Slim Whitman: A Living Legend on the First Coast

JACKSONVILLE, FL — A living legend on the First Coast has been living among us for more than 50 years, and we have to stress the word “living.”

Recently Slim Whitman had to remind his fans that he was still alive after rumors began to spread that he had died around the time of his 85th birthday.

“I had gotten calls from all over the country asking if I was dead, and I told them ‘If I could still sing, then I couldn’t be dead, and I could still sing'”, explains Whitman with a smile.

And, this wasn’t the first time rumors like this were started.
11 years ago, Jay Leno on the Tonight Show made a joke about Slim Whitman and Fats Domino and made reference to them both being dead.

Slim Whitman had to return a lot of phone calls back then too.

To help him set the record straight again, I decided to catch up with this amazing man to learn more about his life on the First Coast and his impressive career.

We met at the McDonald’s in Middleburg, where there are pictures of him and his son hanging in a special place of honor.

He brought with him old newspaper clippings, two of his gold albums, one platinum and a replica of his star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“My star is one of the first 18,” says Whitman.

But one of the most treasured items Whitman showed me was an article about his wife and how she helped his career get started.

“She was the woman behind the man,” says Whitman.

He goes on the explain, “Along in that time, if someone pointed a finger at me, I couldn’t talk. I would stutter. And for each song, she’d say ‘Here he is’.”

Whitmans’ wife Gerry would introduce him before he performed on his radio show in Tampa.

Eventually, Whitman was able to go on stage and perform without stuttering.

And, it was during one of those radio shows that Colonel Tom Parker heard Whitman.

Colonel Parker helped Slim Whitman sign his first record deal.

Later Col. Parker discovered Elvis; and Elvis used to open the shows for Slim.

Slim remembers the time he let Elvis borrow on of his trademark white rhinestone jackets on stage, ” And, he came back and said ‘How did I do?’ and I said you did good.

They thought I came back,” joked Slim.

Slim Whitman has been called a country crooner and “American’s Favorite Folk Singer.”

He has a vocal range of 3 octaves and is known for his yodeling.

“But, I had no idea that the yodeling, that I was doing then would turn into something that I could really show off without really showing off,” remembers Slim.

His fame reached record proportions in the United Kingdom, where he sold more albums than he Beatles, and held the number one spot on the record chart for 11 weeks.

A record that lasted for 36 years for his song “Rosemarie.”

And, in 1997, it was Slim Whitman’s voice that Tim Burton chose to knock the aliens out of the sky in the re-make of “Mars Attacks.”

Although, he’s traveled all over the world, Slim Whitman’s life is deeply rooted in Florida.

He was born Ottis Dew Whitman in 1923 in Tampa.

He met his wife Geradine “Gerry” Crist when he was just 15.

They married a few years later, and they’ve lived on her family’s farm in Middleburg for the past 53 years.

In June, Slim Whitman and his wife will have been married 67 years.

They have two children, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

He and his son Byron used to tour together.

He made 103 albums, and sold more than 70 million records world-wide.

He was in the navy and used to play baseball with the Plant City Berries, a Class C team in the Orange Belt League.

Before wrapping up my interview with Mr. Whitman, some fans
who had been waiting, finally were able to come forward and give him a big hug.

They talked for a while and remembered some of their favorite songs.

Slim Whitman looked at me and said…”See, the music still lives on today.”

And despite the rumors, so does Slim Whitman.

Source: First Coast News

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11 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Loren Knapp said,

    Nice article. I’ve known Slim for 30 years. I ran his fan club here in the US for 23. You got everything right except his name…it’s OTTIS pronounced Oddis. I have lots of Slim Whitman items at Slim Whitman Collectors International. Just Google it.

  2. 2

    swampie said,

    I’m not the author; I just reposted it because I was happy to hear that he still going strong and still living in Middleburg. I thought others that don’t have access to our local NBC affiliate might be happy to hear it as well.

  3. 3

    Mary Johnson said,

    HI there,
    I listen to his music when I was little growing up. Listen to all the old old tradition old kuntry music. Slim is my fav to the least he is the greatest and he can sure yodel too and the 3 octav vocal is something you would hear on the 20’s – 40’s on music brodway they had singers like him too but Slim takes them all by far!

    I would like to know does he still sing and performs at concerts. I would love to see him in person performing. HE is one of the many great legends left sure would be nice if he can perform in concerts.

    Oh P. S. I use to sit in front of the mirror in my grandmothers bedroom and try to yodel like Slim Whitman and now I am almost 50 I have it down pat. lol My dream came true that I can actually yodel like him. lol Thanks Slim for the amazing music you have offered to us thru the years an the golden years. Thanks again!

    Thank you,
    Mary Johnson

  4. 4

    Damien Pendergrass said,

    Mr.Whitman came and sang at my Great-Grandmothers funeral. Mrs.Alma Johnson of Middleburg. She was his teacher when he was young and he never forgot her.

  5. 5

    James said,

    I have a 33 and 1/3 with the song _When_ on it. Any idea if this song is included on any CD of Slim? If so, please tell me which one.

    Thanks, James

  6. 6

    Shirley Charlett said,

    My sister and I went to Slim’s show away back in the eighty’s, we are from N.Z. and we will never forget him, we have all his recordings.

    Thanks

    Shirley

  7. 7

    Rocknroll said,

    This blog still lives?
    I just wonder because I want to talk to some Slim Whitman’s fans.
    He is – for me – the greatest country singer that ever existed. His voice and his songs are absolutely amazing. I wish I could see him in a concert, but from here, far far away, is very difficult.
    Anyway, I wish for him all the best in the world and send greetings and a big heart full of love for his music from Romania!

    P.S. Right now I’m listening to

  8. 8

    Rocknroll said,

    Is this blog still lives?
    If so, I want to send to Mr Whitman all my gratitude for his beautiful music and for making me a better person. I’m happy when I’m listening to his music and amazing voice. I got hundreds of songs of him that I like!!! It’s unbelievable for me, because I’m a rocknroller, I’m listening to hard and heavy metal, but also country and folk and a lot of oldies, especially old country and the music of 50’s.
    I know Mr Whitman just reached 88 years old and I pray God to give him a long, long life alongside his family.
    A warm hug from Romania!

    Marius

  9. 9

    Tom said,

    I ‘m a long time fan (I’m 72), but why can’t I find angel song and silver threads among the gold to purchase or download?

  10. 10

    andrew sandford said,

    did slim whitman ever sing a song called contented mind,

  11. 11

    Curtis Judah said,

    I*ve read alot about Mr Whitman lately. I met a lady who said she was his daughter and her mother was Mollly O*day a gospel singer on the grand ole opre in the 40*s. She stated that slim had died about ten years ago at the age of eightynine non of this added so I contacd some folk I knew who could set me right on the subject. I found Slim was living the good life where he and his Jerry of 67 years resided when died in 2009.


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