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Obit: Rusty McNeil (15 Dec 2010, age 81)

Amos 27 Dec 10 - 11:32 PM
open mike 28 Dec 10 - 12:32 AM
Bev and Jerry 28 Dec 10 - 12:58 AM
open mike 28 Dec 10 - 05:38 PM
Desert Dancer 28 Dec 10 - 08:09 PM
Desert Dancer 28 Dec 10 - 08:11 PM
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Subject: Obit: Rusty McNeil
From: Amos
Date: 27 Dec 10 - 11:32 PM

LOS ANGELES-Folk singer Rusty McNeil was willing to take her husband-and-wife act on the road in the early 1970s, but the mother of five had one stipulation: "Family had to come first."

So the McNeils converted a retired 1949 school bus into a home on wheels that they called Amazing Grace because it was "amazing we ever got anywhere," she later said.

Keith and Rusty McNeil traveled the United States for 15 years on the bus, raising their children and a succession of dogs as they forged a career teaching American history through folk music.

Rusty McNeil died Dec. 15 at her home in Riverside of complications from a stroke she had in early 2009, said her son David. She was 81.

As folk-music historians, McNeil and her husband, who survives her, have left a "recording legacy that will continue to teach a nation of students for years to come," folk singer Ross Altman wrote in an appreciation on the FolkWorks website. After the couple stopped touring extensively, they turned to recording boxed sets of folk music built around specific themes in U.S. history, such as the Civil War, the California Gold Rush and western railroads.

What distinguished their recordings was a simple spoken narrative that put each song in historical perspective, an approach that was "unique and very accessible," said Ellen Chase, whose family owns the Folk Music Center in Claremont. ...


Read more: Kansas City .com


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Subject: RE: Obit: Rusty McNeil
From: open mike
Date: 28 Dec 10 - 12:32 AM

She and her husband sound like they were wonderful, brave, adventurous and learned people....Here is where their recordings and song books are available: www.mcneilmusic.com    and WEM Music..
The Folk Music Center in Claremont looks to be a great resource, too.
http://www.folkmusiccenter.com/


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Subject: RE: Obit: Rusty McNeil
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 28 Dec 10 - 12:58 AM

Open Mike:

They were all that and more. Aside from being good friends of ours, they were the ones that convinced us to follow in their footsteps and take our folk music programs to schools. It was Rusty who caused us to give up the paycheck and take the leap of faith when she heard us sing and said simply, "You can do it." She gave us tons of advice when we were first starting out including our favorite item, "Promise them anything and worry about it later."

One night we had dinner with her in Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland and we swapped horror stories about playing in schools. When we said, "You never told us those stories before" she replied, "You wouldn't have done it if I did'"

Keith and Rusty had more effect on our lives than anyone, including our parents.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Obit: Rusty McNeil (15 Dec 2010, age 81)
From: open mike
Date: 28 Dec 10 - 05:38 PM

Bev and Jerry!! How grand to hear from you...it has been a long time! And wonderful to know about the influence..and inspiration from the McNeils. And also how great to know that people are out there bringing music to kids...small and large!! Best wishes to Keith....and all who knew and loved Rusty.

What do you hear from or about our own dear Mudlark?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Rusty McNeil (15 Dec 2010, age 81)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 Dec 10 - 08:09 PM

Rusty McNeil dies at 81; U.S. folk-music historian who teamed with her husband

By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
December 28, 2010

Folk singer Rusty McNeil was willing to take her husband-and-wife act on the road in the early 1970s, but the mother of five had one stipulation: "Family had to come first."

So the McNeils converted a retired 1949 school bus into a home on wheels that they called Amazing Grace because it was "amazing we ever got anywhere," she later said.

Keith and Rusty McNeil, as they billed themselves, traveled the United States for 15 years on the bus, raising their children and a succession of dogs as they forged a career teaching American history through folk music.

Rusty McNeil died Dec. 15 at her home in Riverside of complications from a stroke she had in early 2009, said her son David. She was 81.

As folk-music historians, McNeil and her husband, who survives her, have left a "recording legacy that will continue to teach a nation of students for years to come," wrote folk singer Ross Altman in an appreciation on folkworks.org. After the couple stopped touring extensively, they turned to recording boxed sets of folk music built around specific themes in U.S. history, such as the Civil War, the California Gold Rush or western railroads.

What distinguished their recordings was a simple spoken narrative that put each song in historical perspective, an approach that was "unique and very accessible," said Ellen Chase, whose family owns the Folk Music Center in Claremont.

"They were able to put the music into such a coherent format for teachers and others to learn how the music is entwined with people's history," Chase said.

The McNeils also brought together "a great many songs that might otherwise be difficult to track down," according to a 1989 New York Times review of four releases that included "Colonial & Revolution Songs" and "Working & Union Songs."

Between them, the couple played more than 30 instruments. Rusty was versed in guitar, autoharp and many rhythm instruments, her son said.

She was born Joan Betty Wilmsmeier on Feb. 12, 1929, in Los Angeles, the second of two daughters of Charles Wilmsmeier, who worked for a petroleum company, and his wife, Beulah.

Only her father used her given name, her son said. Everyone else called her Rusty, a nickname that sprang from her shock of red hair.

While a student at UCLA, she spent the 1949 winter break working at a ski lodge in Yosemite National Park, where she met Keith McNeil, then a Stanford University student and fellow lodge employee.

A year later, they married and she left school, eventually settling in Riverside after Keith went to work for a telephone company.

Folk music was passed down in Keith's family; Rusty grew up enjoying choral music and nurturing an interest in history.

"We sang to our kids on long trips and around the campfire," Rusty said in 1998 in the Ventura County Star. "Pretty soon we were doing little programs for kids."

As civil right activists in the early 1960s, the couple discovered that teaching history through folk songs was an effective "bridge-building tool," according to a biography on their website.

When Keith decided in 1966 that he wanted to be a full-time musician, he had to convince Rusty to make the leap with him.

She refused to "be the background music in coffeehouses or bars," David said. "So they kind of invented their own profession teaching the history and background of the material."

They taught seminars, sang at local high schools and colleges and expanded beyond Southern California after signing with Columbia Artists, which sent them across the U.S. and Canada.

In a clear and pure voice, Rusty would sweetly sing what she once called "the history of the masses, or have-nots."

Besides her husband, Keith, and son, David, of Moreno Valley, McNeil is survived by another son, Michael McNeil, of Montrose, Colo.; three daughters, Mary McNeil Cheever of Denver, and Jennifer Miller and Sarah McNeil, both of Los Angeles; a sister, Joyce Brown, of Windsor, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Obit: Rusty McNeil (15 Dec 2010, age 81)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 Dec 10 - 08:11 PM

Ross Altman's appreciation, at Folkworks.org


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