Ferlin Husky, whose smash hits "Gone" and "Wings of a Dove" helped marry country and pop music fans, died Thursday from heart failure.
He was 85 and had suffered cardiac problems for many years.
Husky's tearjerking Korean War duet with Jean Shepard, "A Dear John Letter," made him a country music star in 1953.
Four years later, he re-recorded "Gone," a melodramatic lament he first sang in 1952. This time the combination of his wailing voice and a lush background chorus sent it to No. 1 on the country charts and the top five on the pop charts.
Today the song is widely cited as one of the records that pushed country music away from its traditional "twang" and toward a smoother pop sound.
It also showed that early rock 'n' roll audiences would buy a good country tune, and Husky was featured in the 1958 movie "Mr. Rock & Roll."
He hit No. 1 again in 1960 with "Wings of a Dove," a melodic country gospel song that crossed over to the pop top 20.
Husky eventually settled back in the country world, becoming a Grand Ol' Opry regular known for his folksy manner and imitations of other singers in addition to his own hits.