Happy Traum

Woodstock's own folk music legend

Happy's Blog

A Conversation with Levon Helm and Larry Campbell for Acoustic Guitar Magazine

It is fitting that the titles of Levon Helm’s two recent solo CDs share a word that defines the essence of his music. Both Dirt Farmer and his just-released Electric Dirt give a listener the undeniable sense that his music comes straight out of the American soil. “My interpretation of Levon’s musical being is that it comes out of the woods, the dirt, the mountains,” says Levon’s producer and multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell. “It doesn’t come out of bricks and mortar or a Hollywood script. There’s nothing manufactured about it. And from the producing side of this thing, you have to take what a person is naturally and really let that live.” Helm’s earthy tenor, with its Arkansas twang and richly expressive, rough-hewn Southern phrasing, permeates every song on these two albums.
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12-String Guitar Revisited

I was recently inspired to start playing 12-string again, many years after the untimely demise of my Fyllde (the one I played on my 12-string instructional video), which kind of imploded on me. I have always loved the sound of the twelve, but it's a commitment to start up with it again. Just think - twice as many strings to go out of tune!
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Addendum to my Bob Dylan Recording Session story

In describing the recording session that I took part in for Bob's "Greatest Hits, Vol.2," I said that the song "Only a Hobo" didn't work out and was dropped. Happily, it wasn't lost forever! It just showed up on Bob's latest "Bootleg" release called "Another Self Portrait," and if I say so myself, it ain't half bad.
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Dave Van Ronk - Liner Notes by Happy Traum written in January, 2014

The first time I met Dave Van Ronk was in 1955 or 1956, on what may have been my very first outing to a Sunday folk sing in Washington Square. Emerging from the Sixth Avenue subway station, I was blinded by the sunlight and the thrill of anticipation, and walked one block to the east, guitar in hand, ready and eager to join in the singing and playing.
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Jorma Kaukonen's 70th Birthday Concert

Last month I was honored to be included in the Hot Tuna concert at New York's famed Beacon Theater, celebrating Jorma's big Seven-Oh. It was a star-studded musical evening and great fun to step out onto that glittering stage with Jorma, Jack Casady and a rockin' band. The packed, sell-out crowd was cheering from the first notes of Jorma's guitar, and they gave me, and all the other guests, their enthusiastic approval.
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Bob Dylan at West Point

Back in the late ‘80s, Artie and I were playing an in-store CD release promotion at a Barnes and Noble in Albany while Bob was doing a sold-out concert at the Palace Theater. We hightailed it over there after our gig just in time to hear the last song, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Bob was already out of there long before the applause died out, but Victor Maimudes, Bob’s long-time road manager, spotted us and invited us to come down to West Point, where Bob was playing the next night. He graciously gave us backstage passes along with great seats for us and our family, and suggested we come to sound check to say hello to Bob.
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Pete Seeger

I don't know where I'd be today if it wasn't for Pete Seeger. I’m pretty sure I wouldn't have started singing folk songs or playing the guitar and banjo, and there certainly would not have been a lifetime of writing, performing, traveling, teaching and innumerable musical adventures. I might not have even met Jane, whom I originally encountered through folk music and who has shared my life for more than half a century. I owe it all to Pete.
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Discovering the Magic of the Village and the Beauty of Folk Guitar - 1954

I made my first foray into the exotic streets of Greenwich Village one poignant and unforgettable summer night in 1954. Sixteen, Bronx-bred and a junior counsellor at a summer camp in Connecticut, I had started learning the guitar some months before and was getting reasonably good at it. Some of the older counsellors had also discovered folk music, and I became the kid who could accompany them when they sang songs around the campfire or in the mess hall after the dishes were cleared away.
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Hitching To Find the "Real Folk"

The year was 1956. I had just graduated from high school and was already a dyed-in-the-wool folkie, having learned guitar, banjo and a large repertoire of songs from the recordings of Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Burl Ives, Josh White and other popular folk singers of the day.
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My Recording Session with Peter Tosh (and the Stones)

In June of 1978, I was getting ready to go on tour in Europe with my group, the Woodstock Mountains Revue, when I got a call from Griff McKree, the studio manager of the famed Bearsville Sound Studio in Woodstock, a mile or so from my house. Griff said that some musicians would be working there and they were looking for “some kind of a harp” for one of their songs. Could I suggest something?
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Remembering Izzy Young

In 1957, I was 19 and already a committed folkie and a frequent participant in the Washington Square jam sessions on fair-weather Sundays. I had heard of a place that was opening on MacDougal Street, just a few blocks away, so I went over there one May afternoon for the Grand Opening. I found myself in a group of fellow folk singers having a jam of our own in the back room of the little shop. Jean Ritchie was there with her dulcimer, as were Carolyn Hester, Roy Berkeley, Cynthia Gooding, Mollie Scott and several others. Jean’s husband, photographer George Pickow, captured thisnow-iconic photo at that event.
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