Thursday – The Stage and Studio Are Dark Today
All of the pop-news coverage last evening told about the intimely death of currently-popular actor James Gandolfini, leading star of the tv series The Soparanos, who passed away while on vacation in Italy at age 51.
Lost in headlines was the news of still another famous entertainer, a man who is generally unknown to the current generation of reporters and the younger population at large. One of the country's most successful recording artists, Slim Whitman also passed away yesterday at age 90.
Owen Dewey "Slim" Whitman was a self-taught musician who had a natural talent for yodeling as well as possessing a marvelous, clear-toned singing voice. After serving with the U. S. Navy in World War II, he began his musical career in the country & western genre playing with "hillbilly" bands on radio stations as he developed his show biz skills.
But his singing was not like the hillbilly styles of Hank Williams and Left Frizzell, but was more cosmopolitan blending a mix of western and operetta romance ballads. He was literally in a class of his own but, for lack of any other place to put him, the music industry filed him under "Country." After moving to Los Angeles to work with an independent record label, he hit his stride and began releasing top-selling hits that often crossed over into the pop sales charts. His first major hit came in 1955 with "Indian Love Call" that rose to #2 on the country/western charts and in the Top Ten of the pop charts.
Just as his career was strengthening and becoming established, a sea change in the music recording business took place with the blossoming of the rock'n'roll movement. Pop and Country artists alike took a beating in record sales and concert bookings, many of them seeing their careers come to premature conclusions. But Whitman, displaying an excellent business savvy, saw how the trend was turning and literally fled to Europe in the 1960's where his records were already chart-toppers, most notably in Great Britain. For the next 20 years he toured throughout Europe and Australia churning out hits and performing for his legion of fans. During that period he became forgotten in the U.S. with many people thinking he had retired from performing when just the opposite was true.
He was jolted back into the American charts during that time when one of his European hits "Una Paloma Blanca" went world-wide, selling millions of copies. Take a listen to it here, I'm sure you will recognize it. Everybody does.
In the 1980's he returned to his native Florida and went into semi-retirement. But his business skills propelled him to a third major success as he pioneered the "TV Offers" direct sales mode of pitching albums that were produced just for the purpose and only sold through mail-order. One of his albums "All My Best" sold 1-½ million copies itself. His strong and true voice held up all those years and his last album was produced just three years ago in 2010 capping one of the most successful singing careers you never heard of.
Not many people have heard of us, either. But we keep on plugging along, starting every day with our own #1 hit, the equipment check. While you get started I'll head out to the concession stand and make sure the Bunn-O-Matic gets refilled. See you back in the day room.
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