The Man Behind The Music

Bruce’s earliest musical memory is of his mother Dorothy playing The Beautiful Blue Danube on the family piano while he crouched under the instrument, his ear pressed to its rosewood side. This early attraction to sound set Bruce on his musical journey.

After a half-dozen years of training as a pianist, Bruce discovered the joy of improvised music in the folksong explosion taking place in California where his family relocated at the start of his teen years. Taking advantage of the Bay Area’s diverse cultural climate, Bruce heard and met many musicians — Son House, Bill Monroe, Muddy Waters, Wade Mainer, Mississippi John Hurt, Almeda Riddle, Mance Lipscomb and the Clara Ward Singers were among his favorites. They may have played in differing styles but were united in the strength of their personal expression.

As Bruce told an interviewer for Nashville’s newspaper, The Tennessean:

“I began playing music for my livelihood in San Francisco during the Great Folk Scare of the 1960s. After moving to Nashville in the 1970s, I spent the next 15 years playing commercial music in touring bands and in the studio. Still, I remembered the old folk, gospel, blues and mountain tunes that had spoken to me in a special way.”

As the 60s ended, Bruce began playing banjo in the Bay Area’s premiere bluegrass band High Country. They recorded two albums for the Raccoon/Warner Bros. label; toured with labelmates The Youngbloods and opened shows for The Grateful Dead. But by 1974 the California-dreamin’ lifestyle had palled and Nashville called.

Since then Bruce has, as a friend once put it, “sat in all the chairs”… composed jingles and background music, managed a recording studio and publishing company, supervised a university archive’s recorded sound collection, produced and played on albums both obscure and Grammy-nominated and logged tens of thousands of miles on tour buses, both shiny-new and ready for the scrap heap!

Now the Muse has led Bruce back to the guitar and the music that first raised his blood pressure a half-century ago–songs and tunes, old and new, with deep roots in the human condition… simple music about not-so-simple people.

Here are two MP3 samples from Bruce’s solo CD: Zeno Dreamed

Irish Hands A story of the 19th C. South: indentured Irish and black slaves and what they might have taught each other.

Auld Greensleeves/Old Black Joe A Scots tune popular in America: An American tune loved in Britain.