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T-Bone Burnett Remembers Stephen Bruton

Musician and songwriter Stephen Bruton played guitar for nearly 40 years with Kris Kristofferson. He recorded five solo albums and his songs have been covered by such greats as Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt and Willie Nelson. Bruton died of cancer on May 9 at the home of his longtime friend, music producer and songwriter T-Bone Burnett. Bruton was 60 years old.

Bruton and Burnett had just completed work on a soundtrack to the film, Crazy Heart. The two had actually lived together off and on throughout their careers.

"We were living up on Redpath in Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s, going to the Troubadour every night, living on peanut-butter sandwiches," Burnett says. "I remember my mother came one time, and there was this long flight of stairs up to the house and she had this big box. It looked heavy, and we thought it was filled with food. We went down to get it, and it was filled with scotch."

Burnett has often called Bruton the "soul of Texas music."

"He immersed himself more deeply in the history of the place where we came from than anyone I know, especially around Forth Worth," Burnett says. "Stephen dug up that the first electric guitar was made in Weatherford — one of the guys stuck a needle from a phonograph into the top of the guitar to act as the microphone and ran it through the phonograph to make it louder with the Texas swing band."

Burnett thinks that specific guitar was for a certain Texas musician. In an interview with Liane Hansen, Burnett says that's why he needs Bruton around — he would know that name better than anyone else. He was the keeper of the history.

"He kept breathing life into these old, classic forms of music."

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