Happy Traum’s Lesson Plan
Happy Traum’s presence as a member of the Acoustic Blues Festival’s faculty follows 50 years of experience as a guitar instructor, a vocation that occurred in tandem with performing and recording.
“These camps are the real way that folk continues,” Traum said. “People are playing one-on-one, face-to-face, and they are not looking at their computer screen. These camps are happening all over the country, where people are connecting musically in a very real way.”
Traum is teaching two classes at the workshop, Blues and Country Fingerpicking and the Blues Guitar of Brownie McGhee, a blues icon with whom Traum studied when he was starting out.
“It’s not modal, it’s more quasi-modal,” he said of a particularly tricky passage during Monday’s workshop. “Does that ring a bell for anybody?”
He has always had a desire to help people improve their performances. With this in mind he formed Homespun Tapes, which offers more than 500 music lessons on DVDs, CDs, books and downloads, and their products are distributed and sold around the globe.
Throughout its 50-year history Homespun has provided instructional tapes, DVDs and now downloads, featuring substantial instruction from artist who may have never taught, such as Jefferson Airplanes Jorma Kaukonen, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and singer Maria Muldaur, who is also appearing at this week’s festival.
Traum said some of these musicians were great artists who never took the time to analyze what they do, and that after a while artists would come to him and ask to participate.
Traum was born in New York City, becoming part of the 1960s folk boom before moving to Woodstock, NY in 1967. Now best known in conjunction with the 1969 music festival, it was then a small town that attracted like minded musicians-including Bob Dylan.
While performing as a solo, with his brother and as a session musician he has maintained Homespun as a way to provide income that was not dependent on the whims of promoters or the record-buying public.
“In the early 1960s there was a whole cadre of people in New York City, who felt we were at the forefront of this new acoustic music scene,” he said. “We went through all of the earth music, the roots music, like jug band music, blues and Appalachian music. We had a whole community of people who were into that early on.”
Traum said the music evolved into more topical areas; Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs and Buffy Sainte Marie, followed by the blending of folk into rock with the Lovin’ Spoonful and the Byrds.
“We saw it incorporated into different things,” Traum said of 1960s folk music. “It has now involved into a healthy, under the radar area where there is a healthy underground of people who really love this stuff and don’t care if they are on the pop charts.”
Traum will perform at the Blues in the Clubs; at Beverly”s Hall, 1034 Water St., at 8 p.m. Friday and at the Key City Public Theater at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
He will also perform at the Acoustic Blues Showcase at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the McCurdy Pavilion.
Much of the repertoire comes from his latest album, 2015’s “Just for the Love of It,” which includes a version of Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood.” Traum performed the song in a 1971 session with Dylan in a relaxed, acoustic format, to fill out a greatest hits album.
Traum said he hasn’t spoken to Dylan in about 15 years. “These days he’s more into Frank Sinatra than Pete Seeger,” he said. “That’s fine with me, I love his old stuff and still think he’s an amazing artist.
Tickets to the showcase range from $25 to $46, while a Blues in the Clubs armband costs $20 for each night.
Traum, 79, finds his age liberating.
“What you get with age is that you don’t borrow about where you are going because you’ve already been there,” he said. “You can concentrate on what you like to do best without having to worry about the consequences. I want people to like me but my life doesn’t depend on that so I can relax a whole lot more.”