Recently, on May 4, 2014, musician Happy Traum was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame. Here at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, we are quite familiar with Happy because of his work in establishing the audio music company, Homespun Tapes.
As a local New Yorker and musician during America’s 1950s/60s folk revival, Happy involved himself with the Greenwich Village folk scene in New York City, playing and recording with individuals like Bob Dylan. Among many well-known people from this time and place including Dylan, were Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Pete Seeger, just to give you an idea of some big names in music who populated the Village scene. Happy was a member of the group the New World Singers along with Bob Cohen and Gil Turner.
Homespun was co-founded by Happy and his wife in the late 1960s. Today, the company has an ever-expanding collection of audio music lessons, which feature highly-skilled musicians as teachers, including Happy and his late brother Artie Traum. Here in the Music Section, we offer some of Homespun’s audio courses by teachers who include, Stefan Grossman, David Bennett Cohen, Jean Ritchie, Mike Seeger, Daniel Abrams, Béla Fleck, and Sam Bush, among many others including Happy and Artie. Lessons are available on digital cartridge, some are also available on cassette, and can be loaned to eligible patrons for three months. Some lessons taught by Happy include: Fingerpicking, Flatpick Country Guitar, Picking Patterns, Gospel Guitar: 10 Easy Songs of Spirit and Faith, and 5-String Banjo.
Artie Traum was also an active folk musician – and jazz musician – who came up through the Village folk scene in the ‘60s. The Music Section has two titles featuring Artie: Lead Guitar, and Basic Jazz Guitar.
The rise in popularity of American folk music was at the center of music gatherings like the ones in the Village, as was the rise in popularity of the Singer/Songwriter. The Music Section offers the Homespun course titled Songwriters Workshop, featuring Pat Alger.
Our collection of Homespun materials consists of many recordings which teach diverse playing styles. Arlen Roth teaches Bottleneck/Slide Guitar. Stefan Grossman teaches Contemporary Ragtime Guitar. Amos Garrett teaches The Electric Guitar, and Merle Watson teaches Country Guitar Styles. The Music Section offers Homespun lessons for well-known instruments like guitar and piano, even harmonica. But, it is the less common instruments and voice materials that make our collection of Homespun materials well-rounded. Rob Zantay teaches synthesizer theory, techniques, and performance methods in The Complete Sythesist. Cathy Fink and Tod Whittemore teach Learn to Yodel, and Jean Ritchie teaches a brief history of, and tunings for the mountain dulcimer in Traditional Mountain Dulcimer.
The twentieth century folk revival was a pivotal point for American music history. Many of the songs and playing styles learned at that time were inspired from music of the past; one of the consequences, due to the popularity of artists and musicians among audiences at that time, was the dissemination of traditional American sounds into mainstream music culture. Though, the 1950s/60s was not the first time this had occurred. These artists influenced mainstream music in the years that followed, up to today.
Homespun is still actively expanding its offerings of lessons. The Music Section has recently received new titles which are in process of becoming available, and those that are ready for check out or BARD will be listed in the next issue of Musical Mainstream (a compiled sampler, produced by NLS on a quarterly basis, of recent articles on classical music and music education from various sources). Please contact us here in the Music Section with any questions, or if you would like to receive any of the materials discussed here.