Record Town opened for business on February 1, 1957 in Fort Worth, Texas. Kathleen and Sumter Bruton II decided to open a record store because of their deep love and knowledge of music. They wanted to share that special knowledge with others in the Fort Worth area. Little did they know that Record Town would become an inspiration for musicians and music lovers from all over the US.
Sumter Bruton II was a successful jazz drummer and played with the Ken Janney Band and other bands in the Northeast. Born in New Jersey, Sumter II came to Fort Worth during World War II, as an enlisted man in the Air Force. He worked in the officer’s mess at what is now Carswell Air Force Base where he met Kathleen Gunn. Kathleen grew up in Granbury, Texas only about 30 miles away. On February 1, 1944, they were married. Sumter II continued to play several nights a week in the Fort Worth area with local jazz bands. Sumter II was an incredible talent on drums and is still revered today. Settling in Fort Worth, Kathleen and Sumter II had two children, Sumter III and Stephen.
Where it all began
Kathleen and Sumter II managed the store together and Record Town became a thriving business. The Bruton family opened several other Record Town stores in the Fort Worth area. Record Town was the place to go for hard to find music or a musical education. Kathleen and Sumter II found great pleasure in teaching others about music. Sumter II passed away in 1988, at age 68. Kathleen carried on the legacy of Record Town and actively managed the store along with Sumter III and Stephen until she was 90 years old. At that time, Sumter III took responsibility for operating the store.
Where it all began
Sumter III was born in 1944. A natural athlete, Sumter III excelled at several sports, but mainly loved baseball. Sumter was good enough to play two seasons for TCU. Exposed to music at a very early age, his love for music began to grow. “I was listening to Count Basie and Stan Kenton as a little kid. I couldn’t read yet, but I got to know which records were which by making color-associations with the labels. Then I discovered rhythm and blues while turning the radio dial late at night. I didn’t play but I got to know and love the music.”
Sumter III picked up the guitar and began practicing or “woodshedding” when he was in college. In 1962, he formed his first band, playing blues and early rock & roll. In 1968 Sumter III joined the Robert Ealey Blues Band. He was the only white musician in the group that became Robert Ealey and the 5 Careless Lovers in 1972. In 1977 Sumter III and Jim Colegrove started the Juke Jumpers, a legendary Texas R&B, rockabilly, jazz and swing band. The Juke Jumpers recorded five LPs and toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe.
Stephen was born in 1948. An extremely gifted musician, Stephen began learning guitar at age 10 after hearing a local folk band play. “I picked up a guitar and all of a sudden felt like I’d been plugged into the wall!”, Stephen said. “After I started playing, I’d get all the 45s that Record Town had, all kinds of music and all the different influences merged”. Having access to all of the various types of music at the store allowed Stephen to begin blending jazz, country and blues into the music that he played.
Stephen was only 19 when he met Kris Kristofferson and joined his band. The year was 1969. Stephen played with Kris until 1973 when he left to join Delbert McClinton and Glenn Clark. Delbert and Glenn recorded several critically acclaimed albums in the early 70’s for Atlantic Records. Stephen rejoined Kris Kristofferson in 1976 where he stayed for 14 years. Over the years, Stephen played extensively with Bonnie Raitt contributing songs and incredible guitar licks. Stephen was a huge influence on Bonnie’s songwriting style adding everything he learned from his Mom, Dad and Record Town. Stephen also performed and recorded with Bob Dylan, Little Feat, Delbert McClinton and many others.
1993 to 2005
Stephen went on to record five amazing solo albums from 1993 to 2005. Drawing on his musical influences, Stephen’s approach to songwriting was uniquely his own. “The beauty of songwriting is that you’re not locked into any one thing, Stephen said. “I like mixing the sophisticated and the primitive, and ultimately have the song paint itself.”
Stephen was also an in-demand session player as well as a producer of many fine albums by Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Loose Diamonds and Storyville. “Growing up listening to all kinds of music and playing for the song every night, you just learn how to frame a song, Stephen said. “I like the idea of the production being invisible, where the goal is to bring out the song and the singer.”
A Legend's Passing
Sadly, Stephen Bruton passed away on May 9, 2009. His love for life and music is still felt today by those closest to him.
The legacy of Kathleen and Sumter II Bruton continues today. Their love of music in every variety is evident in the well-stocked bins of new and used vinyl records. Jazz, classical, blues, country, rock & roll and everything in between is here for the next generation of music lovers to enjoy. Please stop by and share your love for music. Record Town is “The Soul of Fort Worth”.