His son, Barry Pelts, said his father died suddenly of a heart attack Wednesday night.
Corky's locations are found in Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. The Nashville area has one Corky's outpost, at 100 Franklin Road near Old Hickory Boulevard in Brentwood.
Pelts had already been in the Memphis barbecue business for 13 years when he opened the first Corky's in 1984, the company website recounts. In addition to the bricks-and-mortar restaurants, Corky's does catering and sells products online.
Corky's doesn't get tons of critical notice in Nashville (locally born places get most of the attention), but Corky's Brentwood location shows up frequently in the Best of Nashville Readers' Poll.
In February, Corky's in Memphis topped a National Geographic list of the 10 best barbecue joints in America.