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William Lee Golden Jr. (“Rusty”) Obituary and Memorial Arrangements

William Lee Golden, Jr., affectionately known by all as “Rusty,” age 65, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, passed away at home on July 1, 2024. Born on January 3, 1959, in Brewton, Alabama, to William Lee and Frogene Golden, Rusty was a devoted son, loving brother, ‘Uncle Fun,’ and loyal friend.

Rusty dedicated his whole life to his passion for music. He was a talented, self-taught multi-instrumentalist, natural-born entertainer, and award-winning songwriter. His captivating performances and poignant songwriting captured the heart and soul of the human experience. Rusty had a big smile, a big laugh, and a big heart that he shared freely with others onstage and off. From packed-out arenas to small country churches, his colorful personality and commanding stage presence shone brightly in every note. His larger-than-life style and storied life left a lasting mark on the music community.

Both of Rusty’s parents came from musical families. Unsurprisingly, Rusty began showing his musical prowess early on with oatmeal boxes, pencils, and a homemade drum set of Charles Chip cans. He started his professional career at only 13 years old, drumming with gospel legends The Rambos. While friends were going off to camp, Rusty was doing tour dates and television. His musical life took a turn when he attended an Elton John concert in 1972. Soon after, Rusty traded drumsticks for piano keys. He went to summer school after his junior year of high school to graduate early, joining The Oak Ridge Boys band at 16, playing acoustic guitar, keyboards, and percussion. At 17, he started playing with Larry Gatlin on tour and the Love Is Just A Game album.

Influenced by his grandmother Rutha Mae’s poetry, Rusty cultivated a burning love for songwriting. By age 20, he was recording original music in Nashville for ABC Records. Shortly after, he helped form The Boys Band, whose debut album for Elektra/Asylum Records yielded two singles, landing in Billboard’s Hot 100, and the first music video for MTV produced in Nashville. In 1984, Rusty received a gold record for songwriting contributions on The Oak Ridge Boys Bobbie Sue album and had songs recorded by many others, including R&B legend Barry White. In the mid-1980s, Rusty teamed with brother Chris as The Goldens, releasing two singles on CBS/Epic Records. They moved to Capitol/SBK Records and released the album Rush for Gold in 1990, producing three charting singles and videos, multiple television appearances, and 10 magical years of touring with father William Lee during his hiatus from The Oaks.

Rusty had a ‘change of heart’ after a quadruple bypass and devoted his gifts back to his gospel roots. That change garnered 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. During this time, he also lent his talents to Marty Stuart’s Pilgrim album and promoted 14 years of ‘SongFest’ in Gulf Shores, Alabama, which brought together legendary writers and up-and-comers.

Between 2014 and 2019, Rusty stepped into the spotlight as a solo artist, releasing three critically acclaimed recordings — Sober, Angels,and Confessions — toured the Middle East, and produced a landmark album for Tre Twitty.

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 on three albums, multiple videos, and were joined by brother Craig, nieces Elizabeth and Chai, and nephew Elijah, making the group a true three-generation family band. The family made multiple appearances 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’ at the Josie Music Awards.

Rusty Golden will be remembered as a charismatic entertainer, who could hold an audience in the palm of his hand with his raw, 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.

Beyond his musical achievements, Rusty was a beloved son, brother, uncle, and friend, known for his lightning-quick sense of humor, generosity, encouragement, and kindness. He was an avid lover of music, film, and reading, continually drawn to the beauty in the art of others. His ability to light up a room left an indelible mark on all who knew him. Rusty will be deeply missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him and experiencing his music. His legacy will live on through his songs and the memories of those who loved him.

He was preceded in death by mother Frogene Normand, grandparents Luke and Rutha Mae Golden, and Elliot and Estelle Normand. He is survived by father William Lee Golden (Simone); brothers Craig, Chris (Marie), and Solomon; nephews Lee Rush (Rachael), Marlin, and Elijah Golden; and nieces Kaitlyn (Curtis), Elizabeth (Easton), and Chai Golden; great-nephew Kye, and 2 great-nieces, Elayna and Imogen.

Visitations will be held Sunday, July 7, from 5-7 PM at Williams Memorial Chapel, 2353 South Blvd, Brewton, AL 36426, and also Monday, July 8, 10 AM at Golden Memorial Holiness Church, 6103 Golden Church Rd, Jay, FL 32565. Memorial Service will follow at 11 AM with Brother Lendell Birdsong and Brother Tommy Quick officiating. If you would like to send flowers, they are welcomed, but in lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Golden Memorial Holiness Church in Rusty’s memory.

A celebration of Rusty Golden’s life and music will be held in the Nashville area in the coming days.

Absolutely Gospel Music

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