Jan 8, 2021: Ed Bruce, Singer Who Wrote ‘Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,’ Dies

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Ed Bruce

Ed Bruce, a country music singer who co-wrote “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” died January 8, 2021, in Clarksville, Tenn., of natural causes at age 81. The news of Bruce’s passing came from his publicist, Jeremy Westby.

During his career, many songs that Bruce wrote and recorded were more successful when re-recorded by others.

While signed to RCA Records, Bruce’s recording of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies… ” peaked at #15 in 1976. Two years later, it was recorded by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and their version scaled the country chart, reaching #1 in 1978, and #42 on the Hot 100.

Listen to the Jennings-Nelson version

Bruce was born December 29, 1939, in Keiser, Ark.

In 1957, at the age of 17, Bruce caught the attention of Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, for whom he wrote and recorded “Rock Boppin’ Baby” (as “Edwin Bruce”). In 1962, he wrote “Save Your Kisses” for pop star Tommy Roe. Charlie Louvin recorded “See the Big Man Cry” in 1965, which reached #7 on the Billboard country singles chart.

Listen to the teenaged “Edwin Bruce” sing “Rock Boppin’ Baby”

To supplement his income, Bruce began doing voice-overs for TV and radio commercials. He scored his first charted single with “Walker’s Woods” in 1967, and also charted with his version of the Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville.” In 1969, Bruce signed with Monument Records, where he had minor successes with “Everybody Wants To Get To Heaven” and “Song For Jenny.”

Meanwhile, he continued to write songs like “The Man That Turned My Mama On,” which was a #4 country hit for Tanya Tucker in 1974 and “Restless” for Crystal Gayle the same year.

The Nelson-Jennings version of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys” became a major hit and in 1979, Tucker had a Top 5 country single with “Texas (When I Die).”

Bruce switched to MCA Records, where he had his greatest success, earning a #1 country hit with the 1981 release, “You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had.” His deep, yet tender, singing voice earned Top 10 success with “Ever, Never Lovin’ You,” “My First Taste of Texas” and “After All.”

In 1984, he returned to RCA and scored a #3 hit with “You Turn Me On Like a Radio” in 1985. His last Top 10 single was “Nights” in 1986.

During this time, Bruce began to act and do commercials. One of his biggest acting roles was on the television revival of Maverick, called Bret Maverick. Starring James Garner as a legendary western gambler, the series ran on NBC-TV during the 1981-82 season. Bruce also sang and wrote the theme song to the show.

After the 1986 album, Night Things, and a 1988 self-titled follow-up, Bruce decided to cut back on his music to focus on his acting career, appearing in several made-for-TV films. He hosted two shows in the late 1980s, Truckin’ USA and American Sports Cavalcade, and appeared in several theatrical releases, including Fire Down Below with Steven Seagal.

Bruce was honored with the Arkansas Country Music Award for “Lifetime Achievement” in 2018 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 10 January, 2022, 20:22

    I was fortunate to be a country-music DJ in the 1970s, and got to play a fair amount of Ed Bruce. He had that magnificent voice, not unlike Hoyt Axton.

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