April 25, 1915|
Texas City, Texas, United States
|Died||August 25, 2000
Texas City, Texas, United States
|Years active||1930s - 1980s|
Cliff Bruner (né Clifton Lafayette Bruner; 25 April 1915 – 25 August 2000) was a fiddler and bandleader of the Western Swing era of the 1930s. Bruner's music combined elements of traditional string band music, improvisation, blues, folk, and popular melodies of the times.   
Milton Brown's Musical Brownies drafted Bruner in 1935. Bruner played with the ensemble's classically trained fiddler Cecil Brower to create the memorable double fiddle sound of Milton Brown's group. Bruner recorded with Brown's group on the Decca music label, until Brown was killed in an automobile accident in 1936. This ended Bruner's involvement in the group.
That same year (1936), Bruner moved to Houston and formed The Texas Wanderers, a band that included Lee Bell (de) (né Dewey Lee Bell; born 1927) on electric guitar, Bob Dunn on electric steel guitar, Leo Raley (1913–1983) on mandolin, J.R. Chatwell (né James Robert Chatwell; 1915–1983) on fiddle, Dickie McBride on guitar and vocals, and Moon Mullican on vocals and piano. The Wanderers recorded on the Decca and Mercury Records labels. His songs 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 prior to 1944. His hit It Makes No Difference Now spent 20 weeks atop the chart. Other hits in 1939–1942 included "Sorry", "Kelly Swing", "I'll keep on loving you" and "When You're Smiling". Perhaps his most famous hit was "Truck Drivers' Blues", the first truck driving song. Many of these recordings featured future singer piano star, Moon Mullican, on vocals.
Bruner's big band disbanded in the 1950s, however, he continued to play music, and his trio appeared in the 1984 Sally Field movie Places in the Heart. He was also given recognition during the 1970s revival of Western Swing.
Bruner died of cancer in August 2000.
Form side musicians
- The Jazz of the Southwest, An Oral History of Western Swing, by Jean A. Boyd, University of Texas Press, 1998 OCLC 44955610 ISBN 978-0-292-70860-0
- A Guide to the Delmer Rogers Collection, 1987-1994, Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
- All Music Guide to Country — The Experts' Guide to the Best Recordings in Country Music, edited by Michael Erlewine, Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, & Stephen Thomas Erlewine, San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1997 OCLC 39334459
- The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Third edition, eight volumes, edited by Colin Larkin, London: Muze, 1998 OCLC 39837948
- The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, by Fred Dellar, Allan Cackett, & Roy Thompson, New York: Harmony Books, 1987 (biography contains portrait) OCLC 14003215
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, by Fred Dellar, Roy Thompson, & Douglas B. Green, New York: Harmony Books, 1977 (biography contains portrait) OCLC 3532207
- "Bruner, Clifton LaFayette (Cliff)," by Ruth K. Sullivan, Handbook of Texas Online]], Texas State Historical Association, uploaded June 12, 2010, modified August 30, 2013 (retrieved September 9, 2015)