Ferlin Husky, in his heyday
03/18/2011 AT 08:35 AM EDT
Sad news for fans of "Gone" and "Wings of a Dove" country star Ferlin Husky: "Ferlin passed away today in the Critical Care unit of a Nashville-area hospital where he had been under intensive care for several days," reads a notice posted Thursday on the 2010 Country Hall of Famer's Web site
. Husky was 85 and had suffered with heart disease.
A star since 1953, thanks to his melancholy Korean War duet with Jean Shepard, "A Dear John Letter" (about a woman who is going to marry a soldier's brother), Husky generated hits that also included "A Fallen Star," "My Reason for Living," "The Waltz You Saved for Me" and "Timber I'm Falling." Popular on early TV and even appearing in some movies, Husky was a big-name '50s headliner – so big that one of his opening acts was some kid named Elvis Presley.
"There were a lot of years when nobody in the business could follow Ferlin Husky," Merle Haggard told The Tennessean
in 2010. "He was the big live act of the day. A great entertainer."
A Missouri native who learned the guitar before he was 10, Husky moved to Bakersfield, Calif., and was later credited with bringing a twangy West Coast strain to country music. In all, he sold more than 20 million records and, according to The Tennessean
, his sound, which at first proved a viable alternative to rock 'n' roll, would help pave the way for such cross-genre modern artists as Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift
Husky's final recording, according to his Web site, was 2005's "The Way It Was (Is The Way It Is)." He is survived by six daughters, two sons and several grandchildren.