If you look at the lyrics of the song "Gone" there's not much on the page. In total, just seventy-one words. What made those words come to life, and etched them eternally in the minds of country music fans, was the gut-wrenching emotion Ferlin Husky poured into every syllable of that song.
Ferlin Husky died today (March 17), two days after being released from a Hendersonville hospital into hospice care.
Husky's career began inauspiciously. Record company executives thought the name "Ferlin Husky" was too hokey and artificial, so he first recorded "Gone" under the pseudonym Terry Preston. The recording went nowhere. Meanwhile, Husky made a name for himself as a first-rate impressionist of country singers. He recorded a song, "Hank's Song," featuring lyrics comprised of Hank Williams song titles while doing an impersonation of Williams that was so good it was scary.
Husky's career took off when Capitol teamed him with a female newcomer, Jean Shepard, on a lost-love song that was quite topical at the time (during the Korean War): "A Dear John Letter." The hit put both on the road to success that would eventually end at the Country Music Hall of Fame (Shepard this year, Husky last year).
After the massive success of "Gone" Husky allowed his "good friend" Simon Crum to enter the studio for an album (The Unpredictable Simon Crum). The tracks included "My Gallina" (which included a pronunciation guide ["pronounced 'Guy-EE-na'"] on the 45 label), a Mel Tillis composition "Stand Up, Sit Down, Shut Your Mouth," and the hilarious "Little Red Webb," which featured
Husky Crum impersonating Red Sovine and Webb Pierce while skewering the horridly smarmy "Little Rosa."
Husky gave the country music world one other classic, the 1960 crossover gospel number "Wings of a Dove." The song was one of only four tunes to hit #1 on the country charts in 1960 (the others being "El Paso," "He'll Have to Go," and "Please Help Me, I'm Falling") while also making a successful stay on the pop charts.
Husky dealt with heart problems for decades. According to one Nashville obituary, he endured seven heart bypass operations. In recent years he had been frequently in and out of hospitals because of congestive heart failure, pneumonia and infections. He was recently diagnosed with colon cancer as well.
Oh, what I'd give for the lifetime I've wasted
The love that I tasted
I was wrong
Now you've gone
Ferlin Husky was 85.