Bruce Zimmerman is a veteran musician and blues man who has paid the dues to play the blues. For 20 years he has held the house band position at Port Cape in Cape Girardeau where his Sunday night performances with his 7 piece band, “The Water Street Band,” are legendary. He was born at home in Bernie, Mo., in the house where his parents still live today on Zimmerman Lane. They were hard working farmers and musicians who taught Bruce and his brother, Dewayne, to play at a very early age.
Bruce started playing guitar in 1956 at the age of five. By the time he was nine, he was in a working band, “The Four Z’s,” with his brother and two Zimmerman cousins. The boys added a drummer and changed their name to, “The Blazers.” They worked steadily playing county fairs, talent shows, live radio and TV. In 1965 the Zimmerman boys won a Ted Mac talent search competition where the prize was a recording session in Memphis. At age 14, Bruce did his first recording session at the renowned Sun Studios with Sam Phillips.
As the boys grew up and started going their separate ways, Bruce started putting together bands with other high school friends playing dances and frat parties. He graduated from high school in 1969, and by 1971, was working in Malden at a factory for minimum wage when he received a phone call from drummer, Don White, offering him a job as a guitarist at The Tijuana Lounge in Poplar Bluff playing six nights a week.
After about a year, Bruce put together another band called, “The Next of Kin,” and hit the road after signing with an independent record label out of Nashville. This started a touring streak that, to date, includes 28 states and 6 countries. After limited success with the record label, Bruce came back to the area and was a part of several popular rock and roll bands in the 70s and 80s including, “Southbound,” (with Poplar Bluff musicians, Richard Yarbrough, Chuck White and Bill Garrett), “Dirtywork,” “Stampede,” and “The Fad.”
In the mid 80s, Bruce, who now had the nickname, “Slick,” teamed up with harmonica player, Doyle “Whitey” Hendrix to form the Blues duo “Whitey and Slick” The partnership lasted until Hendrix’s death from cancer in 1998. After Hendrix’s death, Zimmerman went solo, having already secured a reputation as the premier blues guitarist between Memphis and Saint Louis.
In addition to his solo and band work, Bruce has played with some of the legendary blues, country, and rock-and-roll artists of our time including the late Rufus Thomas; Snooky Pryor, Big Larry Williams, Narvel Felts, and Lee Oscar. This year, Bruce was invited back for the 3rd time to be the featured guitarist and singer at the Missouri State Inaugural Ball in Jefferson City with the Jerry Ford Orchestra. He also recently opened for blues legend, Buddy Guy, at the Show Me Center. Zimmerman’s other opening act credits are like a musical history lesson: The Grass Roots, Rare Earth, Black Oak Arkansas, Sawyer Brown, Asleep at the Wheel, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Leon Russell, and the list goes on. He’s even jokingly said that he has opened for so many people he thought about changing the name of the band to, “Plus Opening Act.”
Through it all, one constant has always remained, Bruce Zimmerman loves to play. It is that very love that guarantees you will always see a good show. Young guitar players, and even seasoned ones, come to watch him and his skilled guitar work. Most people just come to hear good music played well.
The Southeast Missourian has raved about Bruce for years describing him as 'a guitar players guitar player', 'the legend', and 'a true professional'. Bruce has been featured many times by this newspaper and over and over the resounding theme is that Bruce Zimmerman is a class-act with a lifetime of credentials and hard-earned respect behind his seemingly endless amount of talent.
Bruce has played with the likes of 'Skunk' Baxter, 'Snookie' Pryer, Peter Karp, Narvel Felts, The Jerry Ford Orchestra, Kimberly Dahme, Lee Oskar...and the list just goes on and on for decades. He is repeatedly recruited by other extremely talented artists to join them when Bruce is available for a show with anyone who has caught wind of his guitar playing. As luck would have it, Bruce can sing too. He's long since given up trying to sound like anyone other than Bruce and carries his own voice to every tune he takes the notion to play.
Bruce was named a 'Six String King' in his hometown of Cape Girardeau by a panel of musically talented judges who 'rated' the locals in 2007.