He was out of place in the 1957 rock’n’roll film Disc Jockey Jamboree; his whole body of work was as if rock’n’roll had never happened. During the 1960s he was something of a stopped clock but his records appealed to his large and dedicated fan base. The accuracy and breath control of his yodelling can be heard to superb effect on “Chime Bells” (1963) and “There’s A Rainbow In Every Teardrop” (1967).
Whitman loved coming to the UK and in 1973, his 25th anniversary concert at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, was recorded for an album. It led to a hit single, “Happy Anniversary”, the following year.
An executive with United Artists, Alan Warner, thought that he should record pop standards the Whitman way for albums which could be marketed on television. Both The Very Best Of Slim Whitman (1976) and Red RiverValley (1977) topped the album charts, with Home On The Range making No 2. He was marketed in the same way in the US with considerable success and became a huge touring attraction.
Whitman was not one for throwing surprises but UK audiences were bewildered when he asked his son, Byron Keith (born in 1957), to tour with him. At first his son had little of his father’s ability, but gradually came to match him “yodel for yodel”. The cover of The Legendary Slim Whitman with Son Byron Whitman (2002) showed that Byron had copied his father right down to the famous moustache.
Whitman effectively retired in 2002 although he still performed occasional weeks in Las Vegas. He was a modest, unassuming man, who said, “I don’t know the secret of my success. I guess it’s the songs I sing and the friendly attitude. When I say hello, I mean it.”