Monday, August 4, 2008

Hiram Bullock (1955-2008)

As a young bass-playing dork and big fan of the NBC era of Late Night With David Letterman, I pretty much always checked in to try and steal riffs or whatever from Will Lee. Around the same time, I started getting into music magazines and was able to put the pieces together as to why Late Night's band was called The World's Most Dangerous Band. Granted it was in the early 80s and the cats (save for Paul, perhaps) were not especially well known outside the session scene, but when you have a four-piece band with Steve Jordan on drums, Will Lee on bass and Paul on keys, you better not slouch on the six-string spot. And slack they did not. Every time the Late Night intro cut to the studio and panned to the right, Hiram Bullock was there, barefoot and in cut-off sleeves with battered Strat in hand, straight killing it from stage right.

Hiram had played with Will in the 24th Street Band prior to working with the Brecker Bros and was pretty well known as hot shit at the University Of Miami, where he came up with heavy hitters like Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny, as well as Will Lee and WMDB adjunct David Sanborn. He hit the session scene hard and did a lot towards ushering in the Strat with PAFs era. The battered sunburst Strat became as associated with Hiram as Blackie was with Clapton and even was honored with a signature model in it's later years.

After leaving Late Night in 1983 (I started to treat it like a job and was forgetting to show up, he remembered) he continued to play on a gang of session and sideman gigs while trying to get his own band off the ground. He was well-recieved overseas and did much more work in the Far East than the States, but would pop up around town with various incarnations of the band. In recent years, he quit a lot of the vices that he was known for and ended up putting on a lot of weight, but still kicked a healthy amount of posterior regardless of his girth. There was a lot more movie work as he grew older, including an appearance in Under Siege, but in recent years rumors of his being ill started to trickle out. After Michael Brecker's passing, word came out that Hiram was fighting cancer. He confirmed it in a post on his web page in March and downplayed his illness in typical fashion, remarking that he needed to lose weight anyway and that his treatments would help. Ominously, he also mentioned that he had lost his ability to taste.

This past Friday, Dave and Paul took a moment to remember the guy who had been such a huge part of the show in it's early years. It was only a couple minutes, but taking into account that Hiram had left the show almost twenty-five years previously, it was a pretty classy move on their part. There was a memorial service on 8/4 and his family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to nature and animal conservation organizations.

Thanks for the good times , Hiram!


No comments: