Harry "Happy" Traum wants to bring Clarence Gatemouth Brown, one of the world's great blues guitarists, into your house to teach you Texas Swing guitar.
He would also like John Sebastian to teach you the autoharp and Dr. John to instruct you in New Orleans piano.Traum heads Homespun Tapes Music Instruction, a small mail-order business that offers more than 400 titles using these well-known musicians and others teaching their specialties on video and audio tapes.
"If someone wants to learn music, they should have every available tool they can find," says Traum. "Nothing is better than being able to know how someone holds his hands and approaches his instrument. And these people are some of the best."
Traum's catalog offers lessons in basic guitar, jazz piano, Irish fiddle, Appalachian Dulcimer and yodeling, among scores of other styles and instruments.
He uses such teachers as guitarists Livingston Taylor, Pete Seeger, Chet Atkins and Merle Watson; mandolinist David Grisman; and bassist John Entwistle to make the tapes.
"We specialize in music that has some kind of connection to roots," Traum says, "whether it's Cajun or blues or whatever, it's the kind of music that has some grounding in tradition."
Traum, who produces the tapes at his studio in Woodstock, N.Y., says he works directly with the musicians to find a clear and direct style of teaching because not all of them have teaching experience.
Traum says the idea for the business came in 1967, after he started making tapes for his guitar students to use while he was touring.
He started his instruction business by enlisting his brother, Artie Traum, and between them over the years they've brought in more than 50 artists.
Homespun Tapes began in Traum's kitchen, where he says the recording process "was so low-tech, it was amazing."
Now Traum has a staff of nine - including wife Jane, who runs the business end - and a separate building, and boasts a mailing list of more than 30,000 in 37 countries.
Traum still goes on tour as a performer, but now he uses those tours as promotional tools as well.