Per a press release from 2911 Media, Ed Bruce, the singer-songwriter best known for "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," passed away Friday (Jan. 8) in Clarksville, Tennessee from natural causes. He was 81 years old.
William Edwin Bruce Jr. was born on December 29, 1939 in Keiser, Arkansas. He grew up in Memphis, where he caught his first break as the teenage singer-songwriter behind Sun Records' "Rock Boppin' Baby."
In the '60s, he became a songwriter for the stars after Tommy Roe ("Save Your Kisses") and Charlie Louvin ("See the Big Man Cry") found success with Bruce compositions. Around this same time, Bruce cut rockabilly sides for RCA, Wand and Scepter, including a charting version of The Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville."
His impact on Nashville as a songwriter first hit its stride when his songs became successful singles for Tanya Tucker ("The Man That Turned My Mama On," "Texas (When I Die)") and Crystal Gayle ("Restless").
Bruce scored a Top 15 single of his own in late 1975 and early 1976 with his version of "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," a song co-written by his wife at the time, Patsy. The song was later covered by Chris LeDoux and, more famously, the duo of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
More solo success came in the '80s with MCA Records singles "Girls, Women and Ladies," "(When You Fall in Love) Everything's a Waltz," the No. 1 hit "You're the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had" and Nelson duet "The Last Cowboy Song." A mid-decade return to RCA brought fans the No. 3 hit "You Turn Me On Like A Radio."
Bruce began an acting career in the '80s which went on to include everything from a co-starring gig alongside James Garner in the short-lived TV series Bret Maverick (1981-'82) to an appearance in Country Strong.
Bruce was honored with the Arkansas Country Music Award for "Lifetime Achievement" on June 3, 2018 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.