Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Rusty York’s Cincinnati Indie Label

Billboard, in their January 8, 1972 edition, reported this quirky news item in the Cincinnati division of their “From the Music Capitals Around the World” column:

Rusty York, who heads up the Jewel Recording Studio[s] here, learned last week that the new ‘Smash-Up Derby’ commercial [for Cincinnati-based Kenner Products], which he created and did all the instrumental work, has been entered into the Hollywood Film Festival as an entry to select the best film commercial of the year.  The commercial is currently being spotted on all three major networks.

Kenner SSP Smash-Up Derby TV Commercial

Music by Rusty York

Rusty York’s Jewel Recording Studio – in Mt. Healthy, just north of Cincinnati – would begin releasing 45s in 1961 and would once host The Grateful Dead, believe it or not, according to Cliff Radel’s obituary for York in the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s February 4, 2014 edition.

You can survey Rusty York’s musical legacy in three ways:


Discogs also allows you to browse LP & 45 releases that were recorded at Jewel Recording Studio, including Lonnie Mack‘s Whatever’s Right 1969 LP for Elektra (engineered by Gene Lawson) and Paul Dixon‘s Paul Baby 1973 album, on which the longtime TV host (and source of inspiration for a young Dave Letterman, who used to drive from Indianapolis to Cincinnati on days off to watch tapings of The Paul Dixon Show) is accompanied by former King recording artist Bonnie Lou.

Two memorable song titles that can only be found on the Jewel label —

Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” – vintage 1967 San Francisco-style psych blues – and “Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky” – “post 60’s garage/proto punk” from 1974 that features maniacal drumming and laughing choruses that are strategically interrupted by a softly-spoken catch phrase intended to win over the Pre-K crowd.

Jewel Records featured 45 #1

Scratch My Egg” by The Fabulous Fish (1968)

Jewel Records featured 45 #2

Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky” by Dry Ice (1974)

From Billboard‘s ‘Music Capitals of the World – Cincinnati’ column = Oct. 14, 1972 edition:

Mike Reid, defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals [previously celebrated here], and Dee Felice [musical associate of James Brown] and his group set for early recording dates at Rusty York‘s Jewel studios.  Felice recently cut two sides at Jewel.  Sonny Simmons, Cleveland gospel promoter, in town recently to produce an album for the gospel-singing Monarchs at Jewel studios.  Others in recently at Jewel to do gospel albums were Judy Cody of Akron; The Crossmen of Lansing, Mich.; and the Cooke Duet of Wise, Va.

Mad Lydia Wood, accompanied by Cincinnati Joe, did the warbling on six commercial spots on Wiedemann Beer for the Campbell-Mithun Agency of Minneapolis at Jewel last week.  Mad Lydia and Joe have held forth at various locations here for the last several years.

Based on Rusty York’s cameo appearance in a recent piece, no doubt you will not be surprised to learn that Albert Washington was a Jewel recording artist, as was/were Jimmie SkinnerThe Russell BrothersJ.D. Jarvis, Linda Webb, and Dale Miller [let’s not forget 1969’s Sharon Lee and the Moonrockers, not to mention that same year’s The Funnie Papers, and most especially of all, Jade, whose 1970 album, recorded at Jewel, would include the jaw-dropping sonic wonder of “My Mary“).

Rusty York at Jewel

(courtesy of Randy McNutt’s Home of the Hits)


Did You Know?
Rusty York/King Records Trivia From Randy McNutt’s website:

Rusty York, a former King rockabilly and country singer, bought some of King’s echo equipment and microphones for his own Jewel Recording Studios in suburban Mt. Healthy, Ohio.   He even bought Nathan’s desk chair.  “The Neumann tube mics cost $300 new in the early ’60s,” he said.  “I just sold one for $2,800.  Like King, quality doesn’t go out of style.”

Bonus Jewel 45 for steel guitar fans! 

Rose City Chimes” by Chubby Howard (1977)

According to Linda J. York (who has the booklet Dick Clark hawked at the show), Rusty York opened the first Rock and Roll show at the Hollywood Bowl for Dick Clark! York’s original version of “Sugaree” would hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1959, peaking at #77 for the week ending August 2. Billboard‘s August 17, 1959 edition confirms that “York appears with the Dick Clark unit in the Hollywood Bowl August 30 and plays the Michigan State Fair, Detroit, with the Clark caravan September 4-6.”


Sept. 21, 1959

“Sugaree” would also be a Top 25 R&B hit for Hank Ballard & the Midnighters in August of 1959.

Cash Box

Aug. 1, 1959


Did You Know?

Rusty York & Lonnie MackAhead of the Pack

Ingrid Hannigan in her piece for Billboard‘s April 14, 1974 edition “‘Dueling Banjos‘ ‘TrendStudied” notes that “one of the first actual covers of ‘Dueling Banjos’ was cut by Lonnie Mack and Rusty York on a QCA album (Billboard, April 7).”

Tip of the hat to Sharon Woods for informing us that fiddler, Junior Bennett, is pictured on the cover with Rusty York (below) “pinch hitting” for Lonnie Mack.

Dueling Banjos Theme From The Movie Deliverance

QCA (1973)


Excerpt from Zero to 180’s Facebook Page

“Zero to 180’s latest piece pays tribute to a former King recording artist – Rusty York – whose kind and gentle nature and lack of ego may have accidentally conspired to obscure his legacy as an accomplished musician (who “could play any tune in any style“) as well as recording studio founder/engineer, whose Jewel recordings run the gamut of musical sounds and genres, not unlike King (and Fraternity and Counterpart).”

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3 Responses

  1. Rusty was the nicest guy I’ve ever worked with. He was such a accomplish musician singer/songwriter. I had the privilege working for him & ran Studio B in Hamilton,Ohio I really miss him he taught me so much about Recording business. R.I.P.

  2. I love Rusty and Linda. My dad was an engineer there at the studio they treated us kids like gold I remember sitting at the piano bench with Dumpy Rice Linda would bring me snacks as a child and spoil me and Rusty always had a smile on his face when we were around. Good times in Jewel recording studio.

    1. Thank you for chiming in, Amy! Your comment prompted me to poke around in the Billboard and Cash Box archives looking for the chart position of Rusty’s Top 100 hit, “Sugaree” (which also hit the Top 25 R&B chart for Hank Ballard & the Midnighters). I confirmed that Rusty York was with the Dick Clark Caravan at the Hollywood Bowl as well as the Michigan State Fair. New text and images has been added to this Rusty York tribute.

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