Husky, Ferlin

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Husky, Ferlin

Husky, Ferlin, American country-music singer, guitarist, and comedian; b. near Flat River, Mo., Dec. 3, 1925. Husky reached the country singles charts with 51 recordings between 1953 and 1975, both under his own name and as his comic alter-ego, “Simon Crum,” the most popular of which were “A Dear John Letter’” Gone and “Wings of a Dove.”

Husky grew up on a farm, learning to play the guitar as a child. He served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, then worked as a disc jockey and backup musician in St. Louis and in Bakersfield, Calif., performing under the name Terry Preston. He recorded for the small Four Star Records label in 1951, then moved up to Capitol Records. By 1953 he had reverted to his real name, though for several years he spelled it “Huskey.” In August 1953 “A Dear John Letter” (music and lyrics by Fuzzy Owens and Lewis Tally), a duet with Jean Shepard, hit #1 on the country charts, later reaching the Top Ten on the pop charts. Shepard and Husky followed it with “Forgive Me John” (music and lyrics by Billy Barton and Jean Shepard), a country Top Ten. Husky got to the country Top Ten on his own in early 1955 with both sides of his single “I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere’s Else)” “Little Tom.” Within months, he was back in the country Top Ten as Simon Crum with the novelty “Cuzz Yore So Sweet” (music and lyrics by John Kane).

Husky scored the biggest country hit of 1957 with his rerecording of “Gone” (music and lyrics by Smokey Rogers), a song he had previously cut as Terry Preston. It crossed over to the Top Ten of the pop charts. As a result of this success he joined the Grand Ole Opry, and made his first film appearance, in Mr. Rock & Roll (1957), following it with Country Music Holiday (1958). He also reached the country Top Ten in 1957 with “A Fallen Star.” His next major hit was another novelty as SimonCrum, “Country Music Is Here to Stay” (music and lyrics by Ferlin Husky), at the end of 1958. He returned to the top of the country charts and the pop Top 40 in late 1960 with “Wings of a Dove” (music and lyrics by Bob Ferguson).

Husky reached the country charts consistently through 1975, though he only had one more Top Ten hit, “Just for You” (music and lyrics by Larry Butler and Curly Putman) in February 1968. He switched from Capitol to ABC Records in 1972 and later recorded for smaller labels. He underwent open-heart surgery in 1977 but continued to perform regularly, by the 1990s turning up in the nostalgic-music center of Branson, Mo.

Husky was married six times and had seven children.

—William Ruhlmann