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Mon Aug 8, 2022, 07:19 AM

On this day, August 8, 1904, Elmo Tanner was born.

Sun Aug 8, 2021: On this day, August 8, 1904, Elmo Tanner was born.

Elmo Tanner

Elmo Tanner circa 1940s - 1950s.

Background information
Born: August 8, 1904; Nashville, Tennessee
Died: December 20, 1990 (aged 86); St. Petersburg, Florida

William Elmo Tanner, known as Elmo Tanner (August 8, 1904 – December 20, 1990) was an American whistler, singer, bandleader and disc jockey, best known for his whistling on the chart-topping song “Heartaches” with the Ted Weems Orchestra. Tanner and Weems recorded the song for two record companies within five years. Neither recording was successful originally. The song became a hit for both record companies after a Charlotte, North Carolina, disk jockey played it at random in 1947.


Ted Weems Orchestra and “Heartaches”


The delayed success of "Heartaches"

“Heartaches”, composed by Al Hoffman and John Klenner in 1931, was recorded as an unusual half-rumba, half washboard rhythm. In 1933, Victor had assigned the recording of the song to Ted Weems and his Orchestra, and wanted it recorded quickly. Weems and his band had time for only one rehearsal before recording the song. Initially, Weems did not like the song; he decided to omit the lyrics by way of having Tanner whistle instead. While running through the song at rehearsal, someone thought of trying it with a speedier tempo than initially written. It was not a large seller, and the master was filed away. In 1938, Weems was now working with Decca Records and was preparing to make another record. When someone had forgotten to assign a song for the "B" side of the record, Weems and Tanner made another recording of "Heartaches"; the Decca version was not any more successful than the Victor one had been five years earlier.

In 1947, a young disk jockey in Charlotte, North Carolina who worked the overnight shift had recently received some older records which he brought to work with him. He chose one at random and put it on the turntable. Shortly after the record had finished, the radio station's telephones began ringing with people asking about the song and requesting to hear it again. By afternoon, the city's music stores were calling the radio station, hoping to learn where they could order copies of "Heartaches". Both Victor and Decca went into their vaults to find their masters of the record and began pressing them for southern United States sales. As disk jockeys in other parts of the US began obtaining copies of the record and playing it, the demand for "Heartaches" went from coast to coast. This older recording went to the top of all the main charts in 1947, including sales, juke box play, and airplay.

Unusually, two separate recordings were given equal credit in the charts. Victor's version was recorded on August 4, 1933 and issued on Bluebird B5131. Decca's recording was made on August 23, 1938 and originally appeared on catalog number 2020B. The hit records were credited to RCA Victor 20-2175 and Decca 25017, respectively. Altogether the recordings were credited with selling 8.5 million copies. Tanner said in a 1960 interview that neither he nor Ted Weems received any compensation for the "Heartaches" re-issue as they both had let the contracts on the song expire while they were in the Merchant Marine. Tanner and Weems missed collecting an estimated $250,000 in royalties because of the expired contracts.

Because of the renewed success of “Heartaches”, Tanner joined the re-formed Weems outfit in March 1947, and both were signed to Mercury Records. This later outfit often received poor reviews, with the exception of Elmo's “outstanding” whistling; it was Tanner's whistling that audiences most responded to. Tanner made one more recording of "Heartaches" in 1953 with Billy Vaughn for Dot Records.



Main article: Elmo Tanner discography


1947 HITS ARCHIVE: Heartaches - Ted Weems (Decca reissue of 1938 version--a #1 record)
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Heartaches (Klenner-Hoffman) by Ted Weems & his Orchestra, whistling by Elmo Tanner

A big surprise hit of 1947 was this revival of Weems’ up-tempo arrangement of the early ‘30s ballad “Heartaches”....and in two different* reissued Weems versions. It was this 1938 Decca recording (not the earlier 1933 version as incorrectly documented elsewhere) that initially exploded due to its exposure on a Charlotte NC radio station, resulting in Decca hurriedly re-distributing the track and RCA Victor following with their own newly-labeled Bluebird release from 1933. Both were combined into a single ranked listing on the Billboard charts, spending 13 weeks atop the juke box listings and 12 weeks at #1 in sales....each selling over a million copies.


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