Ed Bruce, Classic Country Singer-Songwriter, Dead at 81

by Jon D. B.

Prolific country singer-songwriter and Arkansas Country Music Award Lifetime Achievement recipient, Ed Bruce, has passed at 81.

Country music has lost another legend. Influential singer-songwriter Ed Bruce, died in Clarksville, Tennessee January 8, 2021 of natural causes. He was 81.

Best known for his chart-topping hit “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” Bruce’s long career saw him craft countless country classics. His death, confirmed by a press release from his team, comes in the wake of so many country legends lost during 2020.

The Remarkable Life of Ed Bruce

Ed Bruce was born in Keiser, Arkansas on December 29, 1939. While Arkansas was his place of birth, Bruce considered Tennessee his home state. Bruce’s family came to Memphis, TN early in his childhood, and the songwriter remained in the state until his death.

According to his website, Bruce began writing songs early in life, as well. Such was his talent that he became a recording artist with Memphis’ legendary Sun Records before even graduating high school. His first track with the label that made Elvis Presley famous? “Rock Boppin’ Baby.”

Ed’s early career was hit & miss, as the country gent crafted songs for other artists here and there throughout the sixties. His first big success as a country songwriter came when Charlie Louvin took on Bruce’s “See the Big Man Cry,” which went all the way to No. 7 on the charts. He would score his own first charting single in 1967 with “Walker’s Woods.”

The 1970s, however, would bring Ed Bruce considerable fame. Tanya Tucker took on his writing with “The Man That Turned My Mama On,” while Crystal Gayle’s recording of “Restless” also saw great success. Following these 1974 triumphs as a songwriter, Bruce would finally get his own Top 20 Billboard hit in 1976 with his best-known song, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, & Hollywood Come a’Callin’

Off the success of his own performance with the track, the biggest names in country were now after Ed Bruce’s phenomenal songwriting skills. As such, two of the biggest names in country music history, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, recorded their own duet rendition of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” in 1978. Their version would take the song all the way to No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart. Moreover, it won all involved a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal the following year in 1979.

Congruently, Bruce would also write hits for other country legends, like Tanya Tucker. His work garnered her a No. 5 hit with “Texas (When I Die)” in 1978.

From there, the 1980s would see Ed Bruce gain mass recognition as a performer himself. During the decade, he would amass a string of country hits like “The Last Cowboy Song” and “Love’s Found You and Me.” He would reach No. 1 with his recording of “You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had,” as well.

His last charting single cane in the form of “Quietly Crazy” in 1987. Around this time, Bruce was transitioning into acting, and began putting his energy into the big and small screens. He even hosted his own shows for The Nashville Network, incluidng Truckin’ USA and American Sports Cavalcade. Perhaps his best known role came with Steven Segal in Fire Down Below.

Less than three years before his passing, Ed Bruce would receive the Arkansas Country Music Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018 for his immeasurable contributions to country music, film, and television.

Our condolences to the family, friends, and fellows fans of Ed Bruce from all of us at Outsider.com.

[H/T Taste of Country]