Hillbilly-Music.comThe People. The Music. The History.
About The Artist
Bruce Trent arrived in Southern California in 1936 with his new bride, Cecelia. He played the piano for pleasure and his friends. In the late 1940's after WWII he started playing jams with a couple of his neighbors. They started out playing Saturday nights on amateur nights at the Santa Monica pier. He also started to appear on the weekend at on the Redondo Beach pier. These gigs worked into a paying weekend on Friday and Saturday night at one of the two.
He soon started a full time musical career appearing at the Band Box night club at 104th and Vermont Avenue in south Los Angeles. His son remembers him trying to come up with a name for his band because he had to have some signs made at the printer. His recollection was that his father said that when the printer asked him for the band name, out pop up the name of Western Tunesters. He was very popular in the area and always pulled in good crowds most nights of the week. He played there most of his career except for two breaks.
Bruce Trent’s trade mark was the “One Big Circle.” This was a cross between line dancing and square dancing. All could join in and dance while Bruce called out the dance steps like a square dance caller.
He, to his son's knowledge, only recorded (or perhaps meant to say, did vocals on) one record. One side was “Sitting on a Rail Fence” and he does not recall the second side. However, we have found in our research and actually have another recording in our collection that Bruce and the Western Tunesters did on the Specialty label. Our continuing research has unearthed recordings on the Acme, Courtney and Jewel labels.
His son recalls he had a live fifteen or thirty minute radio show one day a week in the afternoon in the late 40’s. The studio was down town Los Angeles on Figueroa Street. Bruce's son believes it was the Knickerbocker building near 7th Street.
Our research has found that Bruce had a six day a week radio show at 5:45pm over radio station KGER which had moved to Pasadena. It aired at 5:45pm, Monday through Saturday. KGER seems to have been a bit of a home for other country acts at the time. In 1948, we found that Billboard mentioned that Texas Tiny (it was written he weighted 400lbs) was telling readers that other acts on KGER besides him and Bruce were Cousin Ford Lewis, Tex Williams, Carolina Cotton and Cottonseed Clark.
Billboard reported in 1949, that Art Rupe of Specialty Records was going to enter the folk and western field (the label was known as a 'race' label before that). They had signed Earl Nunn and his Alabama Ramblers, Leo Stancil, Johnny Crockett as well as Bruce Trent and his Western Tunesters.
Bruce's first (and perhaps only) release on Specialty was "Alimony" b/w "River Blues" with vocals by Jimmie Gerry. Billboard did a review of the record in their March 12, 1949 issue. For "Alimony", they said, "Light Western jingle done with humor and spirit." Their comment on the flip side - "Routine blues, range style. Warbling and string backing okay but nothing outstanding in material or conception." Back then it seems record reviews could be a tad bit brutal.
A recording of one of Bruce's radio shows is found in the Paley Center from December 18, 1948 (Saturday). The sponsor was Ray's Bandbox. According to the Paley Center, the songs on that show included The Texas Playboy Rag, You Say You're Sorry, and I Heard That Story Before. The site also mentions it included a bit of a comedy routine that was part of many country music acts in that era. This was in the form of a music quiz contest which was said to be hosted by the comical Coal Dust twins, Pinetop and Hickory.
The first break was when Bruce went to the Saddle Club at 73rd and Vermont for a year or so.
In a couple of photos here, you will also see he worked at Murphy's Bar which was on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles.
He was swayed to return to the Band Box. He continued there until he entered into a business arrangement as partner in a Big Bear Lake Village venture about the summer of 1952. Drought conditions caused Big Bear Lake to drain to less than half its normal size. The tourists stayed away. That business failed after one year.
Bruce returned to Los Angeles and worked two jobs to pay off the debts according to his son. One of the two was the performing country western music at the Band Box again. He continued there until around 1960, give or take a year or so. He later quit the music business.
He died on the golf course with a heart attack on January 1,1966 at the age of 55.
Credits & Sources
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