April 25, 1915 – Aug 25, 2000
Born in Texas City, TX, Cliff Lafayette Bruner was a pioneer of Western Swing, becoming one of the most influential musicians in Texas country music history. His music combined elements of traditional string band music, improvisation, blues, folk, and popular melodies of the times. Bruner grew up in Tomball. At the age of 12, he decided that he didn't want to pick cotton anymore and bought a fiddle. As a teenager, he traveled around the country trying to start a band. In 1935 at age 20, he was asked to join Milton Brown's band, the Musical Brownies. Two years later, in Houston, Bruner formed the Texas Wanderers. The group also featured steel guitarist Bob Dunn, mandolin player Leo Raley, guitarist and singer Dickie McBride, pianist and singer Moon Mullican, and bass player Hezzy Bryant.
The Wanderers became a top-performing Houston attraction and then shifted to Beaumont, where they played live radio shows three times daily. Eventually recording with the Decca and Mercury labels, he scored a national hit with Floyd Tillman's "It Makes No
Difference Now." His discography had a special southern characteristic, including songs about truck driving, lost love, the draft, and ill repute. Cliff Bruner is an unsung star of the little-noted Country Music charts that appeared in Billboard before 1944. His hit "It Makes No Difference Now" spent twenty weeks atop the charts. Other hits in 1939-1942 included "Sorry," "Kelly Swing," "I'll Keep On Loving You," and "When You're Smiling." Bruner continued to perform into the 1970s and appeared in the 1984 movie Places in the Heart. Cliff was a fiddler and bandleader of the Western Swing era of the 1930s and 1940s.