Farrell "Rusty" Draper (January 25, 1923 – March 28, 2003) was was one of the biggest American country crossover stars of the early '50s, selling over a million records to pop and country audiences before the rise of rock & roll derailed his career.
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. His early efforts, including "Devil of a Woman" and "Sing Baby Sing," generated little interest at radio, and even "Release Me," a 1952 duet with Patti Page, failed to jump-start his career. In early 1953 he nevertheless mounted a national club tour, and the publicity gave a much-needed push to his sixth Mercury release, a cover of the Carlisles' country hit "No Help Wanted." In June, Draper released "Gambler's Guitar," and everything clicked -- the record sold over a million copies and not only reached the country Top Ten, but also cracked the pop charts.
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."
In 1962, he left Mercury to sign with Monument Records, reaching number 57 on the pop charts in the fall of 1963 with Willie Nelson's "Night Life." A comeback was not in the cards, however, and subsequent Monument efforts "It Should Be Easier" and "I'm Worried About Me" went nowhere. The label terminated his contract following 1966's "Mystery Train," although he hung around the lower rungs of the country charts for the remainder of the decade via minor hits like "My Elusive Dreams," "California Sunshine," and "Buffalo Nickel."
Draper remained a steady concert draw in years to follow, and also appeared in stage musicals and on television. He hosted a daytime programme, Swingin' Country, made guest appearances on hit shows like Laramie, Rawhide and 77 Sunset Strip, and appeared in productions of Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun.in 1980, he squeaked into the country charts one final time with "Harbor Lights." He remained a steady concert draw in years to follow, and also appeared in stage musicals and on television.
Draper died of pneumonia in Bellevue, WA, on March 29, 2003. (Info edited from Wikipedia & AMG)