On The Fringe
He was born on December 3, 1925 on a farm that was located equally close to Flat River, Hickory Grove and Cantwell, Missouri, just about 75 miles from St. Louis. As a young boy he wanted to become a singer and make records, maybe even appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. There is a story that says he (or his father) traded a hen with a neighbor in exchange for a guitar. The deal was cancelled, however, when the hen failed to lay any eggs! Nevertheless, he did learn to play guitar, doing so locally at church functions and amateur competitions. Another goal of his was to become an actor and star in the movies.
All of these dreams, however, had to wait until after he served his country in World War II. After serving five years in the Merchant Marines, Ferlin returned home in 1947 to Missouri where he went to work with Smiley Burnette on St. Louis radio station KXLW. Eventually, he ended up in Salinas, California, performing with local performer/radio personality Big Jim DeNoone. He also tried his hand at acting, but all he could obtain were small parts in minor Western films. The end of the decade found Ferlin working as a disc jockey in Bakersfield in 1949.
Ferlin Husky's first recordings were done for Bill McCall's Four Star Records. Under the name "Terry Preston," he recorded his first single, "Remembrance of Franklin D/Ozark Waltz". Eight more singles were to follow on this label. In 1951, he was added to the cast of Cliffie Stone's TV program "Hometown Jamboree," replacing Tennessee Ernie Ford. Stone was so impressed by Ferlin's talent that he brought him to Capitol Records in 1952. Five songs were released, including "Undesired" and "Gone". None of these songs were hits. Ferlin's father and his producer, Ken Nelson, did not like his choice of the name of "Terry Preston." They didn't feel that it was very masculine and that it was unfitting for a country music singer. Therefore, he returned to his given name, using the spelling "Huskey" until 1957.
Despite the change, he had no real success until 1953, when he teamed up with a young Bakersfield singer named Jean Shepard. Their first hit was "A Dear John Letter", which was about a soldier who was jilted by his girlfriend. Since the Korean War ended in the summer of that year, it was no surprise that their song was Number One in the country charts for six weeks and reached Number Four in the pop charts. The pair's follow-up, "Forgive Me John", also made it to the Top Ten, thus launching both of their careers. The next big hit for Husky was "I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere Else)", which reached Number Six. The flip-side, "Little Tom", also made it into the Top Ten.
In order to compete with the success of Rock and Roll, Ken Nelson made the decision to re-record "Gone" with the Nashville Sound. He removed the steel guitar and the fiddle, replacing them with a modest rhythm section and the background voices of Millie Kirkham and the Jordanaires. The change was so extreme that even some disc jockeys refused to play the song. However, by 1957, "Gone" reached Number One on the country charts, and held that position for ten weeks. It also made it to Number Four on the pop charts, becoming a true "crossover" success. Some have even called it the first hit song with the Nashville Sound. The trend continued with the release of Jim Reeves "Four Walls" later the same year.
The next Number One hit for Ferlin was the Gospel song "Wings of a Dove". It stayed ten weeks at Number One in 1960. He had few minor hits in the early sixties, with "Once" reaching Number Four in 1967, and "Just For You" doing the same the following year. This was his last Top Ten record on the Capitol label.
Then, in 1970, tragedy struck as Ferlin's son was killed in a car crash at the age of 17. In 1973, he left Capitol and signed with ABC Records. His success with ABC was very little when compared to that of his time with Capitol Records. His only major hit was "Rosie Cries A Lot", which was in the Top 20 in 1973. He continued performing on the road well into the 1980's. His only down time was in 1977 when he had open heart surgery.
In 1984, Ferlin was signed by MCA who released a video of his called Truck Drivin' Son of a Gun." He then began to build the Wings of a Dove Museum in Hendersonville, Tennessee, which soon became part of Conway Twitty's Twitty City. In 1988, he gave up drinking and started singing inspirational music.
Ferlin Husky's ability was not limited to that of a country/pop singer. In 1957, he had a dramatic role on an episode of the "Kraft TV Theater." His next film appearances include the movies "Mr. Rock and Roll" and "Country Music Holiday" in 1958. He also made two movies with comedian Don Bowman. These were "Las Vegas Hillbillies," with Jayne Mansfield (1966), and "Hillbillies in a Haunted House" with Basil Rathbone (1967). After this, he starred in 14 additional movies.
Another side of Ferlin Husky was as a comedian. He had a hit with the single "Cuzz You're So Sweet", this time reaching the Top Five as "Simon Crum." Crum was a comic philosopher, a typical country bumpkin. One of Crum's other songs, "Country Music Is Here To Stay", made it to Number Two in the country charts in 1958. He did such a good job as this hayseed character that, at one point, many fans thought Crum was a separate person.
Ferlin Husky may not be among the best all-time record sellers, but he certainly is one of the most versatile. He was ahead of his time, becoming the first performer to use a drummer and a modern backing group on the Grand Ole Opry. He was the first Country singer to have a star placed in his honor on Hollywood Boulevard. When Hal Ketchum was added to the Grand Ole Opry in 1994, Ferlin joined him on the stage and the two sang "Wings Of A Dove", thus testifying to the lasting quality of his talent.
From a Ferlin Husky Fan-Dedicated Website.
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