Western Swing Pioneer Cliff Bruner Dies

Cliff Bruner, one of the most important and exciting fiddlers in Texas swing history, died Friday, Aug. 25, at his home in Houston after a bout with cancer and heart problems. He was 85. Bruner recorded 49 sides with pioneering westen swing band Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies in March 1936. After Brown died in an auto accident a month later, Bruner formed his Texas Wanderers and signed with Decca the following year. The band’s roster boasted pianist Moon Mullican and guitarist Bob Dunn, who created the amplified steel guitar. Bruner is credited with bridging the gap between the western swing sound of the ’30s and the burgeoning electric honky-tonk sound of the ’40s. The bandleader introduced such enduring numbers as “It Makes No Difference Now,” “I’ll Keep on Loving You” and “Truck Driver’s Blues” (one of the first trucker songs ever recorded). His signature tune was an old Mexican polka, “Jessie.” In the 1950s, the fiddle legend left the music industry for the insurance business. When western swing experienced a revival in the 1970s, Bruner returned to the stage and remained active until the mid ’90s. Bear Family issued the five-CD box set, Cliff Bruner and His Texas Wanderers, in 1997. Bruner is survived by his wife, Ruth; six daughters; 17 grandchildren; 16 great grandchildren; and five great great grandchildren. Funeral services were to be held Monday (Aug. 28) at Canon Funeral Home in Waller, Texas.