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Gainesville native Bruce Burch, famous country songwriter, dies at 69
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Bruce Burch, a Gainesville native and hit country music songwriter, died Saturday, March 12, at age 69. Burch helped establish the John Jarrard Foundation and its annual benefit concert in Gainesville, which raises money for local nonprofits. - photo submitted by Sarah Stenzel

Bruce Burch, a hit country songwriter and Gainesville native who helped establish a long series of benefit concerts in the city, died early Saturday, March 12, at his home in Nashville.

He was 69. 

His daughter, Sarah Stenzel, said that the cause was complications from leukemia. 

Burch co-wrote two hit singles for Reba McEntire, “Rumor Has It” and “It’s Your Call,” among many other songs for prominent country artists including Faith Hill, George Jones and T. Graham Brown. 

When “Rumor Has It” became a hit in 1991, he had a limousine pick up his kids from elementary school, Stenzel recalled. 

“I remember they made a big sign that said, ‘Rumor Has It number one,’” she said. “It was very exciting.” 

Burch helped found an annual concert series in Gainesville originally known as the Bruce Burch & Friends Honor John Jarrard Concert, which raised money for local nonprofits through the John Jarrard Foundation. Burch grew up with and went to school with Jarrard, a fellow songwriter and Georgia Music Hall of Fame member who died of complications related to diabetes in 2001.

The foundation raises money for local nonprofits including Good News Clinics, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hall County and Georgia Mountain Food Bank. 

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Bruce Burch worked with many prominent artists over the years, including T. Graham Brown (left).

Jody Jackson, the executive director of the foundation and a close friend of Burch, said the concert series grew significantly over the last 20 years. The first year they only sold 30 tables, but this past year they sold about 120, Jackson said. 

“It’s kind of become something that people just love to do in Gainesville,” Jackson said.

Burch started teaching entertainment business classes at Brenau University in 2012 after he helped start music business programs at University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University. He allowed students to help organize the John Jarrard concert so that they could interact with prominent artists and get experience in the music industry. 

One of Jackson’s favorite songs that Burch co-wrote is “Wine into Water” performed by T. Graham Brown, a spiritual ballad about striving to overcome alcoholism. 

“There’s just so many artists that Bruce was friends with but also helped in their music and their music publishing,” Jackson said. “That was just Bruce. It wasn’t about a job or getting paid, it was about trying to help people get where they’re going.”

He operated his own publishing companies and worked for EMI, a major music publishing company in Nashville, and worked as an artist manager. Burch published a book in 1996 about his music career called “Songs that Changed Our Lives,” in which he shares stories about his hit songs, recorded by T. Graham Brown, Billy Joe Royal, Aaron Tippin, Faith Hill, The Oak Ridge Boys, George Jones, Barbara Mandrell, John Anderson and Wayne Newton. 

When his kids were growing up, they were surrounded by music in their home and in their community, Stenzel said, and they made many trips to Gainesville to visit their grandparents and spend time on Lake Lanier. 

“(Burch) still thought of Gainesville as his home,” Stenzel said. “He loved helping people. … He was never too important or anything to take a meeting with a new person. He always wanted to help people coming to Nashville even once he, kind of, made it.” 

One of her and her brother’s favorite songs by their dad was “I Got It Honest,” performed by Aaron Tippin. 

“We actually love a lot of the ones that never even got cut by an artist, just one that he had written,” she said. 

He was born in Gainesville, played football at Gainesville High School and graduated from the UGA, where both his children also attended school. He suffered from leukemia for about 30 years, and his health had worsened recently before his death Saturday, Stenzel said.

In addition to Stenzel, Burch is survived by his son, Matthew Burch, as well as his four grandchildren, Lucy and Maisy Stenzel and Jack and Walter Burch.