Renowned Guitarist Bill Pitman of The Wrecking Crew Dies at 102

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Bill Pitman, a well-known guitarist, died on August 11 in his La Quinta, California home. He was 102 years old.

As confirmed by The New York Times, Pitman died several weeks after he had been treated for a fractured spine at a rehabilitation center in Palm Springs. This serious injury was the result of a fall that the musician had suffered. Yet, outside of this incident, no official cause of death has been revealed.

During his life, Pitman was an accomplished and sought-after guitar player in the ’50s through the ’70s, who played on records for the likes of The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, and many others. As a recording musician, Pitman became known as a member of the loosely defined, but elite group, called The Wrecking Crew. This crew was a group of talented, freelance musicians that were constantly being recruited by producers in Los Angeles.

Further, some of Pitman’s most notable contributions include credits on The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” The late musician also played ukulele on B.J. Thomas’ Oscar-winning single “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (1969).

On top of that, Pitman helped create several movie and TV soundtracks. His contributions can be heard in Elvis Presley’s film Blue Hawaii (1961), MAS*H (1970), Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982), Dirty Dancing (1987), and Goodfellas (1990).

In a 2009 book titled Conversations With Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists, author Jim Carlton touched on the breadth of Pitman’s career: “Perhaps no one personifies the unsung studio player like Bill Pitman does. Few guitarists have logged more recording sessions, and fewer still have enjoyed being such a legitimate part of America’s soundtrack.”

Pitman is survived by his wife, son, three daughters, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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