Bruce was born on 14 May 1943, in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire to musical parents who moved frequently, resulting in the young Bruce attending 14 different schools, ending up at Bellahouston Academy. Bruce began playing the jazz bass in his teens, and won a scholarship to study cello and musical composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, while playing in Jim McHarg's Scotsville Jazzband to support himself. The Academy disapproved of its students playing jazz, however. "They found out," Bruce told Musician correspondent Jim Macnie, "and said 'you either stop, or leave college.' So I left college."
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