Stephen Bruton PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 18 May 2009 14:22

DSC_1825 by nwr.stephenbruton.Stephen Bruton

Born: November 7, 1948, Wilmington, Delaware

Died: May 9, 2009, Los Angeles

Age: 60

Cause of death: Complications from Throat Cancer.

Notable because Musician who played great guitar and was friends with many.

Turner Stephen Bruton was born Nov. 7, 1948, in Wilmington, Del., but the family moved to Texas when he was about 2. He became immersed in music from an early age. Bruton started out as a bluegrass prodigy, winning banjo contests before he was a teenager. In his late teens, he shifted his focus to guitar and country, blues and other musical styles. "He applied a lot of what he learned about banjo to the guitar," said his older brother Sumter Bruton.

Shortly after graduating from Texas Christian University, where he had majored in journalism, Bruton joined Kristofferson's band as the singer-songwriter's own career was about to take off. He toured and recorded with Kristofferson regularly for the rest of his life.

Bruton worked with such artists and musicians as NRBQ, T Bone Burnett, Bonnie Raitt, Rita Coolidge, Christine McVie, Elvis Costello, Delbert McClinton, Sonny Landreth and Carly Simon. He produced albums for Alejandro Escovedo, Marcia Ball, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Hal Ketchum, Storyville and Chris Smither.

Bruton released five albums as a solo artist, and was the guitarist of choice for many longtime associates when they needed an evocative sound, instrumental color, to-the-point solo or melodic idea to complement their songs.

"Stephen is an extraordinarily influential character," Burnett said. "He had broad knowledge of music and music history. He never was a household name, but his influence behind the scenes has been profound, and it will be felt for a long, long time."

Burnett said it was Bruton, at the age of 14, who introduced him to the song "O Death" that became a key element of the 2000 film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", which introduced Appalachian traditional music to millions of moviegoers and music fans and scored major Grammy awards for the soundtrack album that Burnett produced.

Earlier this year, Bruton again collaborated with Kristofferson on the esteemed songwriter and actor's new album, "Starlight and Stone," due to be released in the fall. Bruton was still recuperating from treatment he'd been receiving for cancer and had been in and out of remission for about three years. He told Kristofferson and producer Don Was that he wasn't "at the top of my game" for one session, but added, "What are you going to do -- just sit around till they throw dirt on you?" Instead, he brought out one of his favorite guitars, listened to raw tracks and offered suggestions on what he thought they needed musically, swapping stories and joking in the control bootDSC_9778 by nwr.stephenbruton.h.

"He fought a courageous fight right up to the end," said Was, producer of several Kristofferson albums on which Bruton played. "The great thing about Stephen was that he was a wonderful guy who valued making real music more than anything. He never once sacrificed the quality of this experience by bowing to the trends and fashions of the moment.

"As a result, he leaves behind a body of songs and recordings that reflect the integrity, joy, sense of humor and soul that characterized his life," Was said. "He was a pleasure to be around and was a constant reminder of the purest reasons for dedicating your life to music."

"Nobody loved his life more than Stephen," Kristofferson said today. " He loved watching what he called 'babies on parade' at the airports: little kids stumbling forward with their first steps, barely keeping their feet under them, faces shining with joy and amazement at the discovery of this new talent.

"He'd have been a great father and grandfather, but this wasn't in the cards," Kristofferson said. "He was blessed with the ability to express himself with music and he loved every moment he was making it. Our lives have been enriched by his heart and his humor and the beauty of his creations."

Bruton died of complications of throat cancer in Los Angeles on May 9, 2009, aged 60. He was survived by his mother and brother, and was separated from his wife, Mary.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 June 2012 07:48

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