Guitarist and songwriter Stephen Bruton, who had played with Kris Kristofferson for nearly 40 years and whose songs had been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett and others, died May 9 of complications of throat cancer in Los Angeles. He was 60.
Bruton died at the home of musician-producer T Bone Burnett, who said Bruton recently finished working with him on a movie called “Crazy Heart.” Burnett had asked Bruton to produce the music.
“I’m deeply grateful he got to complete his work on the film,” Burnett said. “In the last 72 hours, things just started shutting down. I think everybody thought he would kick it quickly because he was Stephen Bruton. We all thought he was invincible.”
Bruton released five albums as a solo artist and was a favored guitarist for many longtime associates when they needed an evocative sound or instrumental color to complement their songs.
Born in Wilmington, Del., Bruton moved to Texas when he was about 2 years old and became a musical prodigy. He won banjo contests before he was a teen and eventually shifted his focus to country and blues.
Shortly after graduating from Texas Christian University, Bruton joined Kristofferson’s band as the singer-songwriter’s own career was about to take off.
“Nobody loved his life more than Stephen,” Kristofferson said. “He loved watching what he called ‘babies on parade’ at the airports: little kids stumbling forward with their first steps, barely keeping their feet under them, faces shining with joy and amazement at the discovery of this new talent.”
Bruton is survived by his mother and brother.