Country Music Hall of Fame member Ferlin Husky has passed away at the age of 85, after a long battle with heart disease. His family confirms to Nashville's Tennessean newspaper that the legendary singer died today, March 17, at his daughter's home in Westmoreland, Tenn.

Ferlin had a multiple-level career, beginning with music and encompassing acting and television hosting. Born December 3, 1925, and raised on a farm near Flat River, Mo., the singer learned to play guitar at a young age. He enlisted in the Merchant Marines during World War II and fought in the Battle of Cherbourg, keeping his voice in shape by singing for his fellow enlisted men.

Upon returning home, he moved to California, where he started making records under the name Terry Preston, thinking that his own name sounded a bit too rural for fans to accept. When that didn't work out, he recorded a duet with Jean Shepard, 'A Dear John Letter,' in 1953, which brought him recognition under his own name. Soon he had his own hits with 'Gone,' which became a gold record for him in 1957, followed by 'Wings of a Dove' that same year. Other popular singles included 'I Feel Better All Over (More Than Anywhere Else)' and 'Rosie Cries a Lot.'

Ferlin also developed an alter-ego, Simon Crum, who showed his more playful and comedic side. Simon was also signed to Capitol Records, and was a recording artist with his own fan base with the hit single 'Country Music Is Here to Stay.' The singer began to develop the character of Simon when he was in the Merchant Marines and performing for his fellow enlistees. He modeled the character after a neighbor he had in Missouri named Simon Crump.

Ferlin is credited with helping to create what became known as the Bakersfield Sound. One of the later proponents of that sound, Merle Haggard, said of Ferlin, "There were a lot of years when nobody in the business could follow Ferlin Husky. He was the big live act of the day. A great entertainer."

In 1957, Ferlin's acting career began when he landed a spot on the 'Kraft TV Theatre' television program and was cast in Alan Freed's 1957 film, 'Mr. Rock & Roll.' He went on to act in more than 18 movies including 'Hillbillies in a Haunted House,' 'Country Music Holiday' and 'Forty Acre Feud.' The singer has had roles alongside Henry Fonda, Mamie Van Doren, Glenn Ford and John Carradine. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

Ferlin became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in July 1954, which was broadcast on NBC. When he was offered and took the job as Arthur Godfrey's summer replacement on the CBS network, he had to leave the Opry because they were opposing networks. After his stint with the Godfrey show was over, he went back to the Opry, only to be let go in 1964 with several other artists who couldn't perform the required 26 shows a year, per their agreement as Opry members at the time.

The Missouri native took some time off in 1977 after heart surgery, and was again a popular attraction when he resumed his touring. He had heart problems for many years, having been in and out of the hospital over the years for treatment of heart disease.

Ferlin was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010, along with Jimmy Dean, Billy Sherrill and Don Williams. In January, 2011, he was honored at West St. Francois County High School in Leadwood, Mo., with local singers performing his hits.

Ferlin is survived by his five daughters, two sons and several grandchildren. Details on a memorial service are forthcoming.

Watch Ferlin Perform 'Wings of a Dove'