A couple of cool Fort Worth characters have gone to that party barn in the sky during the past few days, including guitarist Stephen Bruton, whom Anthony blogged about on Saturday. Bruton was probably best known as a blues guitarist, a longtime musical sideman to Kris Kristofferson, and a studio picker on albums with Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Elvis Costello, The Wallflowers, and many others.
But he was so much more – a film actor (‘Man Of The House,’ ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ ‘Miss Congeniality,’ and ‘The Alamo’), record producer (Alejandro Escovedo, Marcia Ball, Jimmie Dale Gilmore), and a superb singer and songwriter.
Bruton hooked up with Kristofferson’s band shortly after graduating from TCU. When Kristofferson began acting in the 1970s he would bring his buddies to Hollywood to hang out. The gang would often read for small parts, and Bruton nabbed roles in ‘A Star Is Born,’ ‘Convoy,’ ‘Songwriter,’ and other Kristofferson vehicles.
Once a movie was completed, they’d hit the highway for another tour. “When I was out on the road with Kris we were living hand to mouth, day to day, and totally carefree,” Bruton told me a couple of years ago. “Whatever happened, happened.”
And speaking of carefree and day to day — raconteur Edwin “Bud” Shrake died on Friday, completing a wild journey that began 77 years ago when he was born and raised right here in Fort Worth, attended Paschal High School, and got a degree at TCU. He was among a group of local news reporters, including Dan Jenkins and Gary Cartwright, who went on to greater glory as authors and national magazine writers.
Shrake co-authored Willie Nelson’s autobiographyen the singer’s autobiography, and legend has it that Shrake was the one who insisted on putting in the part about Nelson smoking pot on the White House roof (Nelson allegedly didn’t want to include the story because it would embarrass his friend Jimmy Carter). Shrake won the argument, and sure enough the pot-smoking incident became national news. But some people speculate that the Internal Revenue Service later cracked down on Nelson in retribution.
A few years back, I interviewed Shrake for a story I was writing about author Jay Milner, and Shrake was hilarious but not much help for my story. He and Milner were party buddies back in the 1960s and ‘70s, a time when Shrake stayed up for days on end at various house parties. And like they say, if you remember those times, you either weren’t there or you weren’t doing it right.
“There’d always be musicians around and plenty to drink,” Shrake said. “For some reason we thought it was important to stay up all night. I still can’t figure out what on earth we thought we were missing. It seemed like it was nonstop. You’d go to one party, and it would last several years.”
Shrake later slowed way down on the partying but never lost his wit and zest.
Bruton died of throat cancer, and Shrake died of lung cancer.