Obituary: Artie Traum

Musician and producer whose tastes covered folk, jazz and rock

Artie Traum, a key figure in the US east-coast folk and acoustic music scenes, has died of liver cancer aged 65 at his home in Bearsville, near Woodstock, in upstate New York. A highly accomplished guitarist whose playing won him numerous plaudits, Artie was associated in particular with the "other" Woodstock music scene, that is, the one with musicians who settled in the town in the late 1960s, including Bob Dylan and the Band. He was both a soloist and a team player - notably alongside his brother in Happy Traum and the Woodstock Mountains Review, and that ensemble's inter-woven musicians. He was also a record producer and an educationist with many guitar-tuition works to his credit.

The Traums were of mixed bloodlines. On one side their grandparents were German Jews, while their other grandparents were of English and Dutch stock. Both sets of grandparents had arrived in the US as children. Artie was born in New York City and raised in a fairly middle-class neighbourhood in the Bronx. His brother, Happy, five years older, passed on to him his musical discoveries. In 1954, Happy attended a Pete Seeger concert and was drawn into the folk music web; Artie then joined him to become part of a clique of folkies that gravitated from the outer boroughs into Manhattan. The focal points were Washington Square and Greenwich Village, the clubs heaving with new discoveries and new friendships.

Both brothers took up the folk guitar, advancing to blues, listening to whatever they could. Artie in, particular, was moved by the music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jim Hall and the Modern Jazz Quartet, though he would not give full rein to his jazz interests until 1994 with the album Letters from Joubee, followed by The Last Romantic (2001) and Acoustic Jazz Guitar (2004).

Artie gravitated from session work to recording, making his debut with the True Endeavor Jug Band in 1963. He was also performing with the blues singer Judy Roderick, and he founded, with his brother, a rock group sometimes called Bear, sometimes the Children of Paradise. "It was very loud," Happy told Swing 51 magazine, "and we dressed up in polka-dot shirts, flower ties ..." Their historic footnote status was assured when the band, featuring Eric Kaz, Steve Soles (Happy's replacement) and Artie, provided the music for the movie Greetings (1968). Directed by Brian De Palma, who went on to make films such as The Bonfire of the Vanities and Mission: Impossible, it marked the official screen debut of Robert De Niro.

Woodstock, about 100 miles from New York, and long a stamping ground for artists, artisans and musicians, became home for Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison and Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band in the late 1960s. Happy had first played a small cafe there in the early 1960s, and moved there in 1967. Artie followed soon after as part of the exodus from the city and house-sat one of Dylan's two sizeable residences as a sideline. With the brothers in the same general locality, they joined forces increasingly from 1968. Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, took them on and they signed to Capitol, touring as support for Grossman's acts.

Happy, who had been editing Sing Out! magazine, had to resign in 1970 as the brothers' career took off on the back of their LPs Happy and Artie Traum (1969) and Double-Back (1971). Most satisfying was their Hard Times in The Country (1975) album for Rounder. Its liner notes were by Allen Ginsberg ("tricky Guitars, great Artie fingers"), another member of the circle.

During the early 1970s the brothers hosted a series of "and friends" concerts at the Woodstock Playhouse. This led to the formation of the Woodstock Mountains Revue, a loose collective including Pat Alger, Eric Andersen, Paul Butterfield, John Herald, Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian, formerly of the Lovin' Spoonful. Their finest hour came with their second album, More Music from Mud Acres (1977), which featured two defining Artie Traum compositions, Barbed Wire and Cold Front. They played at the 1979 Cambridge folk festival and toured Britain to great acclaim.

Artie is survived by Beverly, his wife of 28 years, and his brother.

· Arthur Roy Traum, guitarist, singer-songwriter and musical educationist, born April 3 1943; died July 20 2008

Contributor

Ken Hunt

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tam White obituary

Scottish singer with a second career on TV

Dave Laing

23, Jun, 2010 @6:34 PM

Article image
Lindsay Cooper obituary
Bassoonist and Henry Cow band member who enjoyed success as a film and TV composer

John Fordham

24, Sep, 2013 @5:16 PM

Article image
Letter: When Pete Seeger reduced a conservative audience to silence
Garth Prince writes: Pete Seeger's performance started as a singalong and ended as the most effective political statement I have ever seen

Garth Prince

20, Feb, 2014 @6:42 PM

Article image
Earl Scruggs obituary
Banjo player with a breathtaking style who shaped bluegrass and explored other genres

Tony Russell

29, Mar, 2012 @2:32 PM

Article image
Robin Denselow on Pete Seeger: 'He was the great American radical hero'

Robin Denselow writes: Pete Seeger was a man of bravery and commitment, who spent his life using music to further a vast array of causes

Robin Denselow

28, Jan, 2014 @3:23 PM

Article image
Pete Seeger obituary

US folk singer and songwriter whose radical politics made him a target of the anti-communist blacklist in the 1950s

Paul Buhle

28, Jan, 2014 @12:56 PM

Article image
Jack Bruce obituary
Composer and bassist who found early success with Cream and went on to perform as a soloist and with many other artists

Alan Clayson and Joel McIver

26, Oct, 2014 @12:36 AM

Article image
Etta James obituary
Blues and soul singer with a raw, emotional vocal style

Garth Cartwright

20, Jan, 2012 @4:57 PM

Obituary: Gerry Wiggins

Obituary: Versatile jazz pianist who was Marilyn Monroe's vocal coach

Peter Vacher

23, Oct, 2008 @11:01 PM

Obituary: Viola Wills

Obituary: Singer stereotyped as a 'disco diva' after her 1979 smash hit

Adam Sweeting

19, May, 2009 @11:01 PM