Larry Marlon Quam passed away of natural causes at home in Snohomish, Wash. on May 1, 2009. Though still young, those who knew him well were mostly not surprised by his passing. Though clean and sober in his final years, he had put at least a million hard miles on his 54-year-old body. As a close friend noted, he really died just from being Quam for so darned long.
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Larry lived in Bozeman most of his life, but resided in Washington for the past two decades. A highly accomplished professional musician since he was a teenager, he played in a wide variety of bands and was well known and respected in the Montana and Washington music scenes.
All who spent time playing music with Larry agree that he was a rare musical genius. On the road with Larry the real music started after the gig, with Larry on his bed with his gold top Les Paul, jamming with the muses, and anyone else. He taught that genius is both given and earned; you have to have your guitar in your hands all the time, not just on the gig. His sense of humor was obvious in his music - even a serious blues solo made you smile when Larry played it. He had a totally original vertical lead guitar style - all left turns, turn on a dime. Many professionals and some now-famous musicians established their foundations on his teachings, and were dazzled by his original and off-the-wall imagination. All were in awe of his monstrous talent and proud to have known him, and will never stop learning from his example as an insatiable student of music. He leaves a rich legacy of hundreds of recordings from a lifetime of musical composition that sadly only a few have heard so far.
His ability to fit comfortably into any social situation was surprising. One always worried that if introduced to friends or family that he would confuse, alienate or offend them with his often outrageous but brilliant observations and totally unchecked commentary, but he never did. Not only did he prove he could fit into any crowd of musicians, but also at a formal dinner with your family, or a party of college professors and academic intellectuals, or a meeting of business professionals or physicians - you name it. And he invariably left them completely warmed and asking, "Who was that amazing fellow?"
In the end, the brilliant mind that made Larry a truly astute observer and commentator on all that he witnessed also tried to snuff him with prolonged bouts of depression. His attempts at self-medicating this affliction plagued him throughout much his life. And, as a lifelong friend once observed, "When someone has that many wires in his head some are just bound to be crossed."
Twelve-Step programs were the touchstone of his sanity and survival, and he openly acknowledged their benefit. He dedicated many years to these programs and when he did, they returned to him a stable and peaceful life. Many people in these programs have said they owe their lives to Larry because of his remarkable mentorship and his example of living in peace with extreme challenges and an often brutal reality.
Larry was born in Great Falls on Dec. 18, 1954.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Barbara Jean Hedrick-Quam; stepfather, Calvin Marion Quam; and his brilliant and loving partner of many years, Laurie Campbell of Bozeman and Sultan, Wash.
He is survived by his siblings, Doug and Randy Quam of Bozeman, Carla Quam and Ron Sabo of Seattle.
Larry leaves a void that cannot be filled and he will never be forgotten by anyone who knew him well. In celebration of his legacy, his friends are invited to a memorial of music and sharing at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 6, at the r'Place…Your Space Community Center, 662 Glider Lane, Belgrade (406-580-9184). A compilation CD of Larry's music will be available at the gathering and donations for the CD will be gifted to his Snohomish, Wash., AA/NA Chapter.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from May 27 to May 31, 2009