Vin Bruce *
Inducted on August 11, 2001
Vin Bruce changed the course of music in South Louisiana and at one time was considered just as popular as Hank Williams. Museum Program Director, Kermit Bouillion said, "Legend has it that Vin Bruce was one of the artists performing at the famous Hank Williams' Wedding in New Orleans and many who saw the show claim that Vin Bruce was better received by the audience than was Hank Williams."
Ervin "Vin" Bruce was born in Cut Off, Louisiana on April 25, 1932. His father, Levy, played a fiddle in local Cajun dances, usually held in someone's front room. Vin learned to play guitar at an early age and at the age of 14 began playing in a local band. Although he was a shy country boy, Vin also began to sing vocals about this time. The band would play once a week at a New Orleans radio station, and Vin was heard one day by the area Columbia Records distributor who brought Troy Martin down to hear him. Martin was associated with Southern Music (Peer International) and brought Vin to the attention of Columbia's Don Law. At the age of seventeen, Vin signed a Columbia recording contract and thus became the first Cajun artist on a major label since the thirties and the first ever to record Cajun music with Nashville Professional musicians, including Chet Atkins, Grady Martin, Tommy Jackson, Harold and Owen Bradley, and Shook Jackson.
In 1951, Vin made his first Cajun recording at the Columbia recording studio which was located in the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville. His first release from that session was "Dans La Louisianne," an original Cajun song, and "Fille De La Ville," which were Cajun lyrics set to the tune of the old song "Bully of the Town." This record hit the Louisiana Cajun country by storm and Vin became as well known in Louisiana as was Hank Williams. "Dans La Louisianne" was followed by "Claire De La Lune," "J'ai Laisse Mon Coeur A La Maison," "La Valse De St. Marie," "Oh Ma Belle" and many straight country songs including "I'll Stay Single," "Ocean of Golden Dreams," "Sweet Love," and "Too Many Girls."
Although Vin's country music sold well, his Cajun records brought him the most fame and he continued to record for Columbia until 1956, when the rock and roll era forced the major labels to direct their efforts only on their major national artists. By then, his fame as a Cajun artist had spread to Europe and Asia and, as John Broven wrote in his book "South to Louisiana," Vin had become one of the major Cajun artists of post World War II Louisiana and the world.
Vin continued to play with his band through the 60's, 70's, and 80's and made many albums and singles for Louisiana labels such as Jin, Swallow, and La Louisianne. He had been honored in Lafourche Parish with "Vin Bruce Day" in 1973, and in 1978 was honored as Lafourche Parish's "Citizen of the Year." He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1986, the Belizaire Cajun Music Hall of Fame in Crowley in 1988, the KVPI Wall of Fame at Fred's Lounge in Mamou in 1994, the Official Cajun Music Hall of Fame in 1997, the Louisiana Hall of Fame Living Legend in 1998 and the Eunice Hall of Fame.
Vin Bruce has performed in many countries during his career. During the early 80's, Cajun music began to develop a new following in the U.S.A., Europe, and Canada. Vin and his band, "The Acadians," were invited and performed in Canada on the Willie Lamont television show, the National Folk Festival, Wolf Trap Park in Virginia, the Border Festival in El Paso, Texas, the Frontier Life Festival in St. Louis, Missouri, the Westville Festival in Americus, Georgia and the New Orleans World's Fair. He and his wife Aline have 5 children and 4 grandchildren.