Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman remembers a fiddler who was already turning heads at the age of 5.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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Cliff Bruner died on Aug. 25, 2000. Born in Texas City, Texas, on April 25, 1915, Bruner was only five when he began playing fiddle for his friends and family. By 1935, he had joined Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, one of the most influential early Western swing bands. After Milton Brown died in 1936, Bruner moved to Houston and started his own group, Cliff Bruner and His Texas Wanderers. The band, which included Bob Dunn, Moon Mullican, J.R. Chatwell and several other top musicians, continued to blend country, jazz, swing and blues to produce some of the biggest hits in Western swing.
Cliff Bruner recorded a number of other hit songs, but he retired from music in the 1950s in order to care for his ailing wife. Bruner spent the remainder of his life selling insurance and performing only occasionally. However, he left a mark on Texas music that can still be heard today.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll commemorate the Lone Star State’s own version of the Woodstock Festival.