Happy Traum

Woodstock's own folk music legend

About Happy Traum

Click Here for Happy Traum's Discography

"Traum is still infinitely listenable, musically creative and about as good an acoustic folk guitarist as there is...." - Noah Fleisher, Pulse

"Laid-back and bluesy, like an autumn hike down a Bearsville back road, Happy's distinctive fingerpicking and warm, welcoming "c'mon in" vocals give a vibrant new step to the standard stepping stones through folk....." - Chronogram Magazine

"Happy has impeccable taste in choosing a program of great traditional folk and blues songs or contemporary songs written in the tradition and even better taste in the way he arranges them with both reverence for his sources and the originality of his always creative fingerpicking guitar and warm singing." Folk Roots and Folk Branches

"One of the great under the radar gems of folk music comes back doing it the DIY way he's pretty much been doing it all along. With a great bunch of guests on board playing like they are glad to be there, this is a heartfelt set that goes back to his roots that stretch back a long, long time. Although the set is mostly good, old songs, there's nothing here longing for the past. This set is as fresh as the ground breaking sets he did with his brother for Capitol 35 years ago... A real winning creation." Chris Spector, Midwest Record Recap Review


Happy Traum was smitten by American folk music and began playing guitar and 5-string banjo as a teenager. 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.

A first-rate fingerstyle guitarist and singer, he has performed 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 folk music has brought him recognition as a performer, writer, editor, session musician, teacher and recording artist.

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. Happy with his group, the New World Singers, cut the first recorded version of "Blowin' In The Wind", and Happy sang a duet with Dylan on his anti-war song "Let Me Die in My Footsteps."(These tracks were re-released in August, 2000 by Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings as part of a boxed set, "The Best of Broadsides 1962 - 1988: Anthems from the American Underground."      

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." The group toured folk clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada, including several stints at Gerde's Folk City and the Bitter End in the Village, the Riverboat in Toronto and the Gate of Horn in Chicago.

New World Singers publicity photo, 1963: Gil Turner, Happy, Delores Dixon, Bob Cohen

Happy and Artie:

In 1967, Jane, Happy and their three children moved to Woodstock, NY, and Happy and his late 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 1970 Happy and Artie recorded their first album for Capitol Records, "Happy and Artie Traum," which The New York Times called "One of the best records in any field of pop music."

A second highly praised album, "Double Back," soon followed. Happy and Artie toured extensively throughout the U.S. and, in 1972, they made their first trip to England to tour folk clubs and play at the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival. Happy also traveled to Brittany, France to make the first of several appearances at the Kertalg Festival.

"Between them they've been studio musicians, composers, comedians, writers, editors, folklorists, and a host of other things.... A brilliant and unique entity in the world of country-folk music." - The New York Times

Although their musical careers had diverged, Happy and Artie continued to perform together at concerts, clubs and festivals until Artie's untimely passing in July, 2008. For four years they hosted a popular "live" radio show, Bring It On Home, which was broadcast monthly from the performance studio at National Public Radio affiliate WAMC in Albany, NY.  

Sony Records later issued a two-CD set featuring excerpts from Bring It On Home. In 1994, Happy and Artie released "Test of Time," their first CD as a duo in many years. As Levon Helm of the Band said: "Their music still flows as natural and clear as a Catskill Mountain stream."

Happy and Artie at home

Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg:

In 1971 Happy once again joined his Woodstock friend and neighbor, Bob Dylan, in the studio, playing guitar, banjo, bass, and singing harmony on four songs. "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," "Down In the Flood," and "I Shall Be Released" appeared on "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2." The fourth cut, "Only a Hobo," was included in Bob's "Another Self-Portrait" box set, released in 2013.

Earlier that year, Dylan had invited Happy to participate in a famous session with poet Allen Ginsberg, which resulted in the box set,"Holy Soul Jelly Roll," (re-released in 2016 as "First Blues"). The legendary John Hammond produced the session, which also included Dylan, David Amram, Jon Scholl, Ed Sanders, Gregory Corso and several other well-known musicians and beat poets.

This resulted in a long friendship and musical association between Happy and Allen Ginsberg. In 1974 Happy and Artie cut "Hard Times In The Country" (Rounder), their third duet album, with liner notes by Allen Ginsberg.  

Photo of Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg and Happy Traum © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah

Mud Acres and the Woodstock Mountains Revue:

In 1972, Happy and Artie produced the classic folk album, "Mud Acres, Music Among Friends," which became a best-seller (and instant classic) for Rounder Records. Happy and Artie subsequently produced, and performed on, three more albums featuring top folk and rock musicians under the collective title The Woodstock Mountains Revue. The core group, comprised of Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, John Herald, Roly Salley, Larry Campbell, Pat Alger, and Happy & Artie Traum, toured the Northeast U.S., Europe and Japan.

Other members who appeared on the recordings included John Sebastian, Eric Andersen, Rory Block, Paul Butterfield, Eric Kaz, Lee Berg, Maria Muldaur, Arlen Roth, Caroline Dutton and several others.  

Woodstock Mountains Revue Reunion Concert, December 2003. L to R: Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, Pat Alger, Roly Salley, Artie, John Sebastian, John Herald, Cindy Cashdollar, Happy, Larry Campbell

Homespun Music Instruction:

Perhaps Happy's most important and lasting musical contribution has been Homespun Tapes, which he and his wife, Jane, co-founded in 1967. This dynamic and still-growing company has a catalog of more than 500 music lessons on DVDs, CDs, books and downloads, and their products are distributed and sold around the globe. Taught by top professional performing musicians, the lessons cover a wide variety of instruments and musical styles. Happy produces all of the lessons, and brings to Homespun over 50 years of experience as a guitarist, performer, writer, teacher, and popular member of the music community.

Guitar Instruction Books:

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. This book was recently updated and re-released by Music Sales Corp. as "Traditional and Contemporary Fingerpicking Styles for Guitar.")

His other books include "Bluegrass Guitar," "The Blues Bag," "The Blues Guitar of Brownie McGhee," "Basic Guitar Lessons," "Folk Guitar as a Profession" "Flatpick Country Guitar" and "The Children's Guitar Guide," among others. He also edited and/or transcribed "The James Taylor Songbook," "The Incredible String Band Songbook" and the "Arlo Guthrie Songbook," and was music editor for the historically important Woody Guthrie book, "Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People."

Happy also started writing for Sing Out! The Folksong Magazine and, in 1967, he became the magazine's editor, a position which he held for three years. Happy has also written articles and instructional columns for Rolling Stone, Acoustic Guitar, Guitar Player and other music publications.

Solo Career:

Happy recorded his first solo album, "Relax Your Mind," in 1975 and embarked on the first of many European tours, bringing him to England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Scandinavia, among other countries. He toured in Japan in 2001 and 2016 as a soloist, and in 2006 with Artie Traum.

"American Stranger" was released in 1977 (“An absolute gem...one of the best folk music albums released this year.” - Folk Scene)."Bright Morning Stars" was released in 1980, and "Friends And Neighbors," recorded "live" in a Woodstock concert, was released in 1983. Shanachie Records released a compilation album, "Buckets Of Songs," in 1988, and "Bright Morning Stars" was re-released on CD both in the U.S. and in Japan in 2001.

"I Walk The Road Again" (2005) was co-produced by Artie Traum. Among many great reviews, one said: "I Walk the Road Again' is a breathtaking collection of bittersweet country-folk and blues tunes.... A low-key masterpiece, this album demonstrates that it's not the pace that matters so much as the road itself. It's a road we're glad to see Happy Traum walking so well again."Peter Aaron, Kingston Daily Freeman

Happy's 2015 CD release, "Just For the Love of It," also received rave reviews, including four stars in Rolling Stone Magazine! It was in the top five in folk radio play for several months, and was on many "Top Ten of 2015" reviewers' lists.

Happy continues a busy and productive life as a solo artist in clubs, concerts and festivals around the U.S., and collaborates with many musical colleagues: Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur, John Sebastian, Larry Campbell, Cindy Cashdollar, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason and many others - including his son, Adam Traum, a fine singer/songwriter/guitarist in his own right.

In July, 2022, Happy released "There's a Bright Side Somewhere," a collection of songs and instrumentals backed by nearly twenty of his very talented musical comrades from the Woodstock, NY area and beyond.

"As he shows yet again on a new album titled There’s a Bright Side Somewhere, his exceptional fingerpicking guitar is unrivaled, and he brings dazzling life to traditional and contemporary folk songs.” - Henry Carrigan, Folk Alley

Now in his 84th year, Happy continues to perform, record, conduct guitar workshops and classes, and produce new lessons for Homespun. One of Woodstock, NY's most revered local musicians, he can often be heard playing for large fundraisers or other community causes, trying to pay back the half-century of friendships and good will that came to him and his family in that creative, progressive community.

Folk festival appearances (partial list):

Philadelphia , Newport, Kerrville (Texas), San Diego, Winnipeg, Cambridge (England), National (Australia), Nyon (Switzerland), Kertalg (Brittany, France), Edinburgh (Scotland), Rudolstadt (Germany), Brusella (Belgium), Hudson River Revival, Fresh Grass (Mass), Susquehanna (PA) and a regular at MerleFest in NC for more than 30 years.

Guitar workshops (partial list):

Richard Thompson's Frets & Refrains (NY), Ashokan Guitar Camp (NY), Kaufman Kamp (TN), Fur Peace Ranch (OH), Acoustic Guitar Festival (CA), Omega Institute (NY), National Guitar Workshop (CT), International Guitar Seminars (CA), MerleFest (NC), Webnash (NY), Acoustic Guitar Cruise, Swannanoa Gathering (NC), Augusta Heritage (WV), Telluride Bluegrass (CO), Accent on Music (OR).

For Happy's Discography, Click Here