McNeil died on Dec. 15 at her Riverside home from complications of a stroke, said her son, David.

Rusty, whose real name was Joan, got her nickname from her red hair. She and her husband, Keith, met while working at a ski lodge in Yosemite National Park, according to a biography on their website.

Keith, who played a number of instruments, and Rusty performed at coffeehouses, churches and in folk society meetings in California before deciding to become full-time performers in 1966.

They were active in the civil rights movement and “the effectiveness of music as a teaching and bridge-building tool became more and more apparent,” their biography stated.

“They were always interested in the stories behind the music,” David McNeil said.

Keith, who was a manager for a telephone company, wanted to go full-time but he had to convince Rusty.

She refused to “be the background music in coffeehouses or bars,” David McNeil told the Los Angeles Times. “So they kind of invented their own profession teaching the history and background of the material.”

Performing as Keith and Rusty McNeil, they played more than 30 instruments and presented lectures and performances for youngsters and college students that illustrated U.S. history through period songs.

They contracted with Columbia Artists to give concerts in the U.S. and Canada, presenting more than 550 over 15 years. The couple and their five children toured the country for years in a converted schoolbus.

In the 1980s, they produced CDs of U.S. history grouped in themes such as Civil War or union songs. They also led folk music tours and workshops in Europe, Japan and Zimbabwe.

Besides her husband and son, McNeil is survived by a sister, Joyce Brown, of Windsor, Calif.; another son, Michael McNeil of Montrose, Colo.; daughters, Mary McNeil Cheever of Denver; Jennifer Miller of Los Angeles; and Sarah McNeil of Los Angeles; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.