Sign up for newsletter
 

Stephen Bruton dies at 60

Monday, May 11, 2009 – Roots rocker Stephen Bruton, 60, died Saturday due to complications of an ongoing battle with throat cancer. Bruton was in Los Angeles undergoing treatment and completing work on the film "Crazy Heart," on which he served as music producer and composer, at the time of his death.

Bruton was working on the film with his lifelong friend, producer T Bone Burnett up until just a week ago. He was able to see the completion of the project before his death. While in Los Angeles he also played on sessions for an upcoming Kris Kristofferson record, "Starlight and Stone."

Bruton released five records as a solo artist, the last three for the New West label. As a lead guitar player, he worked with Kristofferson for 17 years and Bonnie Raitt for several more. He produced records for Alejandro Escovedo, Marcia Ball, Storyville and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Bruton's songs have been covered by Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Martina McBride, Patty Loveless and Kristofferson. He also worked as an actor in the films "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," "Heaven's Gate," "A Star is Born," "Songwriter," "Miss Congeniality," "The Alamo," "Sweet Thing" and "Man Of The House."

Turner Stephen Bruton grew up surrounded by music in Fort Worth, Texas. His jazz drummer father ran a record store where he was weaned on the musical classics from blues, country, jazz and pop to classical. "He always said, if you're going to listen to music, listen to the best music," said Bruton on his web site.

By his teen years, Bruton and his buddy Burnett put down tracks in Burnett's makeshift home studio in between gigging with friends like Delbert McClinton, while digging on musical giants like Freddie King and Ornette Coleman, who could be heard in the local clubs. Bruton played high lonesome bluegrass by day and then soaked up some soul by grinding out the blues at night.

"The thing about Fort Worth is that there was no scene there," Bruton said. "No one was looking at Fort Worth, believe me. But there was great music there and always has been. It's always been black guys and white guys playing together. There was this great exchange of music."

In 1970, Bruton went to Woodstock, N.Y. One night, he headed down to Manhattan to catch a gig by his friend Kristofferson and was offered the guitar gig in the rising songwriting star's band. That launched nearly two decades of regular roadwork with Kristofferson as well as touring with Raitt, Christine McVie and others.

By the mid 1980s, Bruton returned to his Texas roots and settled in Austin, where once he had a break from the road, he became a part of the city's music community. Although he had produced an album with Burnett for Fort Worth musician Robert Ely and the song Amnesia & Jealousy for Burnett's "Behind The Trap Door" album, his production career began in earnest when Jimmie Dale Gilmore asked him to produce his major label debut, "After Awhile."

Bruton also debuted as an artist in his own right with "What It Is" in 1993. And as he stepped out from being a sideman into the spotlight with his own songs, they began to be recorded by such notable artists as Nelson, Jennings, Cash, Loveless, Kristofferson, Raitt, Hal Ketchum, The Highwaymen, Little Feat, Jimmy Buffett, Lee Roy Parnell and Martina McBride among others.

Since appearing in "A Star Is Born" with Kristofferson in 1976, Bruton has acted on TV and film. "When Kris started doing films, he would bring his buddies along because he always had the bullshit meter with us. So we wound up reading for parts," Bruton said.

"In acting, you use everything you use when you are playing music live," said Bruton. "It's an ensemble thing. It's real similar in terms of support and collaboration."

"The guitar is the constant among variables in my life," said Bruton. Since playing with Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge on their "Full Moon" album in 1973, he has recorded with Raitt, McClinton, Burnett, Elvis Costello, Carly Simon, The Wallflowers, Sonny Landreth, Peter Case, Ray Wylie Hubbard and others.

"I really enjoy doing lots of things, whether it's playing a bit part in The Alamo or playing guitar with Bob Schneider for a couple of years. And then I produce and do my own thing," he said.

The funeral will be held in Fort Worth.

CD reviews for Stephen Bruton

From the Five CD review - From the Five
Texan Stephen Bruton's latest is full of roadhouse rockers, bluesy late-night introspection, terrifically vivid songwriting and even a Swanky Modes cover. Bruton, who gets help from guitarist Randy Jacobs and Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne among others, is best known for the work he's done folks like Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Marcia Ball. But here Bruton affirms his own music as vital and worth your full attention. Themes of regret and struggle, determination and hope are »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: Kristofferson gives insight, but no easy answers – When they say music gets better with age, they're not always just talking about songs alone; sometimes they're also referring to the listener. When Kris Kristofferson sings, "Well, I woke up Sunday morning/With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt," to smartly open "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," he... »»»
Concert Review: No sugarcoating, Welch dishes out an experience – Gillian Welch (accompanied, as always, by master guitarist David Rawlings), celebrated her "The Harrow & The Harvest" album with a powerful night of music. She apologized many times for the utter unhappiness expressed through this album's songs, admitting it's "not the most chipper album" at one point.... »»»
Subscribe to Country News Digest Country News Digest      Follow Country Standard Time on twitter CST      Visit Country Standard Time on Facebook CST

Elsewhere in the news

Currently at the CST blogs

Hillman bides his time Legends don't come any more legendary than Chris Hillman. The roll call of bands that comprises Hillman's half century in music reads like a wing exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, the Souther Hillman Furay Band, the Desert Rose Band,... »»»
The Cadillac Three creates its "Legacy" William Shakespeare noted a few centuries back that a rose by any other name would be equally aromatic, and that general idea has musical implications as well. The Cadillac Three knows a thing or two about maintaining a sonic identity after a name change;... »»»
With Stanley and Watson, sound isn't elementary Those aware of the late Owsley "Bear" Stanley likely know him for one of two reasons - his pioneering work manufacturing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in San Francisco during the mid-to-late 1960s and his role as an innovative sound engineer. Most notably, Bear worked...... »»»
May shifts gears, directions Headed into 2015, Imelda May was on a hit streak. Her rockabilly career was in full swing, nurtured by the likes of former Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland and guitar icon Jeff Beck. Her albums routinely topped the charts in her native Ireland.... »»»
Lane assumes mantle of "Highway Queen" For most artists, eight years is a fair amount of time in their careers. For Nikki Lane, eight years represents the entirety of her recorded history, and she's filled that relatively short time span with a highlight reel of impressive accomplishments, not the least of which would be actually... »»»
When Was the Last Time CD review - When Was the Last Time
Darius Rucker is so darn likeable, he likely gets away with creating subpar music more than most. However, "When Was the Last Time" is a consistently good album, which is as respectable as it is likeable. »»»
Losing Sleep CD review - Losing Sleep
Chris Young has one of the best country voices, and it's always a pleasure to hear him sing. But it's disappointing when the title cut sounds more like the groove to a Justin Bieber song than anything truly country.  »»»
A Long Way From Your Heart CD review - A Long Way From Your Heart
The name Turnpike Troubadours suggests traveling music. Strap yourself in and get ready for an exhilarating ride. This Oklahoma-based roots-rock unit soars on its fourth release. Not to diminish the strong songwriting from leader Evan Felker, it's the band's pulsating musicianship with an array of electric instruments combined with fiddle and pedal steel that makes the sound so arresting. »»»
First Cigarette CD review - First Cigarette
The stunning vocal of Travis Meadows on the opening track, "Sideways," brims with honesty, pain and hard-earned wisdom as he offers a blend of confession and advice, stimulated by an experience at an adolescent addiction treatment center. Meadows, like many, is one of those Nashville songwriters ("Riser" for Dierks Bentley and "What We Ain't Got" for Jake Owen), but is finding his own voice relatively late in life. »»»
The Long Awaited Album CD review - The Long Awaited Album
When last we visited a new album from Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, 2011's "Rare Bird Alert," we found a cohesive, focused collection of bluegrass; it was an expansive, artistic creation that only benefited the bluegrass community. A subsequent live album (strikingly entitled "Live") presented a continued refinement of this pairing's chemistry.  »»»
Bidin' My Time CD review - Bidin' My Time
With all the memorable music Chris Hillman created with The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Desert Rose Band, he has nothing left to prove. He's a both a bona fide rock and country icon. Tom Petty, who owes an obvious debt to Hillman's...  »»»