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Oct 03

SLIM WHITMAN – “Rose Marie”

Popular7 comments • 2,073 views

#36, 29th July 1955

A strange but very effective combination of music-hall corn and lonesome prairie ballad, with Whitman sliding vocally between a stagey archness and soft sad yodelling. The backing – clumsy piano, whistling and lovely touches of slide guitar – was what won me over first of all, then the singing, and finally the song. The love-hate dynamic here – being in erotic thrall to a woman you half dread but can?t escape – is an old blues theme, older than the blues really. “Rose Marie” sounds like it might be an old song, too, with little archaisms (“‘Twould mean my life”) and the fated fealty of the concluding lines: “Of all the queens that ever lived I’d choose you / To rule me my Rose Marie”.

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Comments

  1. 1
    wichita lineman on 30 May 2008 #

    It sounds like it was recorded in a ghost town, with its clanking pianola and tumbleweed vocal. It’s definitely addictive and – as the best selling single of 1955 – indicative of how the British public’s tastes were switching to something earthier than David Whitfield.

    That too-brief burst of slide guitar sweeping upwards into the cloudless sky is pure Joe Meek. I’ll bet he was a fan.

    His tally of hits is tiny (4 Top 10s, 3 more Top 20s) considering that a Very Best Of got to number one in that weirdly countrified year, 1976. Even so he was far less well known in the States – one “hit” which stalled at 93.

    TV advertising for an American comp in the late 70s saw Slim on screen telling the folks how he’d been number one in England longer than Elvis or the Beatles (well, Rose Marie stayed there for 11 weeks). It worked – he sold 1.5 million copies of the thing.

  2. 2
    Billy Smart on 22 Mar 2009 #

    Light entertainment watch: Just one listed (missing) UK television appearance for Slim;

    IT’S CLIFF RICHARD: with Una Stubbs, Hank B. Marvin, Slim Whitman (1970)

  3. 3
    Eli on 24 Dec 2010 #

    Only two comments! I thought Popular would hate this, nice to be proven wrong!

    Yes, it has an other-worldly quality that marks it out from everything else so far; it’s the first one that doesn’t sound like light entertainment! Not surprising, since it was the first #1 to be recorded in Louisiana… (and have many others been since?)

    You’re right about it being an old song; it was the title theme to a 1924 operetta! “The story takes place in the Canadian Rockies and concerns Rose Marie La Flemme, a French Canadian girl who loves miner Jim Kenyon. When Jim falls under suspicion for murder, her brother Èmile plans for Rose Marie to marry Edward Hawley, a city man.”

    The MGM Eastman colour film was released in mid-to-late 1954 over here, starring Ann Blyth and Howard Keel. Slim’s recording was issued on London 78rpm in July 1954 (and 45rpm in October 1954). I did wonder why it became a hit so late here, and found this in a bio: “A promoter managed to have it played to the English people via a radio station in Luxembourg.”

    For us anoraks, it’s interesting to note that the most commonly found pressing of the 78 has the familiar silver “American Pressings” label, but a more basic gold lettered one also turns up. At a guess, the label had changed their design by the time it entered the charts, so when they had to start manufacturing after the initial run, it was with the contemporary design.

    I believe 1955 was about the point that record sales actually began to overtake those of sheet music: this record is a good example of the turning point, as it was the first (and only) 50s #1 not to make the sheet music charts at all.

    Lastly, Slim was discovered by a certain Colonel Tom Parker!

  4. 4
    Mutley on 24 Dec 2010 #

    It’s funny how Slim’s songs stick in the mind over the years – no doubt a sign of their quality. I can still remember my uncle singing “I’ll take you home again, Kathleen”.

    Perhaps the discussion is presenting Slim as too much of a “one-off”, and he should be put in the category of “Singing Cowboy”, at least from the UK standpoint. They were very popular at the cinema in the first half of the 50s and earlier – Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and co., even Eltham’s own Bob Hope was hanging on the fringe of this scene!

  5. 5
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISC WATCH (Up to 11/04/11)

    Leslie Grantham, actor(1989)

  6. 7
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Jun 2013 #

    Yes, a raised bat as Slim heads for the pavilion. Ours was one of the many households which helped his Very Best Of to head the album listings here in the mid seventies. The purchaser was my Edwardian dad. Suprisingly perhaps, the teenaged Swede did not protest and indeed quite liked the compilation. Rose Marie, of course, was already well known to a chart-obsessed young loon because of what it did. It remains for me a delightful little serenade, and you can just imagine the pork and beans a-cooking in the tin as Slim croons away.

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