While the average country music fan might not have been familiar with the name Rusty Walker, there were few figures more beloved in the industry than the veteran programmer and consultant. Walker, who died Monday in Tupelo, MS following a heart attack over the weekend, enjoyed a long an illustrious radio career - both behind the microphone and helping others program their stations to record successes. He was 59.
A native of Corinth, MS, Walker (whose real name was Sammy Darwin) began his career at WWTX in 1968. While he enjoyed an illustrious career on the air - including a stint at WZZK / Birmingham (where, according to Arbitron, he was the highest-rated FM personality in America in the early 1980s), it was as a consultant that he truly left his mark on the business. He formed Rusty Walker Programming Consultants in 1983, and worked with well over 500 stations in various markets achieve high visibility and ratings. Seven times during his career, Walker was named Billboard's Consultant of the Year.
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Though Walker travelled the world over for his work, he never left the Northeast Mississippi that he called home. Though he could have moved his business operations to Music City - or anywhere else, for that matter, he chose to operate his company from the tiny river hamlet of Iuka, MS.
Walker, a recent inductee into the Country Radio Hall of Fame, is survived by his wife Teresa, daughters Beth and Nikki and an extensive and loving family. Two children preceded him in death, with daughter Kinsley passing away in March. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.