Russ began playing clarinet at the age of nine. As soon as he was old enough to drive, he
appeared at various Southern California jazz clubs where he played with notable musicians from
the early days of jazz. They included Johnny Guarnieri (piano), Wild Bill Davison (trumpet/cornet),
Barney Bigard (clarinet), Toody Garland (bass), and Johnny St. Cyr (banjo). He also played with
such well known local musicians as Johnny Lucas (trumpet) and members of the Firehouse Five
Plus Two Dixieland band.
Russ's first paid music jobs were a couple of Dixieland recording sessions while he was still in high school. By the time he was in his twenties, he had formed a swing oriented trio and met a man he always will consider one of his very best friends and jazz mentor, the great piano and horn player and composer, Dick Cary. They played some concerts together and, shortly afterward, Dick and Russ began a Wednesday night rehearsal band also consisting of Betty O’Hara (trumpet, alto horn, trombone), Bob Enevoldsen (trombone), Herbie Harper (trombone), Ray Leatherwood (bass), Gene Estes (drums), and Dick Cathcart (trumpet).
Eventually, Russ turned professional and appeared at Carnegie Hall and other concert venues; on numerous national TV shows including seven appearances on the Tonight Show; a week each on the Mike Douglas Show and Dinah Shore Show; many national television specials; and at the Sacramento Dixieland Jubilee.
During that time, he put together a group including Howard Alden (guitar), Jon Nagourney (vibes), and top studio players Lyle Ritz (bass), and Gene Estes (drums). When Howard moved to New York, another immensely talented guitar player replaced him: Larry Koonse, the son of guitarist Dave Koonse. Russ also recorded with friends Dick Cary, Dick Cathcart, Betty O’Hara, the great Bob Havens (trombone), Dick Hafer (tenor sax), Dave and Larry Koonse, Gene Estes, and Ray Leatherwood.
Some years later, Ken Borgers, then program director for what is now jazz radio station KKJZ, asked Russ to play in a concert with the Concord Jazz All Stars. The players included Scott Hamilton (tenor sax), Dave McKenna (piano), Bill Berry (trumpet), Dave Stone (bass), Jake Hanna (drums), and Russ on clarinet.
It became necessary for Russ to retire from music after that. His CD, "Blue Scarlett", released by Westlake Records in September 2003, marks his return to jazz after a twelve year absence.