Slim Whitman, country
music legend, was born Ottis Dewey Whitman Jr. in Tampa on January
20,1924. Slim's early interest was in sport rather than music.
He became a star pitcher at Hillsborough High School and hoped
to make a career in baseball. However, while still in high school,
he met and married fifteen-year-old Geraldine Crist, a preacher's
The newlyweds moved to a 40-acre farm south
of Jacksonville, Florida, where Slim worked as a meat packer.
Just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour he became a
shipyard fitter at the Tampa shipyard, working alongside Robert
Byrd, a native of West Virginia who would later become the Dean
of US Senators. In 1943, he enlisted in the Navy and it was then
that he learned guitar and entertained at shipboard events. Upon
return to civilian life he split his time between baseball and
entertaining when not working at the shipyard, west of downtown
In 1946 he gained a contract with the Plant
City Berries of the Orange Belt League, but his musical career
also prospered via radio spots on Tampa radio station WDAE and
several local club bookings. It was at this point that he opted
for music as a full-time occupation. He stopped playing baseball
in 1947 and put together his Variety Rhythm Boys, who were sponsored
by B & B Grocers, a local supermarket on East Seventh Avenue.
His group often performed for Tampa area charity fundraisers.
He was heard by Tampa Humane Society Director
Colonel Tom Parker, then managing Eddy Arnold, who arranged for
an audition with RCA Records. It paid off.
Beginning with "I'm Casting My Lasso Towards
The Sky", he released several singles that failed to make
any impact. In early 1950 he became a member of Shreveport's Louisiana
Hayride. It was not a highly paid gig, but it helped raise his
profile. To supplement his meager earnings he became a postman.
It was at this time his trademark "singing guitar" sound
was developed. Slim's steel guitar player, Hoot Rains, overshot
a note and Slim decided that it enhanced, rather than detracted
from his overall sound.
He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in
1955 where he played with all the greats including Tom Hall, Porter
Wagoner, Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson, Mitchell Tork, Marty Robbins
and Smoky Rogers. He sang on various record labels and became
more well known in Europe than in the US. At one point in the
60's his recordings surpassed The Beatles on British music charts.
As his popularity grew with the middle-aged
audience, so did the opposite view grow with the younger audience.
An example of how derisory Slim Whitman's music has become is
that the 1997 film Mars Attack! reveals that Slim Whitman's music
is the only deadly force on earth that the invading Martians are