Happy Traum was smitten by American folk music as a teenager and began playing guitar and 5-string banjo. He was an active participant of the legendary Washington Square/Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1950s and ‘60s, and studied guitar with the famed blues master, Brownie McGhee. Over the past five decades he has performed extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan, both as a soloist and as a member of various groups. His avid interest in traditional and contemporary music has brought him recognition as a performer, writer, editor, session musician, folklorist, teacher and recording artist. A few of his many adventures and accomplishments are listed here.
Happy’s first appearance in a recording studio was at a historic session in 1963 when a group of young folk musicians, including Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Peter LaFarge and The Freedom Singers gathered in Folkways Records’ studio for an album called Broadsides.
The New World Singers (Happy, Bob Cohen and Gil Turner) soon recorded an album for Atlantic Records, with liner notes by Bob Dylan, and released a single of the first recorded version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
In 1965, Happy wrote his best-selling Fingerpicking Styles for Guitar, the first of more than a dozen important instruction books which documented the playing of the great traditional guitarists. Homespun Tapes, which he and his wife, Jane, co-founded in 1967 is a dynamic and growing company with a catalog of more than 500 music lessons on DVDs, CDs, books and downloads.
In 1967, Happy and his brother Artie Traum formed a duet that, according to Rolling Stone, “defined the Northeast folk music style.” Their performances at the 1968 and 1969 Newport Folk Festivals helped to gain them an avid following and a contract with famed manager Albert Grossman. This strong musical partnership lasted until Artie’s untimely death in July, 2008.
In 1971 Happy once again joined Bob Dylan in the studio, playing guitar, banjo, bass, and singing harmony on three songs (“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “Down In the Flood,” and “I Shall Be Released,”) which appeared on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.
Happy has been editor of Sing Out! magazine, host of an NPR radio show, and contributor to Rolling Stone, Acoustic Guitar, and Guitar Player.
Last year, Happy gave us a great multimedia walk down memory lane to the folk scene of Greenwich Village in the 60’s, with his his cohorts Pete Seeger, Bobby Dylan, etc. This should be another night to remember!