Artie Traum, 65, Stalwart of ’60s Folk Music Scene, Is Dead
July 22, 2008
By JON PARELES
Artie Traum, a guitarist, songwriter and producer who helped carry the spirit of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene to Woodstock, N.Y., died on Sunday. He was 65 and lived in Bearsville, N.Y., near Woodstock.
His brother, the musician Happy Traum, who sometimes performed with him, said the cause was liver cancer.
In a long and varied career, Mr. Traum played folk music and smooth jazz; recorded 10 albums of his own and four with his brother; produced albums; composed film scores; created guitar-instruction books and videos; teamed with his brother for a radio program; and made a documentary film about the Catskill water system.
Mr. Traum, who was born and reared in the Bronx, became a regular visitor to Greenwich Village clubs in the 1960s, hearing blues, folk music and jazz. Soon he was performing there, too. He made his first recording in 1963 as a member of the True Endeavor Jug Band, founded by the blues scholar Sam Charters. He worked with Eric Kaz and the group Bear on the score for Brian de Palma’s 1968 film “Greetings.”
In the late 1960s, Artie followed Happy to Woodstock, and they began working as a duo. In 1969 the Traums performed at the Newport Folk Festival and released their first studio album. Managed by Albert Grossman, whose other clients included Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary, the Traums toured worldwide. They released additional duo albums in 1971 and 1975, reunited as a duo for a 1994 album, “The Test of Time” (Roaring Stream), and continued to play concerts together.
Mr. Traum’s first solo album, “Life on Earth,” was released by Rounder Records in 1977.
In Woodstock during the 1970s and ’80s, Mr. Traum was a member and producer for the Woodstock Mountains Revue, a gathering of upstate folk musicians and singer-songwriters that also included John Sebastian; it made five albums for Rounder Records, with guests including Paul Butterfield, Eric Andersen and Maria Muldaur. “He was a real instigator, of bringing people together from various styles,” said Happy Traum, “and melding them into a conglomerate that became something totally different.”
One member of the Revue was the songwriter Pat Alger, with whom Mr. Traum made a 1980 duo album, “From the Heart.” (Mr. Alger later moved to Nashville and wrote hits for Garth Brooks and others.) Mr. Traum was married in 1981; his wife, Beverly, survives him, along with Happy Traum.
The Traum brothers were the hosts of a 1988 public-radio show for WAMC in Albany, “Bring It On Home,” which presented live folk-rooted performers like Richard Thompson, Molly Mason and, from the Band, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson. The programs became the basis of a pair of compilations by the same title released by the Sony Legacy label in 1994.
Mr. Traum was a producer on albums by Happy Traum, Livingston Taylor and the bassist Tony Levin, among others. He also wrote guitar-instruction books and demonstrated his techniques on instructional videos released by Happy Traum’s company Homespun Tapes.
In the 1990s, Mr. Traum decisively reworked his guitar style, delving into jazz and making instrumental albums. His 1999 album “Meetings With Remarkable Friends” (Narada) included collaborations with Béla Fleck, members of the Band, Mr. Sebastian and others.
After another instrumental album, “The Last Romantic” (Narada) in 2001, Mr. Traum returned to songs with words for his album “South of Lafayette” in 2002 and his 2007 album, “Thief of Time,” both on Roaring Stream.
Mr. Traum was one of the producers and directors for the 2002 documentary “Deep Water: Building the Catskill Water System.” And he collaborated with Chris Shaw and the fly fisherman and musician Tom Akstens, as the group Big Trout Radio, for the 2003 album “Songs About Fishing” (Twining Tree).
“I like it all and enjoy wearing different hats on different days,” he told the online magazine Guitar Sam.