Slim Whitman in February, 1976 (Photo: Getty)
Country singer and yodeller Slim Whitman, who sold millions of records and saved the world as a character in 'Mars Attacks!', has passed away. The Associated Press reports he was 90 years old.
Whitman was well known for his tenor falsetto, as well as his trademark mustache and sideburns.
In 1991, Whitman told the AP how he'd like to be remembered:
"I don't think you've ever heard anything bad about me, and I'd like to keep it that way," he said. "I'd like my son (Bryon) to remember me as a good dad. I'd like the people to remember me as having a good voice and a clean suit."
Canadian audiences also knew Whitman through a parody of the musical 'Evita'.
The SCTV sketch, which featured Joe Flaherty as Whitman, was an ad for a musical about the life of Indira Gandhi based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Evita'. Whitman's signature yodelling shows up a few times:
And to see the lethal effects of Whitman's 'Indian Love Call' on Martian invaders, check out this scene from Tim Burton's 'Mars Attacks!':
Whitman was celebrated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Walkway of Stars in 1968.
He also had some very famous fans: Michael Jackson said Whitman was one of his ten favourite vocalists, and Paul McCartney said a poster of Whitman was responsible for his decision to play his guitar left-handed.
Whitman was born in Tampa, Florida as Ottis Dewey Whitman, in 1923. He was right-handed, but after losing almost all of the second finger on his left hand in an accident, he taught himself to play left-handed.
He got his first big break after "Colonel" Tom Parker (Elvis's manager) heard him on the radio in 1948 and agreed to represent him.
Although he started touring, he wasn't able to make a living as a musician until the early '50s, when his version of Bob Nolan's hit 'Love Song of the Waterfall' hit the country music top 10. His next single, 'Indian Love Call', made it to number two.
Unlike a lot of country musicians, Whitman's style was focused on laid-back romantic melodies about life and love, rather than songs about being down on your luck. Critics called the style "countrypolitan," and it won him a lot of fans.
In 1955, he hit number one on the UK pop music charts with 'Rose Marie'. The song stayed at the top spot for 11 weeks, a record that lasted 36 years.
Here's Whitman performing 'Rose Marie':
Although he was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, and appeared in the film musical 'Jamboree' alongside stars like Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, Whitman never achieved as much stardom in the U.S. as he did in Britain.
His sales got a major bump in 1979 after he recorded a TV commercial for his greatest hits compilation 'All My Best'. It became the best-selling TV-marketed record in history, with 1.5 million units sold.
Several more compilations followed, all accompanied by commercials. The exposure raised his profile in the U.S., leading to appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the SCTV spoof.
In 2010, he released 'Twilight on the Trail', his first new studio LP in 26 years.