100 Greatest Men: The Complete List
Equal parts classic country singer and brilliant comedian, Ferlin Husky was one of the consummate all-around entertainers.
Born and raised in Missouri, he learned guitar from his uncle. The music bug led him to drop out of high school, and he played honky-tonks at night while working blue collar jobs by day. During World War II, he entertained troops for five years. It was during this time that he created the character Simon Crum, a hayseed hillbilly singer. He would go on to play that character on record and on stage for many years.
He gained prominence in the burgeoning southern California country music scene as a musician, performer, and disc jockey. His searing guitar work, featured on the studio recordings of Tommy Collins, helped shape the Bakersfield sound that would later expand the boundaries of country music.
In addition to the Crum moniker, he also performed under the stage name Terry Preston from 1948-1953, but he went back to his birth name by the time he started having major hits for Capitol records in the early fifties. His breakthrough hit was a duet with fellow honky-tonker Jean Shepard. Their first collaboration, “A Dear John Letter”, topped the charts in 1953.
During the fifties, Husky was remarkably prolific. He had two separate contracts with Capitol Records, scoring hits as both Ferlin Husky and his now-classic character, Simon Crum. He appeared on radio and television, and even had bit parts in more than a dozen films. He scored a huge crossover pop hit with “Gone” in 1957.
The string of hits continued in the sixties, the most notable being “Wings of a Dove”, which went on to become a country gospel standard covered by countless artists. He earned great marks as a live performer, and the comedic talents he honed as Simon Crum were also put to use through mimicking the big country stars of the day.
He was also a mentor to several important country music figures, including Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Dallas Frazier. His struggling as a young artist was something he always remembered, so he made a point to give a helping hand to young talent.
His health required him to cut back on performances from the seventies onward, but when he did perform on the Opry or on the road, he remained a popular draw. A year before his passing, he was able to see his legacy secured, as he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
- A Dear John Letter (with Jean Shepard), 1953
- Gone, 1957
- Country Music is Here to Stay (Simon Crum), 1958
- Wings of a Dove, 1960
- Once, 1967
- Just For You, 1968
- Songs of Home and Heart, 1956
- Boulevard of Broken Dreams, 1957
- Born to Lose, 1959
- The Heart and Soul of Ferlin Husky, 1963
Next: #69. Travis Tritt
Previous: #71. Johnny Paycheck
I’ve always loved “A Dear John Letter.”
“Gone” is one of my all-time favorite country songs. He had a beautiful voice and a charismatic stage presence.
I think both Husky and Paycheck are a little too far back in your listings, but both are hard to place accurately. Ferlin Husky is not one of my favorite artists, having recorded many songs that I liked and nearly as many that I cringe to hear. Ferlin occasionally sounder overwrought and on those songs I generally don’t like his singing
That said, Ferlin made many truly great recordings. “Gone”, “A Dear John Letter”, and “On The Wings of A Dove” belong in anyone’s top 100 country songs. Lesser hits such as “I Hear Little Rock Calling”, Just For You”, “Heavenly Sunshine” and “Room For A Boy – Never Used” are among my personal favorites. His voice remained in fine form throughout his life – his last album, issued a few years before his death is worth the effort to obtain.
It was disgraceful that Ferlin had to wait until he was 85 years old to be inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame – at least he lived long enough to see the honor bestowed upon him