Born in Harlan County, Kentucky, Rusty York came to Cincinnati when he was seventeen years old. He could play both guitar and banjo, and began working the bars in Cincinnati with Willard Hale, with whom he later made some recordings on Starday. He acquired his nickname because people in the clubs assumed that the name inscribed on his second-hand guitar was his. Rusty became Jimmie Skinner’s right hand man, working in his record store as well as playing banjo, resonator guitar, and electric lead guitar with Jimmie as the occasion demanded. He cut some rockabilly sides for Gateway and King; “Sugaree” on Chess became a national hit. An original banjo instrumental on Mercury was called “Dixie Strut.” He also recorded as Rusty York and the Kentucky Mountain Boys with Curly Tuttle on mandolin, Billy Thomas on fiddle, Bill Lanham on guitar, Herman Kress on bass, and himself on banjo. He fronted Bobby Bare’s band for a while and worked in Las Vegas, but eventually decided his future lay in his Jewel Recording Studio, which he began in his garage in 1961 and later moved to 1594 Kinney Avenue in the Cincinnati suburb of Mt. Healthy. The studio has been the site for many excellent bluegrass, country, and gospel recordings for a variety of labels, but was closed in 2008 when Rusty retired.

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