Rusty’ Golden Passes At 65
Photo by Kris Rae

Rusty’ Golden Passes At 65

Country Music Hall of Fame and The Oak Ridge Boys member William Lee Golden’s son, William ‘Rusty’ Golden, passed away July 1, 2024 at the age of 65 at his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

“This is the hardest thing ever for a father to have to face. I love my family more than anything. Rusty was a great musician, a talented songwriter, and a wonderful son. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for the days ahead. I love you, son.” – William Lee Golden

Rusty was born January 3, 1959, in Brewton, Alabama, as the eldest son of William and Frogene Golden. His given name was William Lee Golden, Jr., named after his father, but his family began calling him “Rusty” shortly after his birth.

Music was a constant presence in the Golden household, with both of Rusty’s parents coming from musical families where singing and playing instruments were encouraged. Unsurprisingly, Rusty began showing his musical talent at a young age. By the time he was in 6th grade, around age 12, he was already proficiently playing drums. At the age of 13, he started playing drums professionally for The Rambos, featuring the legendary songwriter, Dottie Rambo.

Rusty’s songwriting career was influenced by his grandmother and great-grandfather’s love of poetry. His paternal grandmother was a prolific poet, with her work often published in the town’s newspaper. Growing up, Rusty understood the connection between words and music. As a youngster, he composed his first song by setting his grandmother’s poetry to music.

His whole musical life took a turn when he attended an Elton John concert in 1972. After this show, Rusty turned the drumsticks over to his brother Chris and started learning how to play the piano. At 17, he started touring playing keys with Larry Gatlin. He eventually played on several studio recordings including Larry Gatlin’s “Love Is Just A Game,” Marty Stuart’s “Pilgrim” and countless others.

By age 20 he was recording at Quadraphonic Studios in Nashville for ABC Records. Shortly after, he helped form The Boys Band. Within two years, the group was recording their debut album for Elektra/Asylum Records at CARIBOU RANCH in Nederland, Colorado. The album yielded the single, “Runner” which was the first music video for MTV produced in Nashville in 1982, and “Please Don’t Stop Me Baby,” which landed in Billboard’s Hot 100. The group disbanded in 1984.

In 1984, Rusty received an RIAA Gold Record for his songwriting contributions on The Oak Ridge Boys’ ‘Bobbie Sue’ album as well as the legendary Barry White. This recognition encouraged Rusty to begin writing songs with Marc Speer.

In 1985, Rusty and Marc Speer founded the group Golden Speer, which included Rusty’s brother Chris Golden on lead vocals. Although their album was never released under Golden Speer, the label changed directions in 1986, leading Rusty and Chris to record under the name, The Goldens, releasing two singles as a newly formed duo. They moved to Capitol/SBK Records and released the album Rush for Gold in 1990. This critically acclaimed album produced three charting singles and videos: “Take Me Back to The Country,” “Keep The Faith,” and “Long Gone.”

Rusty had a ‘change of heart’ after a quadruple bypass and devoted his writing back to his gospel roots. That change garnered him several #1 Southern Gospel songs, and two Song of the Year awards for “What Salvation’s Done for Me” by The Booth Brothers, and “I Want to Thank You” by Karen Peck & New River.

In March of 2020, Rusty and Chris, along with William Lee began working on a vision for a family band called William Lee Golden and The Goldens. They recorded and released 34 songs from 2020 to 2021 and were joined by brother Craig, nieces Elizabeth and Rebekah and nephew Elijah making the group a true three-generation family band. They traveled the country performing songs from their most recent three albums—Country Roads: Vintage Country Classics, Old Country Church Gospel and Southern Accents: Pop & Country Rock. The family performed together several times on the world-famous Grand Ole Opry. In 2023, Rusty stepped on the Opry stage solo to be recognized for his individual gifts as a musician when he was awarded Keyboard Player of The Year by the Josie Music Awards.

In addition to his lengthy list of accolades as a songwriter and musician, Rusty Golden will be remembered as a charismatic entertainer, who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand with his energetic live performances. Throughout his life, he always had a tremendous connection with audiences whether he was on the Opry stage or in recent years performing regular gigs in Bahrain, where he earned a reputation as a riveting performer whose talents transcended any borders. But most of all, Rusty will be remembered as one of those Nashville cats everyone wanted to play music with, co-write a song, or just hang out. Rusty could always be counted on to elevate any experience with his talent, wit, and charm.

Rusty Golden is preceded in death by his mother Frogene Normand, grandparents Luke & Rutha Mae Golden, and Elliot & Estelle Normand. He is survived by his father William Lee Golden (Simone), and brothers Craig Golden, Chris Golden (Marie), and Solomon Golden, along with many nieces, nephews, other extended family members, close friends, and fans.

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About Jerry Holthouse

Music editor for Nashville.com. Jerry Holthouse is a content writer, songwriter and a graphic designer. He owns and runs Holthouse Creative, a full service creative agency. He is an avid outdoorsman and a lover of everything music. You can contact him at JerryHolthouse@Nashville.com

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