One of a Kind

Remembrances of Stephen Bruton

One of a Kind
by Todd V. Wolfson

I didn’t know Stephen Bruton very well, but there are a couple of moments that will stick with me forever. 2007’s Road to Austin show, where he served as bandleader, is the type of event that could only happen here. Yeah, his longtime famous friends – Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, Delbert McClinton – heartily took part, but it also served as a snapshot of where the Austin music scene was at that very moment, giving a larger stage to Ruthie Foster, Carolyn Wonderland, and James Hand. Although he’d probably demure to its impact, it was a celebration of Bruton’s life as a friend to a music scene that now has a huge hole to fill.

I’m pretty sure I first met Bruton in December 1998, while he was producing some sessions for bluesman/singer-songwriter Chris Smither, which turned out to be 1999’s Drive You Home Again (Hightone). In a tiny nondescript studio on South Lamar, they were working on a track called “No Love Today.” Both men were gracious and personable and seemed especially proud of the New Orleans street vibe they had created with a small horn section that was almost funereal. Smither explained that the song attempted to evoke an old-time street vendor who hawked fruit out of the back of his truck, but had no love for sale. Listening to the song today, it’s safe to say they nailed it.

I contacted Smither, who is best known for writing “Love You Like a Man,” one of Raitt’s signature tunes, via email asking for a remembrance of Bruton. His response is also note-perfect:

“I first met Stephen when he was playing with Kristofferson in the early 70s. We hit it off immediately, and remained friends and colleagues from then on. I'll remember him for many things, but probably best and most gratefully for teaching me how to have fun making records. Before I worked with Stephen, recording was a nightmarish chore fraught with anxiety, and the certainty that I was going to be uncovered as a fraud. We made three albums together, and he transformed my attitude and my career. I will miss him more than I can possibly say.”

Check out Bruton's "Waiting For a Long Time" here.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Stephen Bruton
Thinking About Stephen Bruton
Thinking About Stephen Bruton
There’s just no getting over some people

William Harries Graham, May 14, 2013

Comes in Threes
Comes in Threes
R.I.P. Stephen, Bud, and Poodie

Margaret Moser, May 11, 2009

More by Jim Caligiuri
Carrie Elkin’s Life-and-Death Folk
Carrie Elkin’s Life-and-Death Folk
Her father's death and daughter's birth upped the stakes of the singer's finest work

April 14, 2017

SXSW Music Live: Richard Barone Presents Greenwich Village in the Sixties
SXSW Music Live: Richard Barone Presents Greenwich Village in the Sixties
Soft Boys, Youngbloods, Moby Grape, Brian Jones’ grandson, etc.

March 18, 2017


Stephen Bruton

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle