Hillbilly-Music.comThe People. The Music. The History.
About The Artist
Rusty was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The family may have moved to Texas as they said he spent much of his life on the rolling plains of Eastern Texas. During that time, he became an excellent horseman and as singers might do, learned the traditional campfire ballads of the cowboy.
His first appearance on the radio in Chicago was as a singing guitarist with "Cy" Perkins and the WCFL Hillbillies. Then, he moved to radio station WHIP and worked as a soloist. He began appearing with the Hoosier Sodbusters group over WLS. And later, was part of the Plantation Party program with Louise Massey and the Westerners and other groups.
From the WLS Albums that Prairie Farmer published throughout the years from 1930 to 1957, we found that Rusty was a part of one of the very first television broadcasts out of Chicago.
At one time in Chicago, he was making appearances with his own group called the "Skokie Valley Boys".
Rusty did several recordings on the OKeh label and they mention that he did a trio record with Bob Atcher and Bonnie Blue Eyes of the CBS Ben Burnie show.
In the song folio we found, it mentions he learned his guitar playing techniques from his father, who himself was an old showman. It mentions the whole Gill family was musically inclined. Rusty mentions that one of his earliest recollections is a performance of his with the five-piece family band. He was also a fan of the songs and music, and at the time, had collected some 4,000 pieces of sheet music.
Rusty was on WLS back in the 1940s and appeared regularly on the old WLS National Barn Dance show. He joined WLS just about right out of high school.
The WLS Album writers wrote that he had the '...most beautiful hair of any man on radio.'
In a song folio published in 1941, we learn that Rusty enjoyed popularity over radio station WBBM in Chicago. He was on an early morning farm program, where he did strummed his guitar and sang duets with another Barn Dance favorite, Christine known as the "Swiss Miss". He was on several other CBS programs and at one time was a vocalist with Buddy Clark's "Treat Time" show.
He married Carolyn De Zurik, who was one of the famed De Zurik Sisters and they had at the time, a 4-month old son.
Around 1943 or 1944 or so, he sang a song which had a line like "Hasn't Uncle Sam a place for a boy like me?" (Sounds similar to a song by Elton Britt called "Star Spangled Banner Somewhere"). And he must have sang it often enough because he had to lay down his guitar and pick up a rifle when he joined the service.
Some of the songs attributed to Rusty in his song folio were and you can see by the titles the effect living in East Texas had on him:
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