The first time I ever laid eyes on Dusty Miller was in the very early 1970’s. I had a job after school pumping gas at a West Main Street service station and a car pulled in one evening after dinner with two guys dressed like cowboys in the front seat. When the driver told me to “fill it up” I’m sure I was about ready to ask him if he wanted me to water the horses too, when just then my boss came out of the station and yelled Hi Dusty! That’s all I needed to hear and I knew instantly that I was waiting on Amsterdam’s most famous cowboy, Dusty Miller.
Of course he wasn’t really a cowboy and his real name wasn’t even Dusty Miller but for over fifty years, Elmer Rossi was the Rug City version of Roy Rogers, the singing Cowboy. Of course Elmer did not shoot a gun, do rope tricks, own a famous horse like Trigger, or star on his own TV show but as Dusty Miller, he did have his own musical group called the Colorado Wranglers and he did perform in the Grand Ol Opry and he did have his own highly rated (in Amsterdam) radio show on WCSS. And for many of those years his was one of the most in-demand, live country & western musical acts not just in Amsterdam but also the Capital District, northern New York State and Vermont.
A few years later, when I was bartending at Ralph’s on Amsterdam’s Market Street, Dusty’s band played an extended run of weekends there and I got to know this very nice man pretty well. He really did put together a solid career in the very tough music business and he had personally met just about every big name C&W artist of his generation.
Elmer was born in Amsterdam on July 22, 1910 to John and Zoe Mahue Rossi. When he wasn’t playing with his band he held day jobs with Finkle Distributors and Iannotti’s Vending. After retiring from his last full-time day job he became a driver for John Tag’s Pharmacy in Amsterdam. He and his wife Marion raised two daughters and two sons. Dusty remained active right up to the end. His last radio show on WCSS aired in January of 1997. The next month, then Amsterdam Mayor John Duchessi proclaimed February 3rd “Dusty Miller Day” in the city. He died at his 10 Jackson Street home on Monday March 3, 1997 at the age of 86.