Happy Traum And The Origin Of Dylan Classics

I didn’t watch the Grammy awards telecast, and really haven’t paid that much attention to it other than reading that there were some surprising winners. I also noticed that Bob Dylan performed to mixed reviews, and it got me to thinking about the legendary singer/songwriter and his history.

Although his singing is not for everybody, most folks give him plenty of credit as a songwriter. Many of his compositions have become classics, including “Blowin’ In The Wind,” his anthem for the protest movement of the early 1960s. But it was not Dylan who first recorded the song. That distinction would go to Happy Traum and his New World Singers — although Dylan was close by.

Harry Peter ‘Happy’ Traum was one of a group of folk musicians who sometimes got together in those days, performing live and in the recording studio. The group included Phil Ochs and the legendary Pete Seeger, along with Dylan and a few others. It was during a studio session in 1963 that Traum teamed up with Dylan (performing as Blind Boy Grunt) on “Let Me Die in My Footsteps” — and also led his own New World Singers on the first recording of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” In fact, later that year Traum and his group followed up with the first recording of another Dylan classic, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

Dylan and Traum would occasionally work together in the following years, but they mostly went their own way. Traum led other groups — the Children Of Paradise for one — and often teamed up with his brother Artie. He also passed through various musical phases, often cranking out great songs like the one below. A superb instrumentalist, in later years he has founded a very successful operation called Homespun Tapes, which helps educate aspiring folk and rock musicians.

Happy Traum – “When I Was a Cowboy”


One thought on “Happy Traum And The Origin Of Dylan Classics

  1. It’s good to see Happy (and Artie) getting some recognition. They, and others like them, really got lost in the supernova blaze of Bob. Similarly, poor, tragic Phil Ochs is hardly known these days either.


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