BRUCE BELLAND’s life story could be called “From Boy Singer to Renaissance Man” considering his more than six decades of diverse accomplishments in virtually every phase of the entertainment industry.
Bruce Gerald Belland was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 22nd, 1936, the second son of Rev. Stanley G. Belland, a Fundamentalist Minister with a small congregation on the city’s Northwest Side, and his young wife Hertha… a talented Gospel radio singer, voice coach, and choir director.
He sang his first solo in a morning worship service at age 4.
The song was “God Bless America” for which he was rewarded with a standing ovation, a stick of chewing gum, and enthusiastic praise from his proud parents.
That parental pride, the gum, and the hugs
showered on him by the congregation, convinced him, right then and there, that he wanted to be a singer.
Not a fireman. Not a fighter pilot.
Not even shortstop for his beloved Chicago Cubs.
His mind was made up at age 4, and he never wavered from pursuing that dream.
Throughout his childhood, he spent long hours singing along with Bing Crosby and The Mills Brothers on the radio, or at the piano being coached by his supportive and always encouraging Mother, “while our supper burned on the stove.”
He was 10 in 1946, when the possibility of a musical career drew closer. His family moved to Hollywood where his Father assumed the Ministry of the West Hollywood Community Church in a blue-collar, working-class community just blocks off the Sunset Strip, and immediately adjacent to up-scale Beverly Hills.
During his adolescent years, Bruce developed his vocal skills singing in his Mother’s church choir, and at countless funerals conducted by his Father.
As Bruce puts it: “Other Fathers took their son fishing or to a baseball game. Dad and I buried people.”
Still, he told himself, it was a kind of “performing” and would have to do… for now.
That early collaboration soon sparked his Father’s intense determination to groom his son for a career as a Gospel singer.
That Fatherly obsession intensified throughout Bruce’s teen years, and ultimately culminated in a heart-breaking showdown with the Father he admires, but has no desire to emulate.
As a star-struck 15-year-old, he delivered newspapers to dozens of celebrities “across the tracks” in Beverly Hills… Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Durante, Danny Kaye, Ira Gershwin, Danny Thomas, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Burns, Harpo Marx, and Rosalind Russell. Witnessing their lavish lifestyle further stoked Bruce’s determination to build a show business career.
On his delivery route through the elite streets of Beverly Hills, he began to experience firsthand encounters with world-renowned celebrities, something he did his best to bring about at every opportunity.
One famous Oscar winner took the time to patiently teach him the correct way to fold and throw a newspaper.
Another beloved old radio star would chat with him when he came out in his bathrobe and slippers to fetch his paper.
Then more show biz elements came into play at school.
When he graduated from West Hollywood Elementary, his well-intentioned Father feared his pint-sized son would be bullied at the local junior high which had a dicey reputation. So, the Reverend pulled strings and enrolled Bruce in Emerson Junior High in West L.A. It was a fateful choice.
Emerson’s student body was made up of well-heeled kids from high-end Bel Air, Brentwood, and Westwood. With his hand-me-down wardrobe, short stature, and white-blond hair, he immediately became a target for the school bullies.
To defuse a tense confrontation, he soon perfected satirical imitations of a few unpopular teachers, and got the bullies - and others -to laugh.
Emerson would provide other formative experiences.
The school’s nurturing music teacher and an inspiring woman English teacher mentored and encouraged him, including a prediction by his writing instructor that he’d “win a Pulitzer some day.”
Bruce’s junior high classmates included future star Robert Redford, who carried Bruce’s books when he broke his ankle, Doug McClure, and newly-honored Juvenile Oscar winner at the time, Bobby Driscoll, Hollywood’s biggest child star since Shirley Temple.
Bruce poignantly recounts watching the sensitive young Driscoll trying to enjoy a normal school life but instead, causing havoc everywhere he tried to fit in on campus.
(After two chaotic weeks at Emerson, Driscoll accepted reality and enrolled in a professional school for kids in the business. He would die of a drug overdose, a has-been at 30.)
Stardom, Bruce was discovering, wasn’t all tinsel and glamour, but it didn’t discourage him for a minute from pursuing his dream.
Excitement radiated from the chic, Sunset Strip nightclubs mere blocks from his family’s modest parsonage. As a teenager, he would sneak out of the house after his parents had gone to bed, and charm his way backstage at the glamorous showrooms along the Strip.
He soon became a “mascot” to the tech crews at each glamorous club, and stood backstage night after night witnessing the performances of many of the great nightclub entertainers of the time.
Nat “King” Cole, Jimmy Durante, The Andrews Sister, Tony Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Billy Daniels, Judy Garland, Pearl Bailey, Danny Kaye, and Martin & Lewis, with Jerry’s madcap comedic style influencing Bruce’s early onstage antics.
It would prove an invaluable education for what lay ahead.
He was now singing along with The Four Freshmen and becoming more and more enamored with voices blending in harmony.
After sneaking backstage one night at Ciro’s, and hearing his idols the Mills Brothers, his ambition soon focused on pursuing a recording career in a close harmony vocal group.
He was also beginning to compose custom songs and poems for various church functions.
In 1952, Bruce enrolled at fabled Hollywood High, something he had dreamed of since moving from Chicago as a 10-year-old.
A show biz fanatic, he was well aware of the school’s unique history. Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, and Lana Turner all attended there. As did his older brother Stanton, whom he admired.
Hollywood High School was destined to become the birthplace of a collaboration between four gifted and driven young men with a common goal… make a hit record, “become somebody and meet a lot of girls.”
Many fellow students were already embarked on successful show business careers. One pretty blonde classmate left campus early each day to portray Gordon MacRae’s daughter in the classic film musical “Carousel,” and a gymnast/dancer buddy took days off to film his scenes in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
Future recording star, and member of the legendary Wrecking Crew studio band, Nino Tempo, a junior, would conduct sizzling jam sessions in the gym at lunchtime. Normal activities on the campus that Carol Burnette and James Garner attended.
Other classmates like Mike Farrell and Sally Kellerman would later go on to stardom, as would Linda Evans, Stephanie Powers, John Phillip Law, Sara Jessica Parker, and John Ritter.
And then there were classmates David and Ricky Nelson, whose parents’ seminal TV sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” was a new hit on ABC.
No one, not even Bruce the big dreamer, could foresee how his path would soon intersect with the Nelsons, and further energize his young career.
It was at HHS in 1954 that Bruce convinced Glen Larson, a friend since grammar school, to co-found a vocal group and audition for that year’s student talent show, a hallowed school tradition attended by studio talent scouts and agents looking for promising young talent.
Bruce and Glen recruited two pals from the school choir—high tenor Evan Fisher and bass Bruce Stanford—for that first performance.
The group, featuring Bruce on Lead, sang a rousing version of the Crew Cuts hit “Sha- Boom” and stole the show.
The reaction to their performance convinced Bruce and Glen they were on to something special, and they now enlisted classmates—6’4” bass and high school football star Ed Cobb, and high tenor and former boy soprano in the famed Mitchell Boys Choir, Marv Ingram—to permanently fill the other two slots.
And The Four Preps were born.
Southern California in the mid-’50s was an explosion of good time social events, and the fledgling foursome was soon in demand for all kinds of happenings from bar-b-ques to beach parties, bar mitzvahs to sock hops. Usually for little more than gas money.
Acutely aware that four green teenagers needed musical guidance, Bruce convinced Hollywood High’s much-admired musical prodigy and aspiring classical pianist, Lincoln Mayorga, to become the group’s accompanist, arranger, and conductor.
Lincoln signed on. That relationship would last for more than 13 years, and earn Lincoln the affectionate sobriquet “the 5th Prep.”
(Lincoln would later go on to a distinguished concert and studio career.)
The 5 strivers continued performing throughout Southern California, rehearsing every night after their day jobs, usually until midnight.
Bruce drove a delivery truck for a Beverly Hills florist and crossed paths with celebrities like Zsa Zsa Gabor and future stars like Marlo Thomas. And a corpse… which is a long story.
Meanwhile, Bruce tirelessly prowled the office buildings all over Hollywood futilely trying to elicit interest in their audition tape at a record label.
Then, what Bruce calls “the Belland luck” came into play when Melville Shauer, a prominent personal manager (Les Paul & Mary Ford) whom he’d met strictly by chance, submitted their tape to a legendary producer at Capitol Records, Voyle Gilmore (Sinatra, Judy Garland, Gordon MacRae, Al Martino, Four Freshmen).
Gilmore, keenly aware of the rapidly expanding market of teenaged record buyers, liked what he heard, and in 1956 signed the four teenagers to a long-term Capitol contract, making them the youngest group ever to record for a major record label at the time.
With that, they became “America’s first Boy Band.”
Daily VARIETY quickly dubbed them “Capitol’s Jolly Juveniles”, and a local columnist lauded them as “four clean-cut, milk-fed kids from Hollywood High who are all the rage of late.”
It was during this time, the Preps would sometimes share the stage with other struggling unknowns who would go on to stardom, like Jimmie Rodgers, Richie Valens, Jan and Dean, and the Righteous Brothers (which spawned a lifelong friendship with Bill Medley).
In late 1956, their first release “Dreamy Eyes,”, entered the Billboard charts at #56 with a bullet. Excitement at the Capitol Tower ran high. The next week it had disappeared from the charts, never to be heard again. That disappointment was followed by 6 more single releases that garnered enormous airplay—the nation’s disc jockeys had “adopted” the Preps—but not many sales.
Bruce had become friends with David and Ricky Nelson at H.H.S., and it wasn’t long before he and the Preps were invited to become regulars on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”, playing Ricky’s fraternity brothers and backup singers.
By the end of their first season on the show, the Preps and Ricky had developed a musical simpatico, singing for hours on the set between scenes.
Ricky’s first public performance happened unexpectedly when he tagged along to watch a Preps show at a local high school, and they surprised him by literally dragging him out on stage for his debut performance before a live audience.
The girls in the crowd mobbed them after the show, and they barely escaped intact.
So, it was natural that the Preps would accompany Ricky on his first national tour.
Nelson, for whom LIFE magazine would soon coin the phrase “Top Teen Throb” in its cover story, now embarked on that first record-breaking tour, playing in sold-out arenas for 35,000 boisterous, semi-hysterical teenage girls.
Ricky and the Preps were “attacked” after every show by excited girls grabbing at their clothing, and experienced more than one narrow escape from over-zealous souvenir hunters. Bodyguards were soon deployed.
It was the riotous new world of a “Teen Idol”, and would yield Bruce some of his most colorful memories. The Preps had witnessed what a hit record can do for a career and continued searching for the magic song.
They tried every style. Pop, Doo Wop, Folk, Country, and cut tunes by Burt Bacharach and Max Steiner backed by arrangers like Billy May. Lots of airplay. Little sales.
Then in early 1958, The Four Preps became international Pop Stars with their first million-seller, “26 Miles Across the Sea (Santa Catalina)”, written by Bruce and Glen.
In the ensuing years, music historians have credited that landmark recording with introducing the world to the light, airy, West Coast vocal style that would become known as “the California sound.”
“26 Miles” would later be cited by Brian Wilson as a teenage favorite. And his biography “The Nearest Faraway Place” describes a Preps’ performance at Brian’s high school as “a witty, off-handed show that lent a charge of inspiration to the material Brian was developing.”
That landmark recording also inspired Jimmy Buffett to name a chapter after it in his best-selling autobiography; “A Pirate Looks at Fifty,” and write:
“26 Miles. It was California, the ocean, girls, hell, it was everything I wanted to be or do!”
Music lovers around the world agreed, and soon, Catalina, “the Island of Romance,” was welcoming a million visitors a year. And NBC’s “Today Show” would proclaim, “26 Miles has put Catalina on the map and made the Four Preps household names.”
(Today, The Preps and “26 Miles” are celebrated by an exhibit in the main lobby of the new Catalina Island Museum in Avalon.)
With “26 Miles” at the top of the charts, and the kid with a dream on top of the world. Bruce and his bandmates were anointed “Newcomer of the Year” in Cashbox, and soon featured in LIFE magazine, on numerous Ed Sullivan and American Bandstand shows… and in a historic CBS TV Special with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Rosemary Clooney, and Louie “Satchmo” Armstrong.
Soon they were touring with George Burns, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Bob Hope, and performing at the world-famous Cocoanut Grove a scant 2o months after attending there as high school prom-goers.
The Preps were featured on “Ozzie and Harriet” for a second season, but soon their demanding tour and recording schedule made it impossible to continue as cast regulars.
However, a persuasive Ozzie Nelson convinced Bruce to remain on the show as a solo actor, which he did for several more seasons, squeezing it in between Preps engagements as often as possible.
It was a hectic regimen, but his multiple seasons as a cast regular would begin a close, life-long friendship with the Nelson family, and provide still more memorable experiences.
During the next three seasons, Bruce would: arm wrestle with Mr. Peepers, spend the night in jail with Ricky, do a bedroom scene with Mamie Van Doren, dance the Charleston with Harriet Nelson, and perform a ballet number in drag wearing long blonde curls and a full ballerina tutu. A role he considers his “crowning achievement as an actress.”
“26 Miles,” which has now sold over 10 million copies, was followed by a dozen Preps’ singles on the Billboard charts, including additional million sellers “Big Man”, “Down by the Station,” and “Lazy Summer Night.” They would also score additional Top 40 hits with “Calcutta,” “Got a Girl,” “Cinderella,” and “More Money for You and Me,” and “the Big Draft”, co-written by Bruce and Glen, which featured their spot-on satirical impressions of other groups.
Soon, the Preps were considered the quintessential West Coast Pop group, embodying the Southern California lifestyle and carefree beach culture so alluring to an increasing number of Americans in the late ’50s.
Newly crowned pop star Bruce was now living “American Graffiti” and “Happy Days” every day. He bought a new 1959 Corvette off the showroom floor… for cash.
Fan mags featured photo layouts of the four of them with cuties on the beach, or in their hot-rod convertibles at a Hollywood drive-in with their “dates”… adorable teenage models.
The cover of their first studio album “The Things We Did Last Summer”, featured the four of them in bathing suits flirting with a couple of models on the sands of the beach where they’d grown up body surfing.
The Preps then had another landmark engagement headlining during prom season at the famous Sunset Strip nightclub, The Crescendo, with rising stand-up star Mort Sahl.
Traffic jams glutted Sunset Blvd., as they played to sold-out shows.
The audience was a unique mixture of Type-A movie stars and excited prom-goers. And it was all happening a few short blocks from the church parsonage where he’d grown up.
Meanwhile “Big Man”, the follow-up to “26,” was climbing up the charts, and would ultimately outsell “26 Miles” worldwide.
It would be covered by Donny Osmond and Herman’s Hermits,
In the Fall of 1958, the Preps Co-starred in the first Dick Clark-endorsed feature film, “Gidget”, with Sandra Dee, James Darren, and Oscar winner Cliff Robertson.
That appearance, featuring the Preps’ rollicking beach party number on the sands of Malibu, further enhanced their image as the definitive Southern California group.
Despite their string of hit singles, a successful album release had eluded them, until their producer Voyle Gilmore, who was an avid fan of the Preps stage act, decided that a LIVE recording of their concert show might turn the trick.
That inspired decision resulted in a series of 3 consecutive LIVE In-Concert albums in their “On Campus Series”, highlighting their potent vocals, irreverent, often political comedy, and satirical imitations of other popular singing groups like Dion and the Belmonts, The Platters, and the Kingston Trio. That album track “More Money for You and Me” became a hit single and was voted by the country’s DJ.s as “1961 Novelty Record of the Year”
Those LIVE concert recordings soon catapulted them into one of America’s top college concert attractions for three consecutive years in the mid-’60s, and saw them flying in their private plane to 120 campuses a year for nearly half a decade, including a memorable concert at Syracuse University with rising new comedian Woody Allen.
Then came a milestone engagement in Vegas and at the Seattle World’s Fair with George Burns and Broadway legend Carol Channing, which spawned a deep friendship with Burns, who would become Bruce’s lifelong mentor and “career Godfather.”
The Preps entertained at military bases all over Europe, and then Asia, where Bruce narrowly escaped a fiery death.
As a “thank you” to the Preps for their morale-boosting performance, one base commander arranged for each of them to break the sound barrier in an F-100F Super Sabre jet.
When Bruce’s plane landed, the undercarriage exploded in flames.
The other Preps watched in horror as fire trucks and rescue firefighters surrounded the flaming aircraft, and successfully extracted Bruce and the pilot.
Once everyone knew their lead singer was safe, the wisecracks flew thick and fast.
The Preps soon enlisted in the Air National Guard, and faithfully adjusted their tour schedule to accommodate their monthly weekend drills, sometimes flying home for their Saturday and Sunday military duty, then back on the road on Monday. Their busy Summer Fair schedule was worked around the two-week summer encampment.
No Prep ever missed a roll call in over 2 years. Their draft obligation was being fulfilled while their show business commitments could still be met.
Then, in 1961, with a flourishing career that included multiple gold records, a historic TV Special, a hit movie, and a packed concert schedule, the Preps were re-activated into the Air Force during the Berlin crisis.
For a full year, the Preps served at the base in Van Nuys each day, and then flew their chartered plane to Vegas every night to share the bill with George Burns and his new partner Broadway legend Carol Channing.
The Preps averaged 4-5 hour’s sleep a night. Bruce’s on-base duty was cleaning the over- ripe latrines on the giant troop transport planes after their 13-hour flight from Japan.
Bruce would later turn their hilarious and harrowing adventures trying to serve Uncle Sam and still keep their career afloat, into the popular comedy feature film “Weekend Warriors,” starring Lloyd Bridges, and Jack Lemmon’s son Chris. It’s now a staple on HBO.
It was during that Vegas engagement that George Burns took Bruce under his wing and became his lifelong mentor, and “show business Godfather.”
The Preps were honorably discharged after a year’s active duty. During which they did over 50 appearances promoting National guard recruitment. and were awarded a Commendation from the Department of the Air Force.
Having survived the grueling year together, their camaraderie was intense. But by now, each Prep was also enjoying his own success in other aspects of the industry. After 13 high-flying years, they amicably disbanded in 1969 to pursue their individual careers.
The Four Preps would be inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2007.
Ed Cobb would make history as one of music’s most successful songwriters (“Tainted Love”), and record producers, working with Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, and Steely Dan. He will be cited twice in the Guinness Book of Records.
Glen Larson will become one of TV’s most prolific producers, creating such shows as “Battle Star Galactica,” “Knight Rider,” “The Fall Guy,” and “Magnum P.I.”
Marv Ingram became a successful commodities broker.
With the original Preps disbanded, Bruce now joined forces with Diamond Dave Somerville, original lead singer of the Diamonds, who had replaced Cobb for the Preps final tour — to form Belland and Somerville, a comedy/folk duo that debuted on “The Tonight Show”, and then guested on 33 network programs in their first six months as a team.
CBS signed them as regulars on the Tim Conway Comedy Hour, which led to concert tours with Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis, Leonard Nimoy, Dennis Weaver, Glen Campbell, Della Reese, and Brazil ’66.
Andy Williams added B and S to his record label Barnaby, and Warner Brothers Music signed them to a songwriting contract.
It was a fortuitous move for Warner’s, since during that time, Bruce and David wrote “The Troublemaker,” a provocative protest song that would become a #1 country hit for Willie Nelson, the title song of his double platinum album, and the subject of a cover story in Rolling Stone.
(available on YouTube—click here)
Nelson has released 3 different versions of the song.
In addition to performing and writing with Somerville during that time, Bruce became heavily involved in freelance advertising, creating, producing, and sometimes directing radio, TV, and print campaigns for such clients as Volkswagen, United Airlines, Ford, A&W Root Beer, McDonald’s, Chevrolet, and two of his most memorable accounts, Forest Lawn Cemetery and Bandini Fertilizer.
In the early ’70s, while directing a series of Chevrolet commercials at NBC studios in Burbank, network brass offered him a position as a Senior Programming Executive.
He accepted, was promoted in 10 short months, and had begun climbing the corporate ladder when TV impresario Ralph Edwards lured him away to become Vice President of Ralph Edwards Productions, one of Hollywood’s oldest and most respected production companies.
In the first of his 5 years at REP, Bruce quadrupled the number of shows the company had on the air.
Honored with multiple Emmy nominations for his work on such shows as: “Name That Tune” (on which he discovered Kathie Lee Gifford), ”Dinah’s Place,” “Truth or Consequences,” “Hollywood Squares,” “Cross Wits,” “Days of Our Lives,” “The Mickey Mouse Club,” the Daytime Emmys, and a show he was heavily involved in developing for the network…“Wheel of Fortune.” He ultimately became responsible for over 1,200 hours of television entertainment.
In that capacity, he worked with empire builders like Norman Lear, Dick Clark, Chuck Barris, Hugh Hefner, Merv Griffin, Lawrence Welk, and Grant Tinker.
But their many fans missed the Four Preps.
By the mid-’70s, Bruce was at the helm of Ralph Edwards Productions. Glen Larson was a top producer at Universal and Ed Cobb was a major record producer.
Nonetheless, an invitation from Ken Ehrlich, the producer of the upcoming First annual Billboard Music Awards Show, who had first seen the Preps perform as a college student at Iowa University, persuaded them to re-unite and make a one-time appearance on the special hosted by the Bee Gees.
With the fourth slot filled by Diamond Dave Somerville, Bruce, Glen, and Ed did an updated version of their famous imitations number, “More Money for You and Me,” and capped it off with a spot-on parody of the Bee Gees.
They received a rousing reception, then returned to their individual careers.
(available on YouTube—click here)
Bruce’s tenure at REP ended in the late ’70s when he resigned to develop other projects including an aspiring Broadway musical.
Once again, his versatility came into play and he began to perform as a voice-over artist on the soundtrack of Disney’s classic “Jungle Book,” “Terms of Endearment,” and “Happy Days,” where some of the voices coming from the jukebox in the malt shop are Bruce’s uncanny imitations.
His musical creations have been performed by Sammy Davis Jr., Willie Nelson, Roy Clark, Kathy Young, T.G. Shepphard, Herman’s Hermits, Lena Horne, Il Divo, The Vocal Majority, Julie Budd, The Checkmates, Donnie Osmond, Della Reese, Johnny Mathis, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir which has sung his award-winning composition “So Many Voices Sing America’s Song” at two presidential inaugurations.
(available on YouTube—click here)
“Voices” was subsequently honored as the official anthem of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, Bruce’s lyrics were read into the Congressional Record and he was awarded the Freedom Foundation’s Presidential Medal of the Arts.
His co-written composition, “What Would I Do without My Music” has become an international choral standard, performed by more than 75 choirs around the world from South Carolina to Wales.
(available on YouTube—click here)
In the late ’90s, “Ain’t That Just the Way,” a song he’d originally co-written in the ’70s for the NBC Mystery Theater, was recorded by Latricia McNeal, and sold over three million records reaching the Top Ten in 28 countries.
As a movie lyricist, he’s contributed to the score of the original “Gidget” movie, “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Weekend Warriors,” and 5 Disney features including the youth comedy favorite “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” which introduced new teen heartthrob Kurt Russell.
(for Bruce's Screenwriting Credits page—click here)
As a playwright, he’s written a half dozen theatrical productions performed in regional theaters around the country including one for the Long Beach Civic Light Opera starring Sammy Davis Jr.
(Two of those regional productions made it to Broadway, but were not successful.)
Over the course of his career, he’s written special material for: George Burns, Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Bob Newhart, Johnny Cash, Charro, Jim Stafford, Johnny Mathis, Tim Conway, Andy Williams, Chevy Chase, and Regis Philbin.
In 1989, at Dick Clark’s suggestion, Bruce and Ed Cobreafter a 20- year hiatus, Bruce and Ed Cobb re-formed the Preps with Diamond Dave Somerville and Jim Pike of the Lettermen, who was replaced a short time later by Jim Yester, original Lead Singer of the Association.
Yester, Belland, Somerville, and Cobb recorded and toured as the Four Preps until the late 90’s when Cobb retired because of ill health.
At that point, Yester, Belland, and Somerville continued touring for a while as “Triple Gold—The Three Tenors of Pop” during which time Bruce penned the screenplay for “Weekend Warriors”.
During that period, Bruce also created and Hosted “Pop Americana,” a weekly music/interview radio show for Gold Coast Broadcasting, that blanketed the airwaves from Santa Barbara to Newport Beach.
Bruce’s guests included Steve Allen, Tommy Smothers, Kay Starr, Jerry Vale, Peter Tork, Helen Reddy, and Nancy Sinatra.
In 2004, PBS approached Bruce about re-forming a onetime version of the Four Preps for “Magic Moments,” their historic musical special saluting the legendary hitmakers of the ’50s, hosted by Pat Boone and the McGuire Sisters.
Bruce coaxed Glen Larson into dusting off his tuxedo and joining him, Jim Yester, and David Somerville for that singular performance.
“Magic Moments” has gone on to become one of Public Broadcasting’s most successful fundraisers, and by now, has been enjoyed by over 100 million viewers.
That appearance resulted in a groundswell of demand for a Preps tour, and in 2007 Bruce, the last original member still performing, formed a new version of the group and averaged 35 to 50 concerts a year until 2019.
In recent years, Bruce also performed in numerous concerts with his lifelong colleague and collaborator “5th Prep” Lincoln Mayorga, who has become a renowned classical pianist and a leading interpreter of Gershwin in concert with orchestras like the Moscow Philharmonic.
It was an evening of songs and stories entitled “2 History Making Hit Makers 2” and was met with enthusiasm all over the country.
(available on YouTube—click here)
In addition to being cited in the Congressional Record, Bruce has been honored with The Freedom Foundation’s Presidential Medal of the Arts, numerous ASCAP and BMI Citations of Achievement as well as the “Distinguished Guardsmen Award” from the Department of the Air Force for the Preps’ “outstanding service in promoting Air National Guard recruitment” during their hitch on active duty.
Bruce now also enjoys Public Speaking for such organizations as MENSA, The International Society of Association Executives, and the National Speakers Association.
Yep. He’s still as busy as ever at age 84.
Case in point, as a pro bono favor for a colleague, he recently created a series of instructional songs to accompany a booklet teaching English to immigrant children, calling it his “most rewarding assignment ever!”
Bruce is married to Simone Alexander, a prominent fashion designer who is now on the faculty of Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.
In the late ’80s, his older daughter Tracey founded the London-based Pop band “Voice of the Beehive” which she fronted with her younger sister Melissa, and which enjoyed considerable international record success through the mid-’90s. (see YouTube)
When at home in Woodland Hills, California, Bruce is currently at work on his first book, “ICONS, IDOLS, and IDIOTS—My Adventures with the Greats of Hollywood… from Ozzie and Harriet to Elvis… Sinatra to the Beatles… Bob Hope to the Beach Boys” which is slated for publication in late 2021. The book will be supported by his one-man show recounting his adventures with the greats of entertainment and offer song selections from his long and colorful career.
“From Boy Singer to Renaissance Man” pretty much sums it up... for now.