He influenced countless numbers of performers including The Beatles and Michael Jackson, but to many in my generation he remained an enigma from the past. For those older than me, they remember his early performances on radio and television. Those younger than me were introduced to the dulcet tones of Slim Whitman as they became the weapon of choice against alien invaders in “Mars Attacks.” My generation’s collective memory will be inextricably tied to Suffolk Marketing’s per-inquiry TV ads for his album “All My Best.”
Released by Liberty Special Products with a very flimsy cover, the album propelled Whitman once again into the spotlight, was responsible for reinvigorating his career, and it sold 1.5 million units. Not bad for a singer who was on the road to being washed up by 1979. Somehow, and I do not remember how, I procured a copy of this album. I didn’t buy it, so it must have been a gift, but I wouldn’t part with it.
For all of its kitsch, it is a pretty good album – if you like that sort of thing, and strangely enough, I do. My wife would kill me though if I ever played it in her presence and I know she will react in a negative manner to this post as well. But then again, there is no accounting for my taste at times.
My best memory regarding Slim Whitman is tied to my years in radio in the Huntington, WV market. I often hung out at the Tri-State’s Top 40 powerhouse WKEE-FM in the wee hours of the morning. One of the jocks, Greg Smith – who was arguably the funniest guy I’ve ever known, would often sneak in “Indian Love Call” at about 3 AM. The Program Director and General Manager were asleep and the members of the morning crew were not yet awake. I just have to wonder if any Martians were harmed in the process.
“Indian Love Call” was Slim Whitman’s fourth single. Released in 1952, it was one of his few recordings to crossover to the pop charts where it peaked at #9. The song was from the 1924 opera “Rose-Marie” and was originally known simply as “The Call.” He would later record “Rose Marie” from the same opera in 1954.
“Indian Love Call” was Whitman’s highest charting crossover – the three others barely scratched the surface and charted at #134, #123, and #93 respectively. Its position on the country chart at #2 tied with his 1954 release of “Secret Love” making the two his most popular country charting hits.
I’ve said all of this to report that Slim Whitman passed away on Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 90 years old and eternity has a new yodeler among its midst. Not everyone makes it to these pages, but Slim Whitman now has. Rest in Peace, and give The King “All My Best.”