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Slim Whitman, known for his yodeling style as well as famous TV ads for his albums, died of heart failure at age 89 at the Orange Park Medical Center in Florida, Wednesday morning (June 19). Slim enjoyed a country chart career that began in the 1950s and ran through the early 1980s.
Born Otis Dewey Whitman, Jan. 20, 1924, in Tampa, Fla., Slim served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before joining the Louisiana Hayride radio show in 1950. He made his country chart debut in 1952 with “Love Song of the Waterfall,” under the moniker Slim Whitman (The Smilin’ Star Duster). His follow-up, “Indian Love Call,” prominent for his yodeling, became Slim’s first big hit, reaching the No. 2 spot. Other singles such as “Rose-Marie,” “Cattle Call” and “More Than Yesterday” were hits in the U.S. as well as overseas, particularly in England.
Slim’s recording success began to wane in the early part of the 1970s. But Slim made a resurgence with his pioneering efforts in the world of direct television marketing. His 1979 album All My Best, which was sold through TV ads, became a huge seller. A series of additional albums, again sold through direct marketing, made Slim a truly household name, to the point where he was often parodied in comedy skits on TV programs of the era. Slim continued his direct marketing with Best Loved Favorites in 1989 and 20 Precious Memories in 1991.
Slim’s “Indian Love Call” was re-introduced to audiences through the 1996 Tim Burton film Mars Attacks! as an important part of stopping the invading Martians.
In 2008, there were actually online and mainstream media reports that Slim had died on his 84th birthday. He countered those reports in an interview with the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, saying, “I’m breathing pretty good here. I don’t take medicine. I don’t even wear glasses.” Slim went on to release his final album, Twilight on the Trail, in 2010.
Country Weekly sends our condolences to Slim’s family and friends.