Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chatting with Happy Traum

I didn't get a chance to talk with Seeger, but after his kid's performance, I found myself chatting with Happy Traum, the acoustic bluesman and owner of the Homespun Tapes series of music instruction videos. Traum has been a regular at MerleFest, as a performer and sponsor, since the second festival in 1989.

"It was thrilling o see how much love Pete gets here, in rural North Carolina," he said. "He was the reason I got started, after seeing him play for the first time in 1954. He has always been an inspiration to me, and it was great to see him still going, still jumping up and down on stage."

Traum said the festival's focus on the Seegers and on Woody Guthrie was a new theme for MerleFest. "You don't have to be left-wing or intellectual to get Woody. He came out of the southern tradition and I think his music speaks to everybody."

Traum, a New Yorker, made note of the mixing of cultures during his own solo performance, in which he featured folk blues styles of Brownie McGhee and Mississippi John Hurt (with some Bob Dylan thrown in as well). Wearing a NY Yankees cap onstage, he commented that he wore it so people would know where he was from, since his music comes out of the South.

I also asked Traum about Homespun Tapes and its relationship with the festival. Homespun is a leading supplier of music instruction videos featuring top players in bluegrass, folk and other styles.

"Both Doc and Merle did stuff for us, and so many of our instructors play here, that it was natural for us to get involved as a sponsor. We've cut back on our marketing some, so at this point the main events we are involved with are MerleFest, Grey Fox and the IBMA convention," he said.

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