Elmo Tanner

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.

Tanner was originally hired by Weems as a vocalist; the bandleader discovered Tanner's whistling ability while the band was traveling to an engagement. Like Bing Crosby, he was able to whistle from his throat due to the muscles in his larynx. He subsequently became a featured performer as a whistler, earning the nicknames "Whistler’s Mother’s Boy", "The Whistling Troubador," and "the nation’s best-known whistler". He began appearing in films as part of the Ted Weems Orchestra in 1936; his first film role was in The Hatfields and McCoys, and he later appeared in the movie Swing, Sister, Swing (1938) and the musical film short, Swing Frolic (1942). Weems considered Tanner's whistling important enough to his orchestra that in 1939 he insured Tanner's throat for $10,000. Besides musical whistling, he also imitated birds for Disney.

After a failed attempt at running a restaurant in his native Nashville in the early 1950s, he toured with the Elmo Tanner Quartet until 1958, when he found work as a disc jockey in Florida. After working as an auto dealer in the 1960s, in the early 1970s he resumed musical activity, singing with a St. Petersburg, Florida-based quartet.

Birth and Death Data: Born August 8th, 1904 (Nashville), Died December 20th, 1990 (St. Petersburg)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1927 - 1941

Roles Represented in DAHR: vocalist, whistling, speaker, tenor vocal

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 114 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BVE-56898 10-in. 2/16/1931 When you were the blossom of Buttercup Lane (And I was your Little Boy Blue) Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BVE-57235 10-in. 12/7/1929 Funny, dear, what love can do Elmo Tanner ; Wayne King Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo and vocal chorus vocalist  
Victor BVE-57442 10-in. 11/22/1929 If I'm dreaming (Don't wake me too soon) Wayne King Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo (takes 6 and 7); with male vocal trio (takes 1-5) vocalist  
Victor BVE-67515 10-in. 2/19/1931 Holiday in Venice Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo and chorus vocalist  
Victor BVE-67562 10-in. 9/28/1931 The toyland band Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BS-69475 10-in. 1/9/1933 At the baby parade Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal trio vocalist  
Victor BS-69476 10-in. 1/9/1933 The old kitchen kettle (Keeps singing a song) Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo and male vocal trio vocalist  
Victor BVE-70637 10-in. 12/2/1931 One of us was wrong Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BVE-70641 10-in. 12/2/1931 My piano and me Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal duet vocalist  
Victor BS-75355 10-in. 3/3/1933 I like mountain music Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BS-76844 10-in. 8/4/1933 If I had somebody to love Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BS-76846 10-in. 8/4/1933 Trouble in paradise Andrea Marsh ; Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with female vocal solo and whistling vocalist, whistling  
Victor BS-76847 10-in. 8/4/1933 Heartaches Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with whistling vocalist, whistling  
Victor BS-76848 10-in. 8/4/1933 Let me give my happiness to you Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BS-76849 10-in. 8/4/1933 Marching along together Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal trio vocalist  
Victor BS-77076 10-in. 10/25/1933 In a one room flat Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BS-77078 10-in. 10/25/1933 I'm a lover of Paree Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BS-77079 10-in. 10/25/1933 Everything I have is yours Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BS-77205 10-in. 12/5/1933 The roof top serenade Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal trio vocalist  
Victor BS-77206 10-in. 12/5/1933 Tain't so Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal trio and vocal ensemble vocalist  
Victor BS-77208 10-in. 12/5/1933 The boulevard of broken dreams Elmo Tanner ; Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo vocalist  
Victor BVE-Test-307 10-in. 2/23/1929 Sweet Liza The Tune Peddlers Male vocal duet, with piano vocalist  
Brunswick C1822 10-in. 3/29/1928 I still love you Elmo Tanner Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet vocalist, tenor vocal  
Brunswick C1823 10-in. 3/29/1928 Back in your own back yard Elmo Tanner Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet vocalist  
Brunswick C1824 10-in. 3/29/1928 Remember me Elmo Tanner Male vocal solo, with instrumental trio vocalist  
(Results 1-25 of 114 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Tanner, Elmo," accessed August 5, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106983.

Tanner, Elmo. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved August 5, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106983.

"Tanner, Elmo." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 5 August 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/106983

Feedback

Send the Editors a message about this record.