IAN BRUCE BIOGRAPHY
Ian Bruce Solo
- Ian Morris Bruce
- 21st January 1956
- Calderwood Primary, Rutherglen Academy, Stonelaw High School, Anniesland College, James Watt College and Glasgow College of Commerce.
- John Horatio St. George Ross Bruce (Edinburgh, Scotland)
- Blodwen Naomi Bruce (nee Morris) (Tredegar, Wales)
- Leonard Anthony Borthwick
- Harris and his son Alfie. (Both Plummer Terriers)
1956. IAN BRUCE was born and brought up in Rutherglen, Glasgow. His father worked his whole life in the meat market. That and his time in the army saw him travel throughout Great Britain. Hence meeting Blodwen, a nurse in Newport, South Wales back in 1939.
John "Jack" Bruce became a Pipe Major for the London Scottish Regiment and as such was required to stay on British soil to teach bagpipes instead of being posted abroad during the war years.
The Bruces moved to Glasgow in 1954 and settled into a normal suburban life with their two sons John Edwin Ross and Andrew Fraser. Two years later an unplanned Ian came along.
Sadly the drink got the better of his dad and Ian's early life had its ups and downs as a result. Ian was always a shy boy and some of the problems at home made him even more introverted. However, there was an undercurrent of intangible love and there were many highlights.
Music was Ian's salvation. Good ol' pop music of the late 50s and sixties. All the usual stuff....nothing too heavy.
1965-69. BRING ON THE FOLK
With his brother bringing LPs of Alex Campbell, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Hamish Imlach, Watt Nicoll and Fairport Convention into the house Ian's attention was being occasionally averted from The Beatles and Stones etc. to include much of this folkie stuff on his personal favourites playlist. Fraser, himself, was blazing the folk singing trail and Ian found himself comfortably falling into that genre and later, the life style. A bit of a godsend really. Ian never had corporate ambitions and would always find himself in trouble with his bosses. Probably down to an absolute lack of interest in "Office Life" and basic lack of confidence. It was music that had him hooked and has seen him through to the present day and, hopefully, well beyond.
1969-80. It was the acoustic based pop and rock that took Ian's attention. Cat Stevens, Strawbs, McGuinness Flint, Simon and Garfunkel and the live acts that played at Fraser's Folk Clubs that were the most influential. The Clutha, The Laggan, Hamish Imlach, The McCalmans, Iain Mackintosh, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Greenmantle, Jolie Blon, Rankin File, Barbara Dickson, The Humblebums, Fraser Lamont, Archie Fisher, Cilla and Artie and Rab Noakes all played their part in developing what Ian Bruce became. Stan Rogers too!!!
Musical fumblings with friends (Gerry Ventilla, John Mann, Simon Hopkins and Chris Sissons) really got the folky juices flowing. Visits to Bromyard Festival and folk clubs in the Malvern and South Welsh areas really made an impression.
THE FIRST HALF
1980-1986 Ian carved out a cosy niche for himself. Firstly with his brother Fraser (Fraser & Ian Bruce) he made three L.P.s (Vinyl is sooooooo back in vogue these days...YAY!) and toured the U.K. extensively for four years They were no strangers to radio and T.V. but the highlight was appearing on prime time Danish TV in 1979. (Sten Bramsen's Musikalske Venner.) They were offered Danish tours on the back of this just at the time Denmark was enjoying an upsurge of Scottish acts. Sigh! Fraser's family and work commitments put paid to that. Understandably! It's a risky business.
1986-91. Solo interspersed with Scotland Yard (a trio with Sandy Stanage and Marilyn Middleton Mellor) and another Duo. Ian Bruce & Ian Walker. Both these Ian's were writing their own powerful and sensitive songs. The combination was formidable! They recorded Ian Walker's first two proper albums together on Fellside Records. Flying High received the MRA Folk and Country Award. Imagine, if you will, Too Far From She, Hawks and Eagles, Child On The Green, and Roses In December all on the one album!!!......If you are unfamiliar with these tracks, please look them up. This was a powerful bundle. As Hector Christie wrote of their "Crocketford Folk Festival" performance "Not a wasted moment!"
(Ian Bruce released his first two Solo albums in this period too. More about that later.)
Both performers were still semi-pro but Ian Bruce's employment in Yarrow Shipbuilders came to an abrupt end in 1991. He was precipitated into "Professional Folk Singing!"
1991. PROFESSIONAL FOLK SINGER
It's not easy trying to carve a decent living from folk music and things were tough at first. He played bass for Blue Rooster (a country band with Dez Walters and Iain "Skippy" Murray with whom he supported such luminaries as The Chieftains and Sydney Devine and generally had a great time playing around the country scene donning a stetson. It was with these guys, but under Ian's name, that Ian toured the USA in the early nineties.
Then solo again. Ian was offered a support tour with Steeleye Span. They played 6 shows together. Hereford Leisure Centre, Ipswich Corn Exchange, Leeds Variety Theatre (The Good Old Days' theatre), Colston Halls, Bristol, The Riviera Centre, Torquay and Stafford Gatehouse Theatre. In the U.S.A. Ian played The Cherry Hill Folk Society in Philadelphia with Maddy Prior shortly after that..
Back in th U.K. he was becoming popular at Sidmouth Festival and some of the clubs in the south of England due in no small way to his personable approach, impressive vocal prowess, poignant songwriting and powerful renditions of such folk classics as Graeme Miles' "My Eldorado" and, a bit later, Julie Gold's "From a Distance". (Which he sings unaccompanied and brings the house down every time.) Ian is constantly reminded of the time the BBC equipment went down in The Ham Marquee, Sidmouth and he played to 700 folkies completely unplugged. A defining moment! It's a shame Mike Harding failed to mention it in the hour long program that resulted. Tsk!
1988-1995. THE SOLO RECORDINGS
Ian released four fairly heavily produced solo albums ("Too Far From She", Blodwen's Dream"(which became Fellside Recordings first venture from vinyl to CD; an accolade reserved for their star performer Jez Lowe), "Out of Office" and "Free Agent") which were well received but his fans wanted him very solo. So it was no surprise that his one voice-one guitar "Naked Truth CD", an acoustic revisit to his songs to which he added "From a Distance" saw him on BBC's "Folk On Two" with Jim Lloyd. The CD went on to sell very well.
As you have read, Ian was a regular visitor to The States and House Concerts, Folk Clubs and sizeable Scottish gatherings (Grandfather Mountain, McHenry, Loon Mountain and many more) up the eastern seaboard and into Nashville supplied the greater proportion of Ian's income and fan base.
1994-96. FROM LITTLE ACORNS!!!
In amongst the early recordings and U.S. trips Ian received a call from an old friend and fan, Rolf Köhlert. Would he be interested in returning to Germany to play a concert in the Harz Mountain? Ian had very much enjoyed a tour of the British Army Camps with Fraser back in 1980 so the answer was "YES PLEASE!" Coincidentally, whilst playing a session in Edinburgh with The McCalmans, Adelbert Thulke, who ran the Bielefeld Folk Club was there and on hearing Ian booked him instantly. However, returning to Germany for two concerts was crazy. Help came from a very unexpected source. Hilda (R.I.P) in The Clutha Vaults, Glasgow on hearing of Ian's "tour" pointed over to two very drunk and unlikely Germans at the other side of the bar and said "Herbert and Norbert will help you!" Reluctantly Ian went through the rigmarole of giving them a scrap of paper with his contact details on. To his surprise and delight, within the week Herbert had sobered up and arranged a concert in his home town of Osterholz Scharmbeck. Stagge's Hotel! It turns out that one of their regulars and huge folk music fan knew of Ian's Blodwen's Dream CD and recommended Heidi take him on. Three gigs now and there we have it. Ian's first solo German tour (1994) where he met Heidi Stagge and never looked back.
She became a great friend and fan and pushed very hard for gigs all over Germany. She was good. Fortunately Ian did not let her down and was going down very well there. Repeat bookings were abundant.
1996. ENTER ROBERT BURNS and Dr. FRED FREEMAN (Not necessarily in that order)
Dr. Fred Freeman was not an unknown name to Ian who had featured favourably in a Freeman article on Scottish Songwriters some years previously. However, his first personal encounter came in the form of a phone call in 1996. "Fred" wanted Ian to sing on Volume Two of Linn Records Series "The Complete Songs of Robert Burns". "The Soldier's Return" and "Ye Jacobites by Name" were to be Ian's. On request he was also allowed "Now Westlin' Winds and Slaught'rin Guns" which had already been mastered by Dick Gaughan, who, incidentally had praised Ian on his version of "From a Distance". All of these Burns' songs and "Lassie Wi' The Lintwhite Locks" which Ian sang on Volume 3 of the series, feature heavily in Ian's future. Soldiers Return and Ye Jacobites have both gained over 100,000 views on YouTube and Westlin' Winds was the song Linn Records had Ian sing live for them on "The Gadget Show" in 2004. (That show was repeated many times all around the world.)
Ian Bruce on The Gadget Show
Ian Bruce - Ye Jacobites By Name
Ian Bruce - The Soldier's Return
1996-Presnt. THE MOTORBIKE
For many years Ian's preferred stage gear was black leather jeans. Also, in 1994, he decided to shave his head. All personal preferences and maybe a sign of what was to become in the year 2000. Ian took up motorcycling and it too became his preferred mode of gigging transport. Since he usually required no sound equipment for the smaller gigs and the bigger concerts usually supplied it was no problem. (Except in the horrible weather. He remembers well, and with dread, the long icy ride to Luxembourg Folk Club and drenched trips to Mansfield Folk Club and The Ram, Thames Ditton. He's a little more of a fair-weather rider these days.)
He became the unofficial BIKING BALLADEER, a name still relevant as the bike is still, in 2018, his preferred gig "bus". Kawasaki GTR 1400 these days.
He made a grand entrance to what is still his favourite gig of all time, the open air NÜRNBERGER BADENTREFFEN. Motorcycled to the sound check with Heidi on the back. Even his quick sound check received a standing ovation. The only downside to using the bike was that he ran out of CDs on that gig despite them being crammed carefully into every available compartment. Over 100 sales at one gig and many disappointed when they sold out. Nice one Ian!
1996-1999. THE NEXT PHASE
Ian's music was hitting the spot! His own songs, especially on the acoustic Naked Truth Vol 1, his renditions of Robert Burns material, which were very well received, and his work with Belshazzar's Feast Paul Sartin and Paul Hutchinson. They were known as The Ian Bruce Breezeband and released two CDs "A Kind and Gentle Nature" and "Annie Laurie". Ian recalls these releases being misunderstood. LOL!
So..It was time for another adventure. A TRADITIONAL CD. Having had so much success with his Dr. Fred Freeman collaborations, "Freddie" was the obvious choice for producer. What a job they made of "Hodden Grey". The smart choosing of songs and musicians such as Dougie Pincock, Ian Lowthian, Catriona Macdonald and Malcolm Stitt brought a combination which Greentrax Recordings could not resist. FENN RECORDS also released this album in Germany. It sold well and reviews were blisteringly hot.
It was at this stage Brian McNeill, at Tønder Festival, Denmark, suggested to Ian that he produce an album for him. "I want to work with voices." Brian said. Fenn Records agreed to release it but Ian just didn't feel ready when the time came. Oh well!
Instead Ian approached LINN RECORDS and Dr. Fred Freeman about the possibility of lifting his tracks from "The Complete Songs of Robert Burns" and record another 5 tracks to make a 14 track CD called "Alloway Tales". Again rave reviews were received and this album remains Ian's best seller to date. The players on this album read like an A-Z of the best Scottish players of the time. They're still up there.
1999-2005. AND THE NEXT PHASE
Heidi has a brainwave! How about Ian Bruce joining forces with Victor Besch of Big Matten and touring a Burns show through Germany? Victor not only sings and plays several instruments, including bagpipes, but speaks fluent Deutsch and so could explain properly what they were singing about. Well done Heidi! Despite Ian's reservations, this idea took off. The show was called "Robert Burns etc" and as time passed the etcetera was scaled up but a smattering of Robert Burns remained.
It is this show mixed with solo Ian Bruce gigs that sees Ian through to his restaurant phase and beyond.
Ian came out in 1999 and met his life partner Tony Borthwick in 2001. They started out in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, where Tony had his Michelin Starred Plumed Horse and Ian set up a home recording studio. All was rosy and much work with Suzie Kelly (ex Stravaig) and the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association kept the wolf from the door. Most of the DGAA work was the Burns & Rivers Project. This took Ian into schools where they and naturalist experts would take the kids into the country and show them all the little wonders that surround them then ask them to write songs about them. The way Robert Burns would! This was a roaring success. (Ian uses three of the songs they wrote later on the second Ian Bruce & Victor Besch CD, "Above Wild Water". (2012) The track is called "The Burnsong Suite" and is a firm favourite with the German audiences even still.)
Ian continued to tour and record up till 2005; his last CD before ensconcing himself in the hospitality industry was a very colourful self produced "The Demons' Dance"which sold out very quickly. A mix of his own songs and some of his contemporaries. Concentrating now on the Plumed Horse further copies were decided against. The pressing plant going into liquidation and throwing out the masters helped with that decision. Ian had decided to film for a DVD but with the restaurant moving from Dumfries & Galloway to Edinburgh and all that was involved, the project was shelved after all the footage had been shot.
2006-2015. PLUMED HORSE AND SEMI-PRO AGAIN
Ian threw himself into hospitality between 2006 and 2015 but always kept a toe in the musical water. His and partner Tony Borthwick's restaurant, which was very time 'consuming', "Plumed Horse" won many accolades, including a Michelin Star (again), 3 AA Rosettes, AA Restaurant of The Year. Despite all that, it sadly had to close in 2015. This left Ian floundering a bit as he'd moved away from music to a great degree to "get a normal life!".
He had drifted from the connections had enjoyed up until 2005. (However since 2010 Ian has been releasing albums and gigging again. He came back stronger than ever although still semi-pro.)
Basically Ian's fully professional musical career is pre and apres Plumed Horse.
Ian Continued to work with Victor (They recorded their first CD together in 2003 -"The Orange and The Rowan"). He also toured the British libraries in Poland with Dr. Fred Freeman but released no more albums until 2010.
2008. FAR, FAR FROM YPRES
Ian McCalman recorded a track for a double CD for Greentrax and asked Ian Bruce to be the main singer on the "Soldiers' Trench Songs". The album was basically released to accompany and sell during the Flanders Commemoration Bus tours.
Ian "Mac" wrote a stage show around the idea and Ian Bruce was happy be in the cast along with many other Scottish Folkies including The McCalmans, The Sangsters, Soupna, Brian Miller, Iain Anderson, Ragged Glory, Dick Gaughan, Pete Heywood, Siobhan Miller and Barbara Dickson. In 2014 they played to 2200 people at Celtic Connections. What a show!!!!
It is still running and this year (2018) it tours Scotland extensively culminating with a show in Usher Hall on Remembrance Day. One hundred years after the First World War ended.
2010. Back to Dr. Fred Freeman again. This time another Burns collaboration. This time concentrating on the rhythms Burns would use rather the rhymes. RHYTHM & BURNS resulted. A personal favourite of Ian's. It was released on Klub Records but never quite hit the dizzy heights that were expected. The last track, "Scots Wha Hae" remains one of the most requested tracks on TD1 Radio.
IAN WALKER MAKES A WELCOME REAPPEARANCE
Having heard Rhythm & Burns, IAN WALKER arrives at Ian Bruce's studio with a batch of songs he wants to record. Together, and with Ian's wife-to-be, Moe, they work on "Singing The River", a modern gospel record of which the title track gets onto the short list of "Country Song of The Year". The prize, presented by Alvin Stardust sadly went to one of the opposition but getting that far is recognition in itself for Ian W's song and Ian B's production.
2010-2011. Here was Ian inadvertently embarking on the second phase of his musical career. The restaurant still took preference. One new CD (Rhythm & Burns) but it wasn't really tourable. This was a studio album through and through. He and his then agent and project administrator, Elaine Hawkins, decided to release a double CD called "Hits and Pieces - The First 30 Years". A 'best of' double album. Then they remembered the unused footage from 2006. Streaming Pictures, Lochmaben, had handed over the masters. This provided a load of material for a third disc. A DVD. "Hits and Pieces" was released in 2011 and will always be a fair representation of everything Ian had done up to that point.
2012. The next year Ian and Victor released their acclaimed and aforementioned "Above Wild Water". As with their first release, all instruments and vocals by themselves. This was CD of the week on BBC Radio Scotland and Iain Anderson had Ian Bruce as songwriter of the week as a result.
The Ian Bruce & Victor Besch changed its name to "Songs from Scotland". Most of which are works are written by Ian or Ian and Vic but traditional and renditions of contemporaries' works are still features.
2012. IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY (Holland)
This is basically a similar show to Far, Far From Ypres which tours in Holland. It's the brain child of Dave and Nina Tearney. Ian Bruce was asked to be the musical director. Ian and Moe Walker are also in the show.
2014. BRUCE & WALKER EMBARK ON ONE OF THEIR MOST ADVENTUROUS PROJECTS TO DATE!!!
The Two Ians had written a dozen songs or so joint songs during their collaboration in the late eighties and here they were again with pens in hand writing together. What a result??? These new songs were special and were going down a storm live. They had never really recorded their best known songs as an acoustic duo and so decided to film a live house concert in Ian McCalman's front room and release a DVD with the package. That package was "Born To Rottenrow". It's a stunning product. Ian Bruce now considers this his finest work.
Again in 2014 Ian was guesting at Skagen Festival when he met with Flekkefjord Sangforening. They're a choir of 51 Norwegians who sing well for fun. Ian asked if some of them would come on stage to help him sing his evocative version of "The Lea-Rig". He expected a few at the most but they all came up on stage with him. Every one of them. The audience went wild and a strong bond was formed between Ian and the guys.
Ian was invited to guest again at Skagen in 2015 with the proviso he and the choir would play together. The choir learned around eight of Ian's songs. They were very well accepted.
Ian wrote two songs for them "Prince of The Pylons" and "And We Sing". Those two songs and Steven Clark's "Coming Hame"feature on a CD/DVD released by the guys in Norway. Ian has been invited to Norway to sing with them twice. Wonderful experiences!!!
Ian Bruce & Flekkefjord Sangforening at Skagen Festival - "And We Sing"
2015. TALE O'TWEED
A tribute to poet Will H. Ogilvie of the Scottish Borders. This was a chance for Ian Bruce to work with his old friend Ian Lowthian who was the writer of the original material in this project. Other performers were Auld Kelty and Charlie Robertson.
2015. THE RESTAURANT CLOSES ITS DOORS!
This was a very sad day for Tony and Ian. Despite all their efforts the business was insoluble. Once again, Ian was a solo PROFESSIONAL FOLK MUSICIAN but the restaurant's closure had taken its toll on Ian. He just could not find the will to lift the phone and feel like he was begging for work.
At this timeIan's brother Fraser retires from his very successful business and releases "The Best of Mrs. Bruce's Boys" on Greentrax records. It stayed amongst the Greentrax best sellers for a long time despite it not being toured.
What is being toured is "AULD HAT NEW HEIDS". Fraser and Ian joined up with ace players Pete Clark and Gregor Lowrey to present Scottish folk songs of the 1960-70s. This show is being very well received and the write up received for their show at 2017 Celtic Connections was glowing.
2015-Present. Basically Ian is involved in five shows. Far, Far From Ypres, It's a Long Way To Tipperary, Auld Hat New Heids, SairBanes, and Songs from Scotland which is Bruce, Besch & Bramkamp. Katharina Bramkamp joined with Ian, Victor and occasional percussionist Frank Deckert to form this band. The recent 2018 German tour, organised by Katharina was a sell out. Many CD sales too. It was incredible and the reaction was tremendous. This line up can be heard on a CD called "Ain't That Pretty" which was recorded live in Würg, Germany and released in 2016.
Of course, the other show Ian plays is his solo one. The recent reactions at "Upton-upon-Severn Folk Festival", "Towcester Brewery", "Teignmouth Folk Club, Nitten Folk Club, Dunfermline Folk Club, Kirkcaldy Acoustic Club, The Wee Folk Club, The Leith Folk Club and various house concerts etc. have shown him to be on better form than ever. Please see comments.