It was with some sadness that I heard this week of Bill Traut’s passing. Not sad because he lived something short of a full life (he had turned 80 last time we spoke, and that was a few years ago). No, just that I didn’t get a chance to thank him for all that he did for me personally and more importantly, his very significant contribution to the music we all love.

Back in the late ‘80s, I wanted to start my own reissue record label. My patron of sorts was the late Greg Shaw. I was bouncing around some ideas for a first release. Greg said forget it, you’ve got to talk to Bill Traut. For the next year, I made countless trips to Bill’s home/office in a beautiful neighborhood in Pacific Palisades. On most visits, Bill would sit at his desk and regale me for an hour with tales of Chicago and Dunwich Records. But if that wasn’t good enough, he then let me loose at his archives (in his garage! How perfect?!).

For hours, I would pour through boxes of pristine reference discs, master tapes and safety reels of Dunwich recordings, photos and the label’s paperwork. Occasionally I would hit a dead end (like finding a reel marked “Shadows of Knight – I’m Not Talking”), only to learn later that it was a mistake; just the THINGS TO COME’s great but previously-released version. But any brief disappointments were far outweighed by “the finds”. For example, a mint, unplayed BANSHEES “Project Blue” reference disc, anyone?

Bill was very enthusiastic about the Dunwich legacy. His partner at Dunwich, George Badonsky was equally important to those early records by the Shadows of Knight and too many others to mention. But it was Bill that carried the torch. He was extremely encouraging in every aspect. And he loved the many Dunwich-focused projects on Sundazed. I have penned more than a few Dunwich-related liner notes for Sundazed. But my favorite of ‘em by far is the label history told direct from the man himself in Sundazed’s ‘If You’re Ready! The Best of Dunwich Records… Volume 2’. Bill Traut’s intelligence and humor is stamped all over those recollections. I urge anyone who loves music and that era to seek out those liner notes.

Bill, thanks for the generosity, encouragement, friendship and most of all, the music!
– Jeff Jarema

Bill Traut (third from left) with Dunwich Records staff members & the Shadows of Knight.


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