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Stephen Bruton one of Austin’s best guitar players passes away

on May 9, 2009 No comments

Several musicians take part in 3 1/2 -hour jam session at Bass Hall’s McDavid Studio to honor the memory of legendary Fort Worth blues player Stephen Bruton

By ROBERT PHILPOT – star-telegram
Sunday, May. 17, 2009

FORT WORTH — The sunshine poured through the big windows of McDavid Studio on Sunday afternoon, where more than a dozen musicians evoked memories of dark, smoky blues clubs as they paid tribute to Stephen Bruton, the Fort Worth musician, producer and songwriter who died May 9 at age 60.

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The 3 1/2 -hour jam session featured familiar names from the Fort Worth blues scene, including saxophone player Johnny Reno; guitarists James Hinkle, Dave Millsap, who organized the tribute; and Sumter Bruton, Stephen’s older brother.

“Thank y’all for coming out,” Sumter Bruton said to a standing-room-only crowd after playing several songs with Hinkle and Reno. “Stephen would’ve really enjoyed this. This was great.”

Stephen Bruton’s funeral was Saturday, so the players mostly let the music do the talking, with a range of blues songs from artists such as Buddy Guy, Jerry Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bruton.

A couple of the musicians shared anecdotes about their encounters with Bruton when they were younger. Fort Worth’s John Nitzinger, who put on one of the day’s most scorching sets, talked about how he used to follow Stephen Bruton and try to get him to listen to a song he wrote when he was 14. And Mike O’Neil, a Wichita Falls-based guitarist who had performed with Bruton, told of how T Bone Burnett, a songwriter and music producer, introduced a 19-year-old O’Neil to multi-instrumentalist Bruton.

“I was a rock ’n’ roll guy,” O’Neil said. “I was like, ‘If it ain’t plugged in, I don’t want to hear it.’ But then I walk up, and there’s Stephen with the boyish grin, just blowin’ the hell out of [a] banjo. I was a rock ’n’ roll guitar player, but when I heard that, I realized there’s got to be more to music.”

A number of other musicians performed in an ever-morphing band, including the Tejas Brothers; guitarists Bill Ham and Willie Smith; drummers Richard Millsap (Dave’s son) and Linda Waring; pianist Lewis Stephens, organist Tommy Young; bass players Jim Milam, Cadillac Johnson and Yogi Musgrove. Monty McClinton, Delbert’s McClinton’s son, appeared for one song.

Photos of Bruton, who had worked with numerous acts including Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson and Alejandro Escovedo, were projected on a screen behind the band.

The show ended with O’Neil, Stephens, Musgrove, and Richard and Dave Millsap doing several Bruton songs, including the plaintive Too Many Memories. Dave Millsap closed by singing a song Bruton insisted on performing on Christmas as part of a Fort Worth Christmas All-Stars show: Don’t Put No Tombstone on My Grave.

ROBERT PHILPOT, 817-390-7872, RPhilpot@star-telegram.com

Source: © Star-Telegram

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