Hiram Bullock, Joe Beck, and Artie Traum Die in Same Week

It’s been a rough July for guitar fans, as they had to say goodbye to three phenomenal six-stringer talents. Hiram Bullock, Joe Beck, and Artie Traum, all passed away within a week of each other.
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Funk/rock/fusion ace Hiram Bullock [1955-2008], perhaps best known in the mainstream for his electrifying performances with Paul Shaffer in the house band on Late Night With David Letterman in the early ’80s, passed away on July 25. (Bullock revealed earlier this year that he had been fighting a throat tumor.) The guitarist leaves behind a string of groove-heavy solo albums, and session credits with everyone from Marcus Miller, David Sanborn and Steely Dan to James Taylor, Phyllis Hyman, and Carla Bley. Limber and loose, always dancing in place—even while holding down rhythm guitar parts behind Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan or other stars—Bullock had a crowd-pleasing, larger than life stage presence. He could be a delightful ham, never afraid to step into the spotlight and take an explosive solo. One could practically hear his notes and feel the groove of the song through his body language alone.

A veteran of both the Greenwich Village and (later) the Woodstock folk scenes, guitarist/producer Artie Traum [1943-2008] died on July 20 at the age of 65. His brother, guitarist Happy Traum, told the New York Times that the cause of death was liver cancer. A multi-talented multi-tasker, Artie Traum recorded solo albums, produced instructional guitar videos for his brother’s company, Homespun Tapes, toured the world performing music, did some film scoring, hosted a radio show, and made a documentary film about the Catskill water system. He is survived by his brother and his wife, Beverly.

Guitarist/composer/arranger and on-again/off-again dairy farmer Joe Beck [1945-2008] lost his battle with lung cancer on July 22, and is survived by his wife, Marsi, and their children. The session guitar great leaves behind an impressive résumé, including stints with James Brown, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and other luminaries, especially those in the genre of jazz. He came of age in the New York jazz scene of the 1960s. In addition to recording solo albums, he is known for collaborations with David Sanborn and Jimmy Bruno. He played guitar on Esther Phillips’ hit single “What a Difference a Day Makes.”