Born William Edwin Bruce, Jr., 29 December 1939, Keiser, Arkansas
A multi-talented performer, Ed(win) Bruce has scored as a hit recording country artist, songwriter, actor and singer of commercials. Rock and roll fans will remember him for his Sun recordings from 1957-59.
Bruce was born in Arkansas, but raised in Memphis, where he attended Messick High School, alongside Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and B.B. Cunningham. He graduated in June 1957, two months after he went to Sun Records to make a demo of the first song he’d written, “Eight Wheel Driver”. Jack Clement heard some promise in the kid and on May 8, 1957, Edwin had his first formal recording session. This resulted in the single “Rock Boppin’ Baby”/“More Than Yesterday” (Sun 276), both sides written by Bruce himself. The other two songs from the session, “Doll Baby” and “Eight Wheel Driver” would not be released until 1978, on a French Sun single (Sun 626). “Rock Boppin’ Baby” (covered by the Collins Kids in February 1958) is a nice mid-tempo rockabilly song, but despite appearances on local TV shows such as Dewey Phillips’s Top Ten Dance Party, it didn’t see any chart action.
Nevertheless, Bruce was invited back for another Sun session on January 26, 1958, which yielded his second and last Sun single, “Sweet Woman”/“Part Of My Life” (Sun 292), again coupling a rocker (and a fine one at that) with a ballad. Four other songs were laid down, all originally unissued. In July 1959, Bruce made one more recording for Sun, during a split session with Brad Suggs. It was “King of Fools”, done in Johnny Cash style, and released as a French single (Sun 609) in 1977, coupled with “Baby That’s Good” from the January 1958 session. Meanwhile, Edwin pursued his studies. He had enrolled at Memphis State University in the autumn of 1957, majoring in drama and speech. After the Sun period he switched to country music and had isolated releases on RCA (1961) and TransSonic (1962). He co-wrote the B-side of Tommy Roe’s million seller “Sheila” (1962). As royalty rates are the same for both sides, this gave him financial independence. Next he signed with the Wand label in New York City and from that point on, he would record as Ed Bruce. Four Wand singles were released in 1963-64, including “See the Big Man Cry”. As a songwriter, Bruce won his first BMI award (for country airplay) with that song, after Charlie Louvin turned it into a # 7 country hit in 1965.
In 1966 Bruce quit his job as a Memphis car salesman and moved to Nashville, where he re-signed with RCA and immediately scored with “Walker’s Woods”, his first chart entry (# 57 country). A cover of the Monkees hit “Last Train To Clarksville” was also mildly successful (# 69), but regular chart success didn’t come for Ed Bruce until 1975. By that time he was recording for United Artists. His first Top 20 country hit was “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” (# 15, 1975), co-written with his wife Patsy. When this urban cowboy anthem was recorded by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1978, it went all the way to # 1 (also # 42 pop). This established Bruce as an important representative of the “Outlaw” movement. Between 1975 and 1987 Ed Bruce had twenty Top 40 hits, most of them on MCA. In March 1982 he topped the country charts for one week with "You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had”. Other country artists also had success with his songs, for instance Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle and Tex Ritter.
The 1990s were a quiet period for Bruce, music-wise. This was the consequence of his decision to focus on his acting career, which had started in 1980. He can be seen in many TV series, like “The Chisholms” and “Bret Maverick” and several feature films, the most recent one being “Finding Harmony” (2014). He also made a lucrative living in commercials. But in the first decade of the new millennium he has recorded four new albums and at this time of writing he is still performing.
Official website : http://edbrucemusic.com
Discography : http://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.nl/search/label/Bruce%20Edwin
Recommended listening :
Acknowledgements : Gerry Woods, John Klompenhouwer, the official website.
Dik, January 2017
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