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Subject: Rusty Draper, Singer of Country and Pop Hits

Dies at 80
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Date Posted: April 03, 2003 2:26:29 EDT

Rusty Draper, a country and pop singer with a number of recordings that sold more than a million copies in the 1950's and '60's, died on Friday at 80. The cause was pneumonia.

Mr. Draper's hits included "Gambler's Guitar" and "The Shifting, Whispering Sands." His performing career also included acting appearances in the television westerns "Rawhide" and "Laramie" and the stage musicals "Oklahoma!" and "Annie Get Your Gun."

He recorded his first million-seller in 1953. It was "Gambler's Guitar," which reached No. 6 on the pop and country charts. He reached gold again two years later with "The Shifting, Whispering Sands," which made it to No. 3 on the pop charts.

Mr. Draper's other pop hits included "Seventeen" (1955), "Are You Satisfied?" (1955), "In The Middle of the House" (1956), "Freight Train" (1957) and versions of "Mule Skinner Blues" (1960) and "Night Life" (1963). He had minor hits with "My Elusive Dreams," "California Sunshine" and "Buffalo Nickel," in the late 1960's and "Two Little Boys" in 1970. His last appearance on the charts was in 1980 with a country version of "Harbor Lights," which had been a Platters hit in 1960.

He had his own radio show in San Francisco and Los Angeles and was often on television, including two appearances on "The Ed Sullivan's Show."

Born Farrell H. Draper and nicknamed for his bright red hair, Rusty Draper become interested in music after his father gave him a guitar for his 10th birthday. He worked at a radio station in Des Moines, where he often filled in for Ronald Reagan, then a sportscaster. At 18 he moved to San Francisco, where he worked at the Mel Hertz Club, the Barn and Hermie King's Rumpus Room.

He had been in poor health for a number of years, and his final performance, at the Elks Club in Issaquah, Wash., was about two weeks before his last trip to the hospital.

Mr. Draper is survived by his wife, Fay, of Bellevue; a son, John Draper of Sacramento; a daughter, Judy Draper of Sultan, Wash; a stepson, Mark DeGraaf of Kirland, Wash.; 15 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

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