‘Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys’ Songwriter Patsy Bruce Dies at 81

by Suzanne Halliburton

Patsy Bruce, who co-wrote two of the greatest country songs that were especially beloved in the state of Texas, died earlier this week. She was 81.

She wrote with her husband, Ed Bruce, who worked as a car salesman before the couple’s songs hit it big.

Patsy Bruce and her husband wrote a true country standard — Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys. Ed Bruce recorded the song in 1975. But it took the Willie and Waylon duet treatment to make it truly a country hit for the decades. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, both Texans and pioneers in Outlaw Country, recorded the cover of the song in 1978. The song spent a month at No. 1 in 1978, but it’s a standard at every good country dance hall worth its sawdust on the floor.

The Willie and Waylon version won the 1979 Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group. And the song by Patsy Bruce and her husband ended up as part of the soundtrack for the Electric Horseman, which starred Robert Redford. Patsy Bruce was responsible for a major tweak to the original song. She suggested cowboys. The first version asked their mamas not to let their babies grow up to be guitar players.

Patsy Bruce, along with her husband Ed and fellow writer Bobby Borchers, also were responsible for Texas (When I Die). That evolved into a Tanya Tucker classic. Ed Bruce recorded it first. Then Tucker, a Texan, released the cover in 1978. The Dallas Cowboys began using the song to celebrate touchdowns and wins at their home games at Texas Stadium.

So Patsy Bruce, the Tennessee native, was celebrated in the most Texas way possible on Sundays in the fall.

She contributed to at least one classic TV show and a movie. She worked in casting for both Maverick, a Western TV show starring James Garner, and Urban Cowboy. The movie starred John Travolta and Debra Winger. The couple met at Gilley’s, a country bar outside Houston. And the movie told their love story, with the country music they danced to starring right alongside Travolta and Winger.

Patsy Bruce and Ed divorced in 1986. She served as served president of the Nashville Songwriters Association International in the late ’70s and early ’80s. And she served Tennessee as a member of the State Board of Pardon and Parole. Gov. Phil Bredesen appointed her.