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KNUE Salutes Country Artist and Legend Slim Whitman [VIDEO]

Slim Whitman
David Redfern/Redferns

It was a sad day for country music, with the passing yesterday of Slim Whitman. Slim Whitman died of heart failure at his home in Florida at the age of 90.   Whitman was known for his beautiful tenor falsetto, yodeling really,  and of course, that black mustache and those side burns were his trademark. Whitman began his career in the late 1940s.

Whitman joined the Navy, where he served in the South Pacific and entertained shipmates by singing, yodeling and playing the guitar, which he had learned to play upside down and left-handed.

After the war he played weekly in a supermarket and was hired to perform on local radio stations. Colonel Tom Parker, who later managed Elvis, heard him and helped him get a contract with RCA Victor Records. Whitman chose the stage name, Slim, and began to appear on the radio show “Louisiana Hayride,” whose performers also included Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. In fact, Whitman encouraged Elvis Presley, when he first performance professionally in Memphis in 1954. Elvis,mistakenly billed as Ellis, opened for Whitman and was paid $50; Whitman got $500. Whitman later let Presley borrow his trademark white rhinestone jacket.

In 1952 he had his first hit song, “Love Song of the Waterfall,” which 25 years later became part of the soundtrack for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He nonetheless kept his day job as a postman.

During his long career, Whitman recorded over 500 songs, made more than 100 albums, and sold more than 70 million records. In the ’70′s his recording of “Rose Marie,” was Number one on the British charts for 11 weeks, something that even the Beatles never accomplished. Michael Jackson named Slim Whitman, one of his 10 favorite vocalists. George Harrison credited him as an early influence. Paul McCartney said  Whitman gave him the idea of playing the guitar left-handed. He was a huge musical influence on early rock. In the British Isles, he was known as a “pioneer of country music,” making the style there popular.

His other hits included “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” “Red River Valley,” “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.” He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Dewey Whitman Jr. was born in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 23, 1923, and liked to listen to Jimmie Rodgers yodel on the family radio. After leaving high school he worked at a meatpacking plant, where he lost part of a finger in an accident. In 1941 he eloped with Alma Crist, who would help him overcome his severe stutter. He and his wife were married 67 years. His wife passed away in 2009.

In 1991, Whitman was interviewed by the Associated Press, and said he wanted people to think of him as a “a nice guy” and a good father. “I’d like people to remember me,” he said, “as having a good voice and a clean suit.”

Thanks for music Slim!

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