Rusty York's Jewel Recording Studio Ends

Jewel Recording Studio Contents For Sale
by Cliff Radel
October 29, 2008
The Cincinnati Enquirer

“A past that’s sprinkled with the blues, a few old dreams that I can’t use. Who’ll buy my memories of things that used to be.”
– Willie Nelson, “Who’ll Buy My Memories.”

MOUNT HEALTHY – Rusty York’s memories are for sale. Everything must go.
Autographed photos. Boxes of unopened records. Miles of recording studio cables. Scads of microphones. Concert posters. His personal stapler – signed and dated.

The contents of York’s 51 years in music and what remains of his Jewel Recording Studio in this Cincinnati suburb are on the auction block. On-line bidding – via – closes Thursday night for thousands of items. Included is a giant replica of a 45 rpm record featuring the first, biggest and only hit of York’s career, a sizzling 1959 rockabilly take of a Marty Robbins tune titled, “Sugaree.”

“Sugaree, Sugaree.
“Don’t you know I love you so.”

“This is the end of an era,” admitted York’s wife, Linda. As she spoke, she sat at the grand piano in the once bustling but now deathly quiet studio. Items in the auction lined the floor and snaked into the adjoining hallways.

“If these walls could talk or sing,” Linda York said, and shook her head. Housed in space once occupied by a butcher shop and a beauty parlor, the studio produced thousands of recordings on the Jewel label from rock to bluegrass to jazz to country to gospel to classical. Even commercial jingles were cut in the studio Rusty York set up in 1967.

That date makes Jewel the last link with Cincinnati’s once-proud recording history. In 1967, the home of no less than eight future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers was still doing business in Evanston as King Records. Rusty York is a living link to King. He cut “Sugaree” – the record that led to his 1998 induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame – at the Evanston record label’s studio.

That history weighed on Linda York’s mind as she ran her hand slowly over the grand piano’s keys. She was saying goodbye to the studio and its memories. “Its time,” she said softly. “I need to be home with Rusty. I need to help him focus on his music.”

Home for Rusty and Linda York is a secluded lake-front house in Southwestern Indiana, a good hour’s drive from Mount Healthy. The house boasts a picture postcard view of rippling water and trees dressed in fall’s colors.

This is home and, now studio, for Rusty York. Fresh from a September show in Spain where he sang “Sugaree” for European rockabilly fans, he aims to record his next CD to keep the Jewel label alive.

“Need to get the lyrics together,” he said as he sat by a jukebox in his home’s music room. A gold record, with “Sugaree” on it, hung on the wall. “Have to practice a bit, too.”

York has always been a man of few words. At the age of 73, he’s a man of even fewer words.

Still lithe and prone at the spur of the moment to grab his guitar and sing, in Spanish, a Mexican love song, “Coo Coo Roo Coo Coo Paloma,” to his wife, he takes his sweet time answering questions.

He delivers those answers in a voice that shows his roots. His accent combines the reedy tones common to natives of Kentucky’s Harlan County with the worldly sensibility of someone who was a teen-ager in 1952 when he was transplanted to Over-the-Rhine.

Ask him a question, though, and a beat or two slips by. Then, he answers. Sometimes, he searches for the right word by raising his open hands to the sides of his face. He looks as if he were trying to pull what he wants to say from the thin air. Sometimes, that works.

“I guess I’ll miss the studio,” York said. “It gave me … a chance to be creative.”
The studio was known for its quality equipment, its warm sound and the talents of its owner. York expertly plays guitar, banjo, dobro and harmonica. Want a tasteful lick added to a bluegrass breakdown or a classical opus? He’s the man for the job.
Over the decades, Jewel glittered from the artists passing through its door. The Grateful Dead, Grammy-winner and former Cincinnati Bengal Mike Reid, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, rocker Lonnie Mack and aspiring folkie and trash TV king, Jerry Springer, recorded at the studio.

“I don’t know why the Grateful Dead flew here to record,” York said, smiling. “But I do know they rolled big joints.”

He fell silent. Soon Jewel’s studio will be gone. The label will carry on. And, so will Rusty York, still doing a song that makes him sound like he’s 24 all over again when he sings:

“Sugaree, Sugaree
“Don’t you know I love you so.”

Click Here For Auction Results