What with the Middle East in flames, Japan underwater, and Charlie Sheen leaking crap everywhere (he is apparently still full of it), I missed a truly important story; I wouldn't even have known about it at all if MamaCharlie hadn't seen it on the crawl on Fox News. Ferlin Husky died on the 17th of March. He hadn't been heard of much lately, but in the fifties and sixties he was one of country music's top acts. I grew up listening to country music and Ferlin Husky was large in the mix. Mr. Husky provided one of those "Tales of the Chief" stories that still brings a giggle to my mind whenever I think about it. So maybe this is as much a tribute to the Chief as it is to Ferlin.
My folks, Betty Lou and the Chief, were accomplished dancers. Try as I might, I never mastered it. But they loved to go dancing at the Bostonia Ballroom, on Broadway in El Cajon. Back in the day, all the big names in Country music came through there. Hank Thompson, Hank Snow, Lefty Frizzel, Johnny Cash, Tommy Duncan, Spade Cooley...think of a fifties' country name and they probably were there at one time or another.
Now, I gotta tell you about my dad, the Chief. There was never a happier drunk in the world. He was engaging, clever, good looking, and friendly to everyone (there was another side of him that earned him a reputation in WESTPAC as a formidable scrapper, but that's another story). He made friends so easily it was amazing. He once met a Marine Master Sergeant at the Airport Bar in the Honolulu Airport who was forced to lay over for 24 hours and was planning to sleep in the terminal. The Chief, well into his cups, struck up a great friendship and brought the Marine home to sleep on the couch. The next morning when the Chief came out to find something to relieve the pain, he spotted the Marine's dress blues over the arm of the sofa and went ballistic. The Chief, you see, in his natural, normal state, hated Marines worse than anything. He threw the poor sergeant out the front door in his skivvies and shoved his uniform out after him. But this isn't about the morning after; this is about how the Chief could make friends with anyone. He once met and became good buddies with Johnny Ray, a fifties singer famous for crying while he sang; they had a few beers and cried some together.
Told you all that so I could tell you this: One night at the Bostonia Ballroom, the Chief befriended a handsome young singer named Terry Preston. Terry joined them at their table and they shared drinks and stories and had a grand ol' time. When Terry had to go on stage and perform, the Chief and Betty Lou danced their hearts out. It was one of those special evenings for them. At closing time, when everyone was parting ways, the Chief put his arm over Terry's shoulder and told him most earnestly that Terry was bound to go far in the music business because he sounded just like Ferlin Husky. Terry looked over at Betty Lou, suppressing a smile and just gave her a slight wink. He thanked the Chief for his confidence. The Chief and Betty Lou sang Terry's songs all the way home and danced their way through the house. I am not sure at what point Betty Lou broke the news (that everyone else in the whole town already knew) that Ferlin Husky went on the road on many occasions as Terry Preston. But I do know that the next time Terry played the Bostonia, they all had a great laugh about it.
So my limited knowledge of Ferlin Husky is that he was a great singer, an extremely popular performer, and he had a cool sense of humor. I haven't heard any of his songs for years but I can still sing them (fortunately for those around me, just in my head) word for word after all this time. You may recall his greatest hits "Gone" or "On the Wings of a Dove".
If you are interested enough, there is a website full of pictures of the Ballroom and its performers in its heyday: http: goneG//www.dekedickerson.com/dekephotoarchive/scottybroyles/scottybroyles1.htm