I cannot believe Ferlin Husky died. I mean, I can't recall much of what he sang, I don't believe I own a single one of his recordings. But still.......
Think of when Western Music and Western Swing and the Bakersfield Okie sound blended into Country Music - and I'm not talking about the rock with a southern accent bullshit on the FM radio nowadays - and you think of folks like Kitty and Patsy and Gentleman Jim and Ferlin and Hank Sr. and Loretta and The Maddox Brothers & Rose and Merle and Buck and......
And now that takes me back maybe 45 years and a couple of lifetimes ago, back when I was a little fucker.
Me and Pops would be coming back from the Cascades when he was stationed at Fort Lewis in between trips to Viet Nam. He used to kidnap me for the weekend, wake me up early in the morning, drive me up to a freezing mountain stream and stick me in it, all the while talking about how much fun we were having not catching fish.
I hated that shit so much that I still do it to this day. And I still don't catch fish but godammit I'm having fun, enjoying nature, getting away from the house, etc, etc.
But other than maybe one or two outstanding memories (concerning near drownings) I don't remember a whole lot about the actual fishing.
What I remember are the trips back home.
I can remember being sprawled out across the front seat of the pickup - they didn't even have seat belts that year - with my head resting on Pops' leg, smelling beer and trout and stale Pall Malls, with dim dashlights, windy mountain roads, his hand rubbing the small of my back saying "That's Ferlin, Boy. Smooth voice, huh?" Then he'd talk so godammed much I couldn't hear the song, probably why I don't have any Ferlin tunes today.
I can actually remember Pops saying on a trip from the Cascades "That's Willie Nelson, new songwriter - wrote 'Hello Walls' and a couple of other songs. Can't sing worth a shit, though."
And Marty Robbins? He drove me insane playing that shit over and over and over - to this day if you play "El Paso" I will fucking head-punch you.
That's the shit I remember. That and having to clean the fish while he took 20 or 30 minutes (depending on many fish I had to clean) to unload the boat, the motherfucker.
That was a long-ass time ago.
*****NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ferlin Husky, a pioneering country music entertainer in the 1950s and early '60s known for hits like "Wings of a Dove" and "Gone," died Thursday. He was 85.
The 2010 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee died at his home, hall spokeswoman Tina Wright said. He had a history of heart problems and related ailments.
With his resonant voice and good looks, Husky was one of the most versatile entertainers to emerge from country music. He was a singer, songwriter, guitarist, actor, and even a comedian whose impersonations ranged from Bing Crosby to Johnny Cash.
He was one of the first country musicians to bring the genre to television and helped spread its popularity in booming post-World War II California, an important step in country's quest for a national audience.
He said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press that he was buoyed by his Hall of Fame induction because he worried he'd been forgotten as his health failed over the years.
"The main thing I'm proud of, this is for my family and for the many people who want to see me go in there before I die," he said. "It's a great honor."
Friends seemed more indignant about Husky's long wait than he did. Tracy Pitcox, president of Heart of Texas Records, remembers telling Husky he deserved to be in the hall of fame a few years before his induction.
"He said, 'It would be nice, but it isn't going to impress Jesus,'" Pitcox remembered Thursday. "I just thought, 'Wow, what a nice thing to say.'"
Husky was one of the first country artists to have his name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and sold more than 20 million records, mostly in the '50s and early '60s, according to his web site. He won many of his awards long before such gala shows were televised and meant so much to careers.
He was born in 1925 near Flat River, Mo. After five years in the Merchant Marine during World War II, he began his singing career in honky tonks and nightclubs around St. Louis and later in the Bakersfield, Calif., area.
"I'd walk into a bar and if they didn't have any music there I'd ask the bartender if I could play. Then I'd pass the hat around," he told the Chicago Tribune in 1957.
He recalled netting 50 or 75 cents each time.
He recorded some songs early in his career under the name Terry Preston, and in some early records he spelled his last name Huskey.
He was signed to Capitol records in the early 1950s and had his first big success when he teamed with 2011 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Jean Shepard on "Dear John Letter," which ranked No. 4 on Billboard's list of top country songs of 1953.
Shepard said Thursday that was the start of a friendship that lasted nearly 60 years. She talked with Husky about a week ago before his health took a turn for the worse.
"We've got to go through the motions now," Shepard said Thursday. "I just dread that 'cause it seems like my heart's going to bust."
She described Husky as a fun-loving friend who was always quick with a joke or a prank. He also was one of the most talented artists she worked with in a long career that brought her in touch with all the legends.
"Ferlin was a great entertainer. He was a great entertainer," Shepard said. "I can't say nothing bad about him. If every man and woman who worked together in the music business or whatever had the relationship that me and Ferlin had, it would be a wonderful thing. It was a loving, loving friendship."
He was also the headline act for a tour that included a young Elvis Presley.
"He was so eager to learn how to entertain an audience, he'd watch everything I did," Husky said of Presley.