Merrilee Rush

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Merrilee Rush
Rush in 1969
Merrilee Gunst

(1944-01-26) January 26, 1944 (age 80)
SpouseBilly Mac

Merrilee Rush (née Gunst; January 26, 1944)[1] is an American singer, best known for her recording of the song "Angel of the Morning", a top-10 hit which earned her a Grammy nomination for female vocalist of the year in 1968.[2][3]

Early life and career[edit]

Rush was born in Seattle, Washington to Reuben and Edith Gunst.[1] Her father was a homebuilder.[1] She grew up in north Seattle, and studied classical piano from a young age.[4] In 1960, she auditioned and became the singer for the Amazing Aztecs, a Seattle-area rock & roll band led by saxophone player Neil Rush, whom she would later marry. The two went on to form Merrilee and Her Men, doing mostly cover versions of pop hits, and then joined rhythm and blues group Tiny Tony and the Statics, whose regional hit "Hey Mrs. Jones", on the Bolo label, featured Rush's keyboard playing and vocals.[5]

Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts[edit]

In 1965, the pair formed Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts, who soon became a popular act on the Pacific Northwest's teen dancehall circuit, touring throughout Washington and Oregon.[1] A member of the group's road crew also worked for Paul Revere & the Raiders, and through this connection, Rush was invited to be the opening act on the Raiders' tour of the southern United States in 1967. While in Memphis, Tennessee, Raiders lead vocalist Mark Lindsay introduced Rush to record producer Chips Moman.

"Angel of the Morning" was written and composed by the songwriter Chip Taylor. Rush's version was recorded at Moman's American Studio in Memphis in early 1968, and was produced by Moman and Tommy Cogbill. Released by Bell Records, the song climbed to #7 in late June 1968 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart,[6] #1 in Canada,[7] and was a major hit in several other countries as well. The one millionth sale of this record was reported by the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) in 1970.[8] Although credited to "Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts", both the single and subsequent album (also called Angel of the Morning) were recorded using the same musicians who played on Elvis Presley's famous Memphis recordings.

"Angel of the Morning" garnered Rush a Grammy Award nomination for best Contemporary Pop Female Vocalist of the year. She was nominated along with Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl"), Dionne Warwick ("Do You Know the Way to San Jose"), Aretha Franklin ("I Say a Little Prayer"), and Mary Hopkin ("Those Were the Days"). Warwick was the eventual winner.[9]

The song has been featured in the major motion pictures Jerry Maguire and Fingers and Reptiles", a 2023 film.

Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts released one more single on Bell, "That Kind of Woman", in 1968. It reached #28 in Canada.[10]

Her next single titled "Reach Out" on AGP Records reached #89 in Canada.[11]

Television appearances[edit]

Rush appeared on numerous television programs in the 1960s and 1970s, including American Bandstand, The Midnight Special (Episode 2 aired February 9, 1973), The Joey Bishop Show, Happening, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Everly Brothers Show, and Something Else hosted by John Byner. In 1984, she appeared as herself, performing the holiday favorite "White Christmas", in the syndicated Christmas special Scrooge's Rock and Roll Christmas, which starred Jack Elam as Ebenezer Scrooge. That program also featured holiday performances by Three Dog Night, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Association, Bobby Goldsboro, Mike Love of The Beach Boys, Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean, and Mary MacGregor.

Solo career[edit]

In 1969, now formally a solo artist, she released four more singles ("Reach Out", "Everyday Livin' Days", "Sign On for the Good Times", and "Angel on My Shoulder") on the Chips Moman-run Bell subsidiary, AGP Records. In 1971, she signed with Scepter Records and released one single, a cover of the Carole King song "Child of Mine". While that was Rush's lone release on Scepter, she cut several tracks for the label including a femme version of the Billy Joel song "She's Got a Way" ("He's Got a Way"). In 1976, Rush signed with United Artists Records, which released three singles: "Could It Be Love I Found Tonight", "Save Me" and "Rainstorm".[12] Her self-titled album for United Artists was released in 1977.[13]

Later career[edit]

Rush in 2013

By the turn of the 21st century, Rush was living in the countryside near Seattle in a century-old farmhouse that was built by her grandfather. She continued to perform with her own band in rock and roll nostalgia shows across the country.

In September 2023, Rush was inducted into the California Music Hall of Fame and received The Carol Kaye Inspiration Award as well.

In 1989, the Northwest Area Musicians' Association (NAMA) honored Rush with membership in the NAMA Hall of Fame.

In 2003, Rush appeared in the PBS special At the Drive-In along with Jan Berry and Dean Torrence (of Jan and Dean), Fabian, Bobby Vee, Chris Montez, Dodie Stevens, and Matthew and Gunnar Nelson (the sons of Ricky Nelson).

Rush's Angel of the Morning album has been re-published on CD via the Rev-Ola record label. The re-issue includes the entire original 1968 LP, and it features the Top Ten title track and the follow-up single That Kind of Woman, as well as nine non-LP album singles and B-sides as bonus tracks. The bonus tracks include a psychedelic version of the Four Tops' Reach Out (an AGP label single release that reached #79 on the Billboard Hot 100), and a cover of Burt Bacharach's What the World Needs Now, which was produced by Quincy Jones for the soundtrack album to the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. All tracks are also available digitally from the Arista/Legacy label.

Personal life[edit]

She is married to singer-songwriter and entertainer Billy Mac. Merrilee was a breeder of numerous champion Old English Sheepdogs for many decades. She and her husband have a livestream show on his YouTube channel, Billy Mac Songs [1].


  1. ^ a b c d Blecha, Peter (December 14, 2015). "Rush, Merrilee (b. 1944)". HistoryLink. Archived from the original on June 30, 2021.
  2. ^ Uitti, Jacob (August 6, 2020). "Behind the Song: Merrilee Rush on "Angel of the Morning" by Chip Taylor". American Songwriter. Retrieved April 4, 2024.
  3. ^ "Merrilee Rush sings her '60s hit (and happy birthday) to Russel". 3AW. July 28, 2022. Retrieved April 4, 2024.
  4. ^ "Merrilee Rush & The Tournabouts posing behind a pool of water during an outdoor photo shoot, probably Gig Harbor, May 1966". University Libraries of the University of Washington. University of Washington. Archived from the original on June 30, 2021.
  5. ^ Women of Northwest Rock: The First 50 Years (1957–2007) Essay 8935 by Peter Blecha
  6. ^ "Angel of the Morning by Merrilee Rush". SongFacts. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  7. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - July 6, 1968" (PDF).
  8. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 247. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  9. ^ Staff. "Grammy Awards 1969". Awards and Shows. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  10. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - September 30, 1968" (PDF).
  11. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - December 2, 1968" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Merrilee Rush Discography – USA". 45cat. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  13. ^ "United Artists Consolidated Series" (PDF). Retrieved November 10, 2012.

External links[edit]