Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy birthday, Ferlin Husky!

It was announced back in February this year that today’s celebrant in the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear spotlight would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October—and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving individual.  Singer-songwriter Ferlin Husky, a country music legend known for such million-selling country-pop hits as Gone and Wings of a Dove, turns eighty-five today…and has come a long, long way since his early days in Flat River, Missouri.

After a hitch in the Merchant Marines where he first started auditioning for his future musical career, Ferlin went into radio as a DJ in Missouri and Bakersfield, CA—to disguise his rural roots, he recorded under the name “Terry Preston.”  It wasn’t until he reverted back to his real name that he started achieving chart success, particularly with a song that he recorded as a duet with Jean Shepard, A Dear John Letter—it hit the top spot on Billboard’s Country Charts and also became a pop smash (peaking at #4) and a million-selling gold record.  A follow-up, Forgive Me, John, hit the top five and the hits, as they say, kept comin’: I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere’s Else), Little Tom and A Fallen Star all secured places in country’s Top Ten.

In 1957, Husky recorded what would be the second of his four gold records…and a song that he had originally released under his Preston pseudonym, Gone.  It was also a major pop hit (#4) and led to a brief flirtation with an acting career, notably in such celluloid opuses as Mr. Rock & Roll, Country Music Holiday, The Las Vegas Hillbillies and its “sequel,” Hillbillies in a Haunted House.  Four years later in 1961, Husky would land his biggest career hit with Wings of a Dove, a million-selling tune that spent ten weeks at #1 on the country chart and also saw some pop chart action (#12).  He’d continue to place records in the Country Top 40 until 1975, scoring an additional pair of Top Ten hits in Once and Just for You.

Ferlin also demonstrated a knack for comedy by both impersonating many country singers and releasing several singles under his altar ego, Simon Crum—who scored two Top Ten country smashes with Cuzz Yore So Sweet in 1955 and Country Music is Here to Stay (his biggest Crum hit, peaking at #2 and the last of his four gold singles) three years later.  (Husky donned his Simon persona for a 1965 film, Forty Acre Feud whose lineup of stars—Bill Anderson, Skeeter Davis, George Jones, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, etc.—is just aching for a write-up at Gonna Put Me in the Movies.)

As a kid who grew up listening to Ferlin sing such tunes as Rosie Cries a Lot and Freckle and Polliwog Days, I’m pleased to be a fan and that he was presented with the Country Music Hall of Fame honor—so happy birthday to you, Mr. Husky…and to these natal anniversary celebrants as well…

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) – Polish-British novelist whose works include Lord Jim, The Secret Agent, Outcast of the Islands and Heart of Darkness

Paul Bern (1889-1932) – Motion picture writer-director who contributed to such films as The Marriage Circle and The Beloved Rogue but who remains better known for being found shot to death in his bathroom after being married to actress Jean Harlow for barely two months

Richard Talmadge (1892-1981) – Motion picture actor-director-stuntman whose vehicles include American Manner, Dancing Dynamite, Speed Madness and the 1934 sound serial Pirate Treasure

Monte Collins (1898-1951) – Unsung motion picture second banana and comedy writer who appeared in scads of silent and sound comedy two-reel shorts in the 20s/30s/40s—with an emphasis on the product cranked out at Columbia Studios

Virginia Kellogg (1907-1981) – Motion picture screenwriter who contributed to such films as Mary Stevens, MD, T-Men, White Heat and Caged

Connee Boswell (1907-1976) – Actress-singer-songwriter who was originally part of the Boswell Sisters Trio before becoming a soloist; her films include The Big Broadcast, It’s All Yours and Kiss the Boys Goodbye

Anna Sten (1908-1993) – Stage, screen and television actress whom producer Samuel Goldwyn attempted to turn into another Greta Garbo in films like Nana, We Live Again and The Wedding Night before she became known among industry wags as “Goldwyn’s Last Sten”

Robert Kent (1908-1955) – B-picture stalwart (who was also billed under his real name, Douglas Blackley) whose serials include The Phantom Creeps, Who’s Guilty? and The Phantom Rider

Nino Rota (1911-1979) – Academy Award-winning Italian motion picture composer who enjoyed a long association with both Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti

Sven Nykvist (1922-2006) – Academy Award-winning Swedish motion picture cinematographer who enjoyed a long association with Ingmar Bergman

Phyllis Curtin (1921-     ) – Operatic soprano who was born in my home state of West Virginia (Clarksburg) and who turns eighty-nine years old today

Dede Allen (1923-     ) – Motion picture editor whose work on films includes The Hustler, Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, Night Moves, Dog Day Afternoon and Reds

Andy Williams (1927-     ) – Pop music vocalist who was also a fixture on TV screens from 1962-71

William Wiard (1927-1987) – Veteran television director who worked on such shows as Daniel Boone, Room 222, The Doris Day Show, Cannon, The Rockford Files and Spenser: For Hire

Jean-Luc Godard (1930-     ) – Controversial French “New Wave” motion picture director whose oeuvre includes Breathless, My Life to Live, Contempt, Band of Outsiders and Weekend

Jaye P. Morgan (1931-     ) – Actress and pop music vocalist whose popularity in the 1950s soon waned until she reinvented herself as a popular game show panelist (notably The Gong Show) in the 1970s

Jody Reynolds (1932-2008) – Pop music vocalist and guitarist

Les Crane (1933-2008) – Radio announcer and television talk-show host who also did some acting and who scored a Top Ten Pop hit with Desiderata, which won him a Grammy

Mary Alice (1941-     ) – Emmy Award-winning stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Sparkle, To Sleep With Anger, Awakenings, Sunshine State and TV’s A Different World and I’ll Fly Away

Paul Nicholas (1945-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor-singer whose vehicles include See No Evil, Stardust, Tommy and the Britcoms Two Up, Two Down, Just Good Friends and Close to Home…he also had a hit with this little ditty:

Ozzy Osborne (1948-     ) – Rock ‘n’ roll musician and Black Sabbath front man whose later appearances on the reality TV show The Osbornes just went to show that recreational drugs are not always a good thing

Mickey Thomas (1949-     ) – Pop music vocalist who fronted for Jefferson Starship beginning in 1979 but earlier sang lead on this Elvin Bishop hit:

Heather Menzies (1949-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include The Sound of Music, Hawaii, Sssssss, Piranha and TV’s Logan’s Run

Nicky Stevens (1951-     ) – Vocalist with the pop music group Brotherhood of Man

Mel Smith (1952-     ) – British actor-comedian whose breakout star status on TV’s Not the Nine O’Clock News led to a successful partnership with Griff Rhys Jones in the film Morons from Outer Space and the TV series Alas Smith and Jones

Melody Anderson (1955-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Flash Gordon, Dead & Buried, Firewalker and roles on St. Elsewhere, Manimal, Jake and the Fatman and All My Children

Julianne Moore (1960-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include Benny & Joon, The Fugitive, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Big Lebowski and Far From Heaven

Daryl Hannah (1960-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include The Fury, Splash, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Roxanne, Steel Magnolias and Grumpy Old Men

Brendan Fraser (1968-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Encino Man, Gods and Monsters, Bedazzled, Crash and The Mummy films

Holly Marie Combs (1973-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whom I loved on Picket Fences but Charmed…well, I wasn’t

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