Ferlin, Jayne Mansfield & Mamie Van Doren in Las Vegas Hillbillys 1966
In 1956, Husky re-recorded a song he had earlier released on Capitol as Terry Preston (Smokey Rogers's "Gone.") Preparing for the session, held at Nashville's Bradley Studio, Ken Nelson asked Jordanaires leader, Gordon Stoker, to recruit a soprano vocalist; Stoker asked Millie Kirkham to assist.
Combined with echo and sparse instrumental support, the background singers heightened the drama of Husky's distinctive vocal on a recording widely regarded as the first example of the Nashville Sound production approach. "He didn't sound like anything or anybody else," legendary producer, Billy Sherrill, affirmed. A #1 country hit, "Gone" peaked at #4 pop.
(L) Husky's first Capitol success was the smash hit, "A Dear John Letter," on which featured artist, Jean Shepard, sang choruses punctuating Husky's recitation as a soldier whose sweetheart has decided to marry his brother. With the Korean War still underway, the recording entered Billboard's country chart in July of 1953, shot to #1, and crossed over to #16 pop. Capitalizing on their success, the duo toured widely-after Husky was officially named guardian for Shepard, not yet twenty-one.
(R) Back-up brother and sister vocalists, Orlo & Marvis Thompson, were with Ferlin in the 50's and 60's. Marvis was Ferlin's wife for over 30 years.
Later in 1953, Ferlin and Jean Shepard notched a #4 country hit with the answer song "Forgive Me John." Nineteen fifty-five brought Husky three solo Top Tens: "I Feel Better All Over (More than Anywhere's Else)," "Little Tom," and "Cuzz Yore So Sweet," his first hit as Simon Crum.
Ferlin Eugene Husky was born in Cantwell, Missouri, on December 3, 1925, and grew up the son of a sharecropper on a small Missouri farm. He was named Ferland after one of his father's friends, but his birth certificate nevertheless read "Ferlin," and the spelling stuck. An uncle taught him guitar before age ten; tuning the family radio to KMOX-St. Louis, he heard smooth-singing favorites like Red Foley and Bing Crosby.
Pictured here with Charley Pride at the Medallion Ceremony, Ferlin was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
Ferlin Husky helped modernize country music in the post-rock era, ultimately prodding the genre to grow in popularity and artistic sweep. For those lasting efforts, Husky was welcomed into the Country Music Hall of Fame in a two-hour Medallion Ceremony on May 23, 2010.
Ferlin Husky Biography
Elvis, Jane Russell, Ferlin, & Lou Costello 1950's
Orlo Thompson, Ferlin, Dallas Frazier & Marvis Thompson-Husky in Forty Acre Feud 1965
Joi Lansing, Don Bowman & Ferlin in Hillbillys in a Haunted House 1967
Zsa Zsa Gabor & Ferlin in Country Music Holiday 1958
Roll it, cut, and
(L) Ferlin & Henry Fonda, (R) Ferlin & Glenn Ford 1970
Husky met a veteran of the Merchant Marines while working in St. Louis in the early 1940s, and after Pearl Harbor, he rushed to enlist. On D-Day he served as a volunteer gunner on a troop ship off the beach at Cherbourg, France. After the war Husky sang in St. Louis honky-tonks, then headed for California in the late 1940s and started performing with other musicians. Former Gene Autry sidekick, Smiley Burnette, recruited him for a multi-state tour and persuaded Husky to adopt the name Terry Preston.
Subsequently, Husky returned to California and hooked up with Ole Rasmussen, Smokey Rogers, and others prominent on the club circuit. Through regular performances on Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree radio and TV series, Husky won audiences with his singing, comedy, and impersonations.
Recording success landed Husky featured roles in a number of movies. These included Mr. Rock & Roll (1957), Country Music Holiday (1958), Forty Acre Feud (1965), Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967), Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966), and Swamp Girl (1971).
But Husky made his most lasting impression as a live performer. He toured widely in the United States and abroad. "There were a lot of years when nobody in the business could follow Ferlin Husky," Merle Haggard said, "He was the biggest live act of the day. A great entertainer."
Husky Music, Inc.
Traditional . Innovative . Fresh . Original
Husky was one of the first country music entertainers to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Husky had worked the televised version of Springfield, Missouri's, Ozark Jubilee in 1955 and then moved to the Grand Ole Opry. "Gone" propelled him to network television appearances on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts--including spots as guest host-Kraft Television Theater, The Ed Sullivan Show, and eventually talk shows hosted by Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, and Merv Griffin. Husky had to give up his Opry slot, but TV exposure introduced him to millions of viewers.
(L) Ferlin, Patsy Cline, Faron Young, Jerry Reed, (R) Ferlin & Rosemary Clooney 1960's
Then came lights, camera, ACTION!
Rod Brassfield, June Carter-Cash & Ferlin in Country Music Holiday 1958
Next, Husky became a disc jockey on Bakersfield radio station, KBIS. Here he developed his comic alter-ego, Simon Crum, based on the popular radio characters, Lum & Abner, and on Simon Crump, a friend and neighbor from his youth. Hilarious dialog between Husky and "Simon" boosted sponsors' sales and helped prove country music's selling power. At Bakersfield's Rainbow Gardens club, Husky headlined family-friendly shows and hosted children's talent contests. At one such event he met twelve-year-old Dallas Frazier, and soon steered him to Capitol Records. Husky also mentored Tommy Collins (born Leonard Sipes), recommending him to the label as well. Husky played guitar on Collins's early recordings and renamed him when someone ordered a Tom Collins drink during a session.
By 1950, Husky was recording for independent, Four Star Records, and writing songs for Four Star Music. With help from Cliffie Stone (a Capitol producer), Husky moved up to Capitol in early 1953, using his Terry Preston moniker until producer, Ken Nelson, advised him to record under his real name.
-Special thanks to: Don Roy and John Rumble - Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum and Museum'sEncyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.