Musician Russell Lee “Rusty” Kershaw, brother of fiddler Doug Kershaw and former member of the Rusty & Doug performing and recording duo, died Tuesday (Oct. 23) in New Orleans of a heart attack. He was 63.
Kershaw, who was born in Louisiana Feb. 2, 1938, joined his brothers Doug and Nelson (“Pee Wee”) in 1948 to form the Cajun band Pee Wee Kershaw & The Continental Playboys. He was the group’s guitarist. From 1953 to 1955, the Kershaws performed on KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, La. They also began appearing on the Louisiana Hayride in 1955 but moved the following year to become members of the Wheeling Jamboree on radio station WWVA in Wheeling, W. Va.
Rusty Kershaw’s first record with Doug was “No, No It’s Not So,” recorded in the early ‘50s for Feature Records in Crowley, La. Now performing as Rusty & Doug, the brothers came to Nashville and signed with Hickory Records, an Acuff-Rose affiliate. Their first single on Hickory, “So Lovely Baby,” was released in 1955 and went to No. 14 on the country charts. For their follow-up two years later, they did a cover of Jill Corey’s 1957 pop hit, “Love Me to Pieces.” It too reached No. 14.
Rusty & Doug joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957. Over the next three years, the Kershaws charted three more singles for Hickory, the highest one being “Louisiana Man,” which went to No. 10. The duo signed to RCA Records in 1963. The next year, however, Rusty left the duo.
Continuing to record and perform on his own, Kershaw released the album Cajun in the Blues Country (which featured Charlie Daniels on fiddle) on Cotillion Records in 1970. He figured prominently in Neil Young ’s 1974 album, On the Beach, playing fiddle and slide guitar and also providing the liner notes. Young later returned the favor by performing on eight tracks of Kershaw’s Big Easy Award-winning 1992 album, Now and Then, on Domino Records. Also playing on that album were Art Neville and Ben Keith. Kershaw’s wife, Julie, told country.com that her husband remained active in music until his sudden and unexpected death. She said he played his last show Sunday in New Orleans.
Rusty Kershaw’s other survivors include a son, Troy, and a daughter, Sherry. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.