Rusty Draper was an American country and pop singer who achieved his greatest success in the 1950s.
Born in Kirksville, Missouri and nicknamed “Rusty” for his red hair, he began performing on his uncle’s radio show in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid 1930s. Draper moved on to work at radio stations in Des Moines, Iowa—sometimes filling in for sports announcer Ronald Reagan—and in Illinois before settling in California. There he began to sing in local clubs, becoming resident singer at the Rumpus Room in San Francisco. By the early 1950s he had begun appearing on national TV shows including The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS) and Ozark Jubilee (ABC).
In 1952, Draper signed to Mercury Records and issued his debut single, “How Could You (Blue Eyes)”. The following year, after a national club tour, his cover version of Jim Lowe’s “Gambler’s Guitar” made #6 on both the country and pop charts, and sold a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. After a series of less successful follow-ups, he made the national charts again in 1955 with “Seventeen” (#18), “The Shifting, Whispering Sands” (#3) and “Are You Satisfied?” (#11), becoming one of the biggest pop and country crossover stars of the period.
In 1956, he returned to the top 20 with “In The Middle Of The House” (#20), followed up by his version of Chas McDevitt’s UK skiffle hit “Freight Train” (#3) Draper also reached the UK Singles Chart with a rendition of “Muleskinner Blues.”