In a career spanning more than 60 years, Happy Traum has been a fixture of the American folk scene, from the Village to Woodstock and the New World Singers to a duo with his brother, Artie. Along the way, he made collaborative stops with Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, and a galaxy of folk stars. His latest collaboration – the Santa Cruz HT/13 Happy Traum signature model – is an instrument befitting the fingerstylist’s legacy.
Based on two of Traum’s personal custom Santa Cruz guitars, the HT/13 offers a decidedly unique experience among modern acoustics. Starting from the concert-sized H model, it has a robust body depth of 4.875″ at the endpin. Combined with the 13-fret body, this guitar is oversized on volume. Scalloped Adirondack-spruce braces support an old-growth redwood top with a gorgeous natural finish and abalone purfling and rosette. A teardrop tortoiseshell pickguard and pyramid bridge complete the classic look. The Honduran mahogany back and sides have Santa Cruz’s Tobacco color, adding a warm red tint to the flawless two-piece back. The 25.375″ scale and 1.75″ nut offer a genuine fingerstyle platform, with a V-shape neck that, while comfortable, may not suit smaller hands or those who prefer the more-common C shape. A slotted headstock with Waverly tuners completes the aesthetic.
Sonically, the HT/13 strikes a fantastic balance between delicate and powerful. The feather-light body is responsive and resonant, bass response is warm, loud, and ever-present, but never steps on mids or highs. Strumming the guitar produces a pleasant and balanced chorus, loud and clear.
While the HT/13’s sticker price will put it in the hands of relatively few pickers in an era when we can get a lot of guitar for much less money, this one is worth it. Fit and finish on the test model was immaculate, as was the beautiful inlay work. Setup was exemplary, with medium-low action providing comfortable trips up and down the fretboard. It’s a standout among its peers – as its namesake has been for six decades.
This article originally appeared in VG’s December 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.