that could stop the Martian invaders — it made their heads explode.
But Whitman has always had a ton of fans, enough to buy more than 100 million of his records over the years. And get this — he’s now in his late eighties and still active. In fact, he recorded a new album just a couple of years ago and if anything, he’s improved with age. His voice is a little deeper and smoother, although he doesn’t seem to break into yodeling quite as often. (For more about yodeling, see Respecting The Art Of Yodeling.)
While growing up in Tampa, Florida, Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr. was fond of country music, but he didn’t really make it a full-time career until he was in his thirties. By then he’d already gained a little experience over the years as a part-time performer, and had even cut a couple of records under the guidance of a pre-Elvis Colonel Tom Parker. But his real breakout occurred when he cracked the Top Ten with several records in 1952, and one of them — “Indian Love Call” — almost made it to the top.
It was the beginning of what would become a string of Top Ten hits over the next few years, including “Keep It A Secret,” “Singing Hills,” “Secret Love,” and “Rose Marie,” which would stay at the top of British charts for a record-breaking 11 weeks. In fact, as the years passed Whitman became more popular in Great Britain than in his home country, but his record sales in the U.S. took a huge jump around 1980 when he began marketing them on TV. It would bring him a whole new generation of fans and help pave the way for his decades of touring and recording activity since.