A young, red-haired guitarist with a monster tone and technique that belies his relatively young years, Rusty Zinn grew up in the Santa Cruz mountains in northern California. He was introduced to classic R&B through his mother's collection of 45 singles, which included rare discs from Fats Domino and Elvis Presley. While in his teens, his brother brought home recordings by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, and these proved to be a revelation for the young blues aficionado. He would empty his pockets regularly to purchase blues recordings and became fascinated by the guitar stylings of Robert Jr. Lockwood, Eddie Taylor, Luther Tucker, and Jimmy Rogers. These records prompted him to begin playing guitar at 17. He had some background in music, having played drums when he was younger, but he enjoyed another crystallizing moment when he saw Luther Tucker perform with Jimmy Rogers at a local club. He credits the nightclub showcase with changing his life, and he sought out all the recordings he could find with Luther Tucker as a sideman, which included records by Little Walter Jacobs, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and James Cotton. A year later, when Zinn again went to see his idol, Tucker invited him on-stage. Tucker took the young Zinn under his wing and shared guitar techniques with him. Meanwhile, Zinn was working with several northern California blues bands in the late '80s, and he was often tapped to back touring musicians like Snooky Pryor and Rogers.
After joining Mark Hummel's band, Zinn honed his craft through hundreds of shows and thousands of miles. One of the shows with Hummel's band was at the San Francisco Blues Festival, where Zinn was introduced to harp player Kim Wilson. Wilson invited Zinn to come to Austin's Arlyn Studios to play on his 1993 album Tigerman for the Antone's label. Wilson soon put together a band that included Zinn on guitar, ex-Canned Heat bass player Larry Taylor, and former Blaster "Blue" Gene Taylor on keyboards. Zinn toured around with Wilson and his band, surprising Wilson with the dexterity of his playing at such a young age (he was then in his early twenties). In early 1996, Wilson approached BlackTop Records executives about recording Zinn, and fortunately, they agreed with him. Zinn's debut for the Crescent City-based BlackTop Records, Sittin' & Waitin', was released in 1996. Naturally, he's accompanied throughout his first album by his friend and mentor Kim Wilson, who also served as producer. Confessin' followed three years later, with The Chill surfacing in fall 2000. His next two albums were released on Bad Daddy Records, 2005's soul-inflected Zinfidelity, Vol. 1 and 2007's Reggaeblue. ~ Richard Skelly