Ferlin Husky-Wang Dang Do
Ferlin Husky had three separate careers. Out of the three, the best known is his country-pop career, which brought him to the top of the charts in the late ’50s, but he was also known as a honky tonk singer called Terry Preston and a country comic named Simon Crum. Of course, Preston and Crum are just footnotes to Husky‘s very popular career, even though Crum nearly became a household name as well. During the late ’50s and early ’60s, he had a string of Top 40 country hits, highlighted by two number one hits — “Gone” and “Wings of a Dove” — which each spent ten weeks at the top of the charts. Husky wasn’t able to sustain that momentum, but both of the songs became country classics.
Born and raised on a Missouri farm, Husky became infatuated with music and began to play guitar as a child. During World War II, he enlisted in the Merchant Marines, where he occasionally entertained the troops on board his ship. Following the war, he became a DJ in Missouri, then in Bakersfield, California. While he was in California, Husky began using the name Terry Preston, because he believed his given name sounded too rural. He also began singing in honky tonks, using the Preston name. At one of his gigs, Tennessee Ernie Ford‘s manager Cliffie Stone heard Husky and took him under his wing. Stone helped Husky secure a record contract at Capitol Records in 1953. As soon as he signed with Capitol, he reverted to using Ferlin Husky as his performing name.
Husky‘s first records were generally ignored. It wasn’t until he sang on Jean Shepard‘s “A Dear John Letter” that he had a hit. “A Dear John Letter” became a number one hit, but Husky wasn’t able to follow it immediately with a solo hit, although the duo had a sequel, “Forgive Me John,” later that year. Husky didn’t have a solo hit until 1955, when “I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere’s Else)” and its flip side, “Little Tom,” climbed into the country Top Ten. Around the same time, he developed his comic alter ego, Simon Crum. Husky signed Crum to a separate record contract with Capitol and began releasing records under that name.
Charlie Gracie-Wildwood Boogie
Charlie Gracie was Philadelphia’s first rock & roll star, the first successful artist on that city’s famed Cameo Records, an early regular on American Bandstand, and a skilled rockabilly-style guitarist. He is best known for the 1957 hit single “Butterfly,” which rose to number one on the Billboard charts. His popularity was also significant in the U.K. and his lingering influence there is such that his praises have been sung by the likes of Paul McCartney (who covered “Fabulous,” one of Gracie‘s early recordings), George Harrison, Van Morrison and Graham Nash.
Born May 14, 1936 (the same day as Bobby Darin), with his surname originally spelled “Graci”, Charlie Gracie grew up in South Philadelphia, listening to country music and big-band jazz. At age 10, he obtained his first guitar, and by 15 he was a prodigy, performing regularly and winning contests on the simulcast radio and television show of early jazz great Paul Whiteman. Signed first to Cadillac Records, Gracie‘s first single, “Boogie-Woogie Blues,” recorded in 1951, was not a hit, nor were a couple of follow-ups for other labels. Then, in 1956, he was signed to the fledgling Cameo label. Gracie‘s first recording consisted of two songs written by the label’s co-owners, Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, “Butterfly” and “Ninety-Nine Ways.” With repeated appearances on American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark, as well as The Ed Sullivan Show and other TV programs of the day, Gracie‘s popularity soared, and by April 1957, “Butterfly” had reached number one in the States. (“Butterfly” also became a chart-topper for crooner Andy Williams the same year.) Gracie‘s style was not as raucous as fellow early guitar rockers such as Gene Vincent or Eddie Cochran, but he made up for any loss of grit with an undeniable professionalism and easy likeability. Gracie‘s guitar style has been described as a mix of rockabilly, jump blues, swing, and country boogie, while his vocals incorporate pop, blues, R&B, and rock & roll influences. (AllMusic)
Sonny Burgess is one of the wildest rockers to record for the legendary Sun label in Memphis. He and his band the Pacers came out of Newport, AR, with a hard-rocking style that, unlike that of most rockabillies, owed little to nothing in the way of a stylistic debt to country music. With his red-dyed hair, matching stage suit and guitar, and wild stage performances, Burgess made mincemeat of the competition on many of the early-’50s rock & roll package tours. Though his Sun releases never brought him much in the way of commercial success, his recordings nonetheless remain landmarks of the early rockabilly style. Burgess later toured and recorded with other Memphis alumni in the Sun Rhythm Section, and during the new millennium hit the road and the studio under the moniker of Sonny Burgess & the Legendary Pacers (celebrating the Pacers‘ 50th anniversary in 2005). Burgess & the Legendary Pacers issued the Gijon Stomp! album, a collection of new recordings, on the El Toro label in 2009. Clearly, the rockin’ flame that is Sonny Burgess refuses to be snuffed out. (AllMusic)