Country Music Hall of Famer Ferlin Husky has passed away at his daughter’s home, reports The Tennessean. He was 85 and suffered from congestive heart failure. Ferlin was known as a pioneer of the pop-leaning Nashville Sound Era. His classic singles “Gone” and “Wings Of A Dove” both topped country charts for 10 weeks and were also Top 20 pop hits, marking some of the first country-pop crossover hits. He also starred in movies and entertained with his comedic alter ego, “Simon Crum.”
Born on a farm in Cantwell, Mo., on December 3, 1925, Ferlin dreamed of being a music star from a young age. He spent five years in the U.S. Merchant Marines during World War II and then worked at a Missouri radio station before moving to California to pursue his music aspirations. In Bakersfield, he worked as a disc jockey and sang in clubs, releasing his first songs in 1950 under the name Terry Preston.
After five singles under his stage name of Terry, Ferlin reverted back to his own name and continued recording. In 1953, he and Jean Shepard recorded the number one hit “A Dear John Letter.” As Jean was not 21, her parents had to give Ferlin guardianship to allow her to travel across state lines with Ferlin on tour. As Ferlin saw success, he helped others along their way. Tommy Collins, who went on to write hits for Merle Haggard, credits Ferlin with his show business start and songwriter Dallas Frazier, who penned hits “There Goes My Everything” and “Beneath Still Waters,” was treated like a son by Ferlin. He also helped Buck Owens sign his deal with Capitol.
Ferlin’s first Top 5 solo country hit was “Cuzz You’re so Sweet” which he recorded as his comedic ego, Simon Crum. Simon, whose character had a high-pitched, drawling voice, made appearances during Ferlin’s live shows, singing, impersonating other artists, and playing guitar. In 1955, Ferlin joined the Opry and moved to Nashville where he recorded “Gone, ”which topped the country charts and landed at No. 4 on the all-genre Billboard Top 100.
With the success of “Gone,” Ferlin gained national notoriety, spreading the appeal of country music with his television and movie appearances. He starred in the movies Forty Acre Feud and Hillbillies in a Haunted House, and served as a guest-host for two weeks CBS’s The Arthur Godfrey Show. “Wings Of A Dove” followed in the footsteps of “Gone” and he had nine Top 20 hits in the 1960s. He left his Capitol Records home in 1972 to sign with ABC Records and though he never recaptured his chart success, he remained a strong live performer.
It was in 1977 that Ferlin’s heart problems began. He had his first open-heart surgery and would suffer from heart issues the rest of his life. By 2009, he had had seven bypasses, but didn’t quit. His wish was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a wish that came true in 2010. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in May of 2010, wheeled into his Medallion ceremony with a tube providing him oxygen. He remained in his chair until the end of the ceremony, when he was helped to his feet to join the other inductees in singing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” Though frail, his voice rose above the others by the end of the song,” reported The Tennessean.
Ferlin is survived by daughters Donna, Dana, Julie, Jennifer, Alana and Kelly, sons David and Terry and by many grandchildren. Memorial details are not yet available.