Like many others in his era, red-haired singer Farrell ‘Rusty’ Draper found success over the course of his long career by appealing to fans of more than one kind of music. Beginning with his rise to fame in the early 1950s, Draper had a number of good selling records that straddled the line between pop and country, including Top Ten hits on “Gambler’s Guitar,” “Shifting, Whispering Sands,” and “Freight Train.”
The Kirksville, Missouri, native started young. He was only twelve when he first began appearing on regional radio in the 1930s, and even cut a demo record soon after, although it didn’t lead to anything at the time. When his family relocated to Southern California late in the decade he struggled to restart his fledgling career, and as he approached adulthood he was still looking for that big break.
During the 1940s he finally began to build a little career momentum after moving to the San Francisco area, where he became a regular attraction in local clubs. He also got married along the way, and his new wife helped manage his career as he rose in fame in subsequent years. By the 1950s he was beginning to hit the record charts in a big way and also gain national attention by showing up in places like TV’s Ed Sullivan show.
By the 1960s Draper was beginning to experience a lot of ups and down in his career, although he still generated good-selling records like “Please Help Me I’m Falling” and “Night Life.” As the years passed he continued to be a popular draw on stage for fans who appreciated his warmth and geniality, but his last charted record was 1980’s “Harbor Lights.” He eventually retired from active performing, and was 80 when he died in 2003.