Hank Snow, a country music legend with a flamboyant style whose million-selling hit "I'm Movin' On" launched a career that lasted nearly a half-century, died Monday. He was 85.
The cause of death likely was heart failure, but an autopsy will be performed, said his son, Jimmy Snow.
Snow's self-written "I'm Movin' On" was on the country music charts for almost a year in 1950, including 21 weeks at No. 1. More than 60 singers, including Ray Charles and Elvis Presley, have sung its opening lines: "That big eight-wheeler rollin' round the track/Means your true lovin' daddy ain't coming back/I'm movin' on."
Snow, a 12-year-old runaway who bought his first guitar for $30, tended to flashy rhinestone-studded suits and stage shows that included a horse doing tricks.
He sold more than 70 million records, and his string of hits -- including "I Don't Hurt Anymore," "Music Makin' Mama From Memphis," "Rhumba Boogie" and the humorous "I've Been Everywhere" -- stretched 25 years.
"People used to say of Duke Ellington that his music went beyond any genre like jazz," said Charles Wolfe, a country music historian. "Hank Snow did that for country music. You can't really pin him down to one style. He did so many so well."
Snow idolized country music yodeler Jimmie Rodgers but also experimented with cowboy songs, Latin rhythms, jazz, blues, Hawaiian music, mambos and recitations.
He sang for U.S. troops in Korea, Vietnam, Germany, France, Norway, Italy, England and Japan. He said in a 1991 interview that his appearances for troops were the highlight of his career.
In the mid-1950s, Snow was a mentor to Presley just as Presley was breaking into the music business, and the two toured together.
His "I'm Movin' On," about boarding a train to leave a wayward lover, was recorded in 36 languages. It was covered by Emmylou Harris, Don Gibson and many others.
Snow, nicknamed "The Singing Ranger," was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979 and was a member of the Grand Ole Opry radio show cast for nearly 50 years.
Snow was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. His parents divorced when he was 8, and Snow said he ran away from home at 12 because of beatings he suffered by his stepfather. Later, he formed a foundation for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
He was a cabin boy on a freighter for four years. As a teen-ager, he used $30 in earnings from a two-week stint unloading salt from a ship to buy his first guitar. His style was heavily influenced by Rodgers.
Snow's first hit was "Marriage Vow" in 1949. His last No. 1 hit, "Hello Love," came in 1974.
Snow continued singing regularly on the Grand Ole Opry into his 80s. In August 1996, when he returned to the Opry stage after a seven-month absence because of ill health, he got a standing ovation.