Ed Bruce: Country Music's
By Cheryl Wilcox and Scott
The 700 Club
Scott Ross recently caught up with the singer-songwriter
on his ranch to discuss his legendary leap to fame.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Backtrack to the late
1950s, in Memphis, Tennessee. Hometown heartthrob Ed Bruce was
graduating from high school. He couldnt have been in a better
place or time to showcase his vocal talents.
ED BRUCE: 706 Union Marshall, Sun Records.
SCOTT: Oh man! Thats Johnny Cash, Carl
Perkins, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison
ED: Charlie Riggs
SCOTT: I mean, man! You got into Sun Records?
SCOTT (reporting): Elvis was the name that drove
Sun Records' engine and with him a host of other legendary artists.
Seventeen-year-old Bruce was among the elite of the elite in the
recording industry when he signed with the label.
ED: I made my first release when I was in the
last of my senior year in high school in 1957 on Sun Records.
SCOTT: Did your record get on the charts?
ED: I bubbled under. It just barely got into
the top 100, something like that.
SCOTT: That must have been encouraging for you,
a young guy.
ED: The experience of hanging around with some
of those people, sitting in the studio listening to Johnny Cash,
Jerry Lee Lewis, you had to watch the language there, but yeah,
it was quite an experience.
SCOTT (reporting): After a decade of singing,
songwriting, and day gigging, Bruce relocated to Nashville to
pursue full-time songwriting.
ED: I was on my way home from a jingle session.
I was making a pretty good living doing commercials, doing jingles,
but it was not the most satisfying thing in the world. Somebody
else is doing all the creativity.
SCOTT: But it pays the bills.
ED: Yeah. But I was on the way home from a session,
and I guess I was feeling a little frustrated. I just started
singing, going along in the car. 'Mammas dont let your babies
grow up to pick guitars' is what I said first. I thought, 'Wait
a minute now,' and I changed it to 'cowboys' and I worked in the
guitars a line or two later. I was probably ten minutes from the
SCOTT: So you changed 'guitar' to 'cowboys'?
ED: Yeah, I worked it in a line or two later
about the guitar pickers.
SCOTT: That song became absolutely enormous.
Did that change your life or affect you in some way?
ED: Yeah, that established me as an artist at
that time. I had a top 15 record. Then a year later, Willie and
Waylon. Waylon actually brought that about. Waylon recorded it,
and Willie over-dubbed it later on. But it was a huge, huge record.
It just opened a lot of doors with awards, and it did everything.
It established me as an artist and a writer.
SCOTT (reporting): The success of "Mammas" opened
up other creative avenues. Ed signed recording contracts with
record labels and cut a host of albums. Casting directors in Nashville
and Hollywood seized on his rugged, masculine appeal, and before
he knew it, he was acting.
SCOTT: How did you take to the acting field,
memorizing lines and scripts and going through all that?
ED: Well, actually, Ive always been what
they call a quick study. Havent had a lot of problems with
lines. The first scene I ever did, it was the first thing Ive
ever done, and Im just thrown in there the first day on
the set. When we finished the scene, the director came over. Im
sure he was trying to reassure me. He said, 'Ed, that was really
good. I could just feel the tension in that.' And I said, 'Mel,
that was abject terror.' And later, Robert Preston was in this
thing, a great old actor, Oscar winner. He knew that was the first
thing Id ever done. I walked off the set there, and he was
sitting in his chair. I walked over there and was going to sit
down there. He said, 'Thats OK. They probably wont
use it anyway.'
SCOTT (reporting): Ed acted in the popular TV
series Bret Maverick. The success of Bret Maverick
kept the TV and film parts coming for the next 20 years. But somewhere
between the success and the fame, Ed Bruce, the man, had lost
ED: I wasnt terribly happy. I was having
a good time. At the time, my second wife was my manager. It had
gotten to a point that the relationship was just based on business.
SCOTT: And, as I understand it, God finds us
and meets us where we are. You were out in the back 40 here somewhere.
ED: Yeah, on the tractor. Youve been through
the winter. Its been raining. Its been snowing. Its
been freezing. You get into those first few days of spring. The
trees are starting to bud. I was back in the creek bottom back
there, flat. I was bush-hogging. I was doing something. I dont
remember. I may have been cleaning up after winter floods back
there. Water gets up back there, trees and logs and junk, and
probably a couple of deer ran out across there. Trees were budding
out on the bluffs up there. You know the cartoon where the little
light goes on? Thats kind of what happened. I said, 'Oh.'
ED: Yeah. I started singing a song that Id
never heard before.
SCOTT: What was the song?
ED: It was a new song. I just started singing
it. It was just, 'Here it is!' I started singing the chorus to
a song I wound up writing later on that day.
SCOTT: What are the lyrics?
ED: 'He lives. He said He could. He lives. He
said He would. He lives. He said we should believe in Him. If
we have faith with Him, there is a place through Him. We have
grace because He lives.'
SCOTT: And this was just there?
ED: Yeah, it just came out.
SCOTT: What did you do with that?
ED: I came to the house and got my guitar.
SCOTT: Start writing? I mean, now youre
hearing voices. This is significant. What did it do to you subsequently
within the next few hours or days?
ED: I havent been the same since then.
I have not been the same since then.
SCOTT: Do you consider this a real encounter
ED: Yes sir, buddy!
SCOTT: It has changed your life?
ED: My life hasnt been the same since
then. Its changed the way I live, the way I try to live.
Its changed the way I feel about my wife. Its changed
SCOTT (reporting): At that simple moment in
the field with Jesus Christ, Ed became a new man.
ED: I cant tell you how happy I am now,
how thrilled I am to be here, to be living out here, to be with
Judith. I tell people all the time that Ive got Jesus and
Judith. Thats all I need. I start each day brand new with
a certain sense of excitement. What are God and I going to get
done today? Every day is a new experience like that. I thank God
every day for every day. I thank God for my wife Judith. I thank
Him for this day, thank Him for each other. I pray a lot more.
Its not necessarily praying. It's just talking to God. Im
not comfortable if I dont! I do it at night. Ill do
it in the day. Ill get up in the morning and pray, 'Thanks
for the day. Let me use it well,' just little things like that.
SCOTT: Did it change your songwriting? The scripts
you choose? The work you do?
ED: As far as the scripts are concerned, Ive
always been a little bit selective about that. There were certain
things I wouldnt do. I mean, Ive got kids and grand
kids, and there are things I wouldnt do then or now, either
one. I dont know that it affects that so much. Recently
I read for something. I did not read the script exactly what it
said because I did not want to use the language it used. I didnt
get the part either.
SCOTT: As a songwriter, you appreciate Kris
Kristofferson, his writing 'Why Me, Lord?' which is a real classic.
Do you ever ask the question, 'Why me Lord? Why me in the back
of this pasture on my tractor and cleaning out some brush and
--BAM!--that moment in time He comes and says, 'Ed Bruce'?
ED: Well, no I didnt.
SCOTT: You didnt question it? You accepted
ED: Yeah. I say that our God is a patient Father
because I tried Him and He waited on me.
Scott Ross welcomes your feedback.
Read more of Scott's interviews.
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