by Matthew PonY Bones
Whitman was a wily strange fellow with superb Faustian tinges. Often, his album covers are strangely evocative with mysterious powers of ambiguous super naturalistic seductions.
His first full length came out in 1954 which proclaimed boldly with hyperbolic populist title America’s Favorite Folk Singer. I won’t tramp or trespass here. I will not address the complicated socialistic complications the very title alone invokes.
The year is 1964 and the full length Love Song of the Waterfall saturates the music world. Album is illustrated with a photograph of a majestic waterfall cascading into a clear crystal bluish opaque pool somewhere out in the western United States. The trees growing around the pool seem bent toward the cascade as if in rapture. One can make out ancient faces in the rock formations which jut from the sheer sloped faded blood red dirt cliffs. A few of the many stand out song choices is the title song, which seduces with beguiling eeriness.
The record company bosses tried to toughen up old Slim Whitman maudlin pale white ass ,sometimes. On the cover of 1966’s Birmingham Jail And Other Country Favorites Slim leans stoically against the weathered boards of an old building that is most likely the Birmingham Jail Sheriff’s Office. Yet the feel is we are not in Alabama. Instead we are somewhere out there in the land called Big Western Cowboy Mythos. This scene is all illustrated with uneven scrawls and off colored color tones making cowboy Slim look kinetically weathered. He may be serenading a prostitute or the town drunk with loving last ditch hope as that individual becomes a coagulated death mess through the means of a homicidal tumbleweed demon laced with barbwire. Behind our troubadour wanted posters tacked with abstracted preciseness. One can discern that the cowboy Slim Whitman is one of the wanted men. Let me excerpt the fine notes on the album’s back cover.
“That Birmingham Jail fellow, Slim Whitman, is one of the world’s most agreeable people…he never argues with Fate.
As a result, some of the darndest things have happened to change the course of his life.”
The album is outstanding. The vinyl contains his signature song “I’m Casting My Lasso Towards the Sky.” The song reveals that Whitman is at battle with the Christian God’s angels or is a precise no frills existentialist statement. Other fine stand out numbers are the title track (which is a traditional that holds the same melody as “Down In The Valley”) and the exceptional duet of mega desire “Let’ s Go to Church (Next Sunday Morning).”
Here is the crux! In 1980, he went to the people themselves. directly to sell his magical sonic sentimentalities. He made a television commercial to advertise a brand new ULTIMATE album called simply All My Best. Never a household name in his own home U.S. OF A, Whitman changed that through the brilliant cunning of a maverick business man. The masses responded quite enormously. He sold over 4 million records in 1981 alone in the United States. He looks dazzling in the commercial in a sparkling suit swaying as he croons and yodels his tunes, from the known to the unknown. One could own a piece of the master’s soul at 7.98 for a single vinyl LP.
What does this commercial sell us? Upon the cover is the ultimate Slim Whitman cover. He grins with a Faustian cunning grin flashing white teeth. His hair is brushed back in a slight pompadour black and shiny. His sideburns are exquisite and explicitly sexual. He wears an almost turquoise blue western suit. The background is a solid off color orange. The stylized presentation threatens to splendidly slap strike you down as it probably did your grandmother. She had sexual urges with this music! Slim Whitman All My Best hovers in a cartoonish all caps navy blue alternated with white typography. Here is a dapper gentleman of proper country music songs who may or may not have made deals with Satan himself. He is the double agent of God and the Devil, deploying these washed up divinities against themselves. Glory to thee ghost cowboy as you ascend through the milky silvery beams of moon beams.