News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

October 26, 2010

MS. TAKES: When the years go whistlin' past us

TERRE HAUTE — It’s become something of a game. Let’s call it “stump Liz” for now.

After writing that young folks don’t seem to remember the famous of yesteryear, there have been attempts to see if my memory is as all-inclusive as I’d like to think.

Just the other day I was pedaling away on the exercise bike at the Family Sports Center when Diane shouted across the room, “Do you know who Elmo Tanner was?” Both my Best Friend and I lit up at having wonderful childhood memories rekindled.

For those who didn’t grow up until well after the 1940s, Elmo Tanner was a professional whistler who performed with the Ted Weems Orchestra. Maybe whistling into a microphone distorted his talent or something, because he always used a megaphone rather than a mike. His big production number was to whistle the second chorus of Weems’ theme song, “Heartaches.”

What brought it up was that Ben mentioned that his Dad had been a big Elmo Tanner fan and Ben was, more or less, on the lookout for a record of Ted Weems featuring Elmo Tanner. As a bonus, Diane got busy on the computer and found a record of Ted Weems with Elmo whistling his heart out on “Heartaches.”

She said Ben could download it as a ring tone on his cell phone!

Anyway, we turned off the TV and listened — several times — to Ted and Elmo. Talk about memories.

My BF had seen Ted Weems, his orchestra and Elmo Tanner on stage in Rockford, Ill., many years ago. I had seen them in Chicago where my uncle worked for NBC and arranged for the family to attend a radio broadcast of Fibber McGee and Molly for which Weems’ orchestra provided the music. And, here’s a bit of trivia for you, Perry Como was Weems’ “boy vocalist.”

Those of us of an age to remember Weems and Tanner and Como had a wonderful morning.

Alice Ann and I got points for remembering the words to “Heartaches,” but she carries a tune better and won the memory sweepstakes by being able to whistle the song along with Elmo.

Sometimes I don’t know what’s better about the Sports Center — the exercise or the people.

After the morning memories we all adjourned to the back room for coffee. That’s part of the good thing about the Sports Center too.

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