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:
- Don't Feel Sorry For Me
- Lazy Old Mule
- Roll, Wagons, Roll Along (with Walt Wesley)
- What Ever Made You Stop Loving Me?
- Pappy, He Died With His Boots On (with Walt Wesley)
- I Ain't The Man I Used To Be
- Weary and Worried
- Waiting For My Love
- Ridin' Home To Glory
- Blaze Away (with Walt Wesley)
- Git Along, Old Smoky
- Straddlin' My Saddle
- Rainbow 'Round The Hill
- 'Taint Right, That Way, 'Taint Right!
- Sons Of The Saddle
- Westward Ho!
- In A Little Texas Town (with Walt Wesley)
- When Do The Wagons Roll?
Timeline and Trivia Notes
- Rusty's real first name was Ralph
- Married to Carolyn De Zurik (August 4, 1940 or 1941) of the DeZurik Sisters fame
- Was part of the Dawnbusters group that was heard early in the mornings on WLS
- Was part of the Hoosier Sodbusters
Credits & Sources
- Deluxe Edition Rusty Gill Cowboy Songs Mountain Ballads;
M.M. Cole Publishing Co., Chicago, IL, 1941.
- WLS Family Albums; Prairie Farmer; Chicago, IL; 1941.