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

on May 9, 2009 No comments

Sunday, May 17, 2009
By Teresa Gubbins /  PegasusNews

FORT WORTH — On a fittingly somber and rainy Saturday morning, more than 500 musicians, friends, and family members attended a funeral mass in Fort Worth for musician Stephen Bruton, 60, a Fort Worth native who died of throat cancer on May 9.

Held at Holy Family Catholic Church, the service included remarks by musician-actor Kris Kristofferson, with whom Bruton played for 40 years, and musician-producer T-Bone Burnett, who was a friend of Bruton’s since they were teens. Bruton had been battling throat cancer for two years. Bonnie Raitt, for whom Bruton played guitar on tour, attended the service but did not speak.

Stephen Bruton, center, with Eric Johnson and Bonnie Raitt at Saxon Pub in Austin, where he had a weekly gig.

Bruton’s songs were recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffet; he also toured with Delbert McClinton and Bob Dylan, and recorded five solo albums.

Musicians came from Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin, where Bruton lived for the past few years, including Bugs Henderson, Anson Funderburgh, Rob Roy Parnell, Monty McClinton, Linda Waring, and Mike Buck; James Pennebaker, Glen Clark, Dave Millsap and Donnie Wade were among the eight pallbearers.

Burnett played a recording of a song Bruton recorded a few weeks before his death, called “Playing For Keeps”. The two worked together on the soundtrack for an upcoming movie, Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges.

“His music is the beating heart of this movie,” said Burnett.

Kristofferson’s remarks were at times difficult to hear, partially because he had trouble finding the microphone’s optimum zone and partially because he seemed shaken. Here are his words:

So many memories. Stephen was one of the brightest, sharpest, funniest, and most courageous, creative spirits in the world. I was reminded of the time when we were, I believe it was Idaho, we were waiting to do a show and we had a free day, so we decided to go ride the rapids. We had stopped, because there was nobody else on the river, to have lunch, at a place where a stream ran into the river. I dove into the stream and discovered it was harder to get out than I expected. I was talking to the guys in the band, when I saw Stephen’s head rocketing down the river. So I took off after him because I knew. And when I caught up, there was a look on his face I never saw before or after. The river pulled him in, and I jumped in, along with a young lady who was the bus driver, he was swept into the river. I could see the headlines: “stupid musicians”. I remember telling him to swim with the current, not against. We went around a corner, there was a huge raft with guys in wet suits. They pulled Stephen out. By this time, all the band showed up, and Stephen said, ‘Thanks a lot you guys, for coming to save us.’

Stephen — and I think he felt like I did, that our friendship had passed a test that neither of us could have imagined would last throughout our lives

Tribute at Bass Hall

Bass Performance Hall, where Bruton played one year ago, is hosting a tribute on Sunday May 17 at 2 p.m. at McDavid Studio with a free concert featuring many of the singer/guitarist/producer’s musician friends including Johnny Reno, Dave and Richard Millsap, Tejas Brothers, Gary Nicholson, Rollo Smith, Linda Waring, James Hinkle, Yogi Musgrove, Randy Case, Lewis Stephens, Bill Ham, plus special guests. Admission is free; the event is open to the general public. 301 East 5th St. 817- 212-4280 or

Source: © Pegasus News

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