Signature models from respected guitar companies are generally very special guitars. Signature models have history, they have precise specifications and they suggest a level of respect between guitarist and luthier. Here at Heartbreaker Guitars, we are proud to carry a wide selection of incredibly unique guitars, and we are very excited for the arrival of the new Santa Cruz Happy Traum Signature Model HT/13. This guitar is the product of a long history between Santa Cruz Guitar Company founder, Richard Hoover, and American Folk guitarist, Happy Traum.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Happy Traum is an influential Folk guitarist who came to prominence during the Woodstock musical movement in the 1960’s. An accomplished fingerstyle guitarist, he frequently collaborated with several other musicians—Bob Dylan included—and is credited as a featured musician on over 20 different releases. Additionally, he was a titular member of the duo Happy and Artie Traum whose first eponymous album was said by the New York Times to be "one of the best records in any field of pop music." Richard Hoover cites Traum as a fundamental influence on his playing style, his approach to lutherie, as well as many general philosophies of his life. A friendship struck between the two of them and these two great minds came together with the notion of creating an incredibly special Santa Cruz guitar constructed to compliment the essence of Traum’s playing style. Traum, being an admirer of Santa Cruz guitars—his original model of choice being an H/13 with an Adirondack top over Cocobolo back and sides—saw fit to have his signature model based around the H/13, with excellent hand-selected wood to give this model a personality all its own. There is no mistake in saying that this project has been a long time coming, for both Happy Traum as well as Richard Hoover. Finally, their masterwork is complete, and they are becoming available.
To give a quick rundown of some of the specifications, the HT/13 model comes equipped with an Old-Growth Redwood top over a Honduran Mahogany body with a vibrant Ivoroid binding. In addition, a tortoise pickguard and the Abalone purfling and rosette, which contrast beautifully with the deep, red tone of the top wood. On the fingerboard, Happy Traum’s signature is included at the 18th fret. The nut width is a 1 ¾”, while the scale length is 25 ⅜”. The top wood is furnished with a custom finish, the body wood with buffed Tobacco finish, and the neck with a matte Tobacco finish. The construction is meant to produce a complex array of overtones, generating a clear, bright tone without sacrificing the low end. Designed as a fingerstyle guitar, a broad tonal spectrum was one of the necessary components of this guitar for the luthiers.
Speaking personally, from my experience as a life long fingerstyle guitarist, I find the tone of the HT/13 to be quite exceptional. There is an amazing sense of responsiveness with this guitar, making it easy to create a percussive, resonant sound when playing fingerstyle. There are many guitars that are definitely not well-suited for finger-pickers, usually due to too much mid-range, a flat low end, or a dry high end. Additionally, many guitars will choose to sacrifice one for the other, and while possessing a range of clear and deep lows, fall short when it comes to producing the necessary frequencies to allow the high end to breakthrough, and produce an equal output to the lows. The HT/13 seems to cover the entire tonal spectrum, even retaining its sonic integrity when using alternate or open tunings. The 13-fret design and neck profile feel like you have an adequate amount of space and comfort to move around the neck at whatever pace you need, and the body design feels pleasant and comfortable to hold. I have found that with many expertly crafted guitars, you can tell that the body design was constructed not just with tone in mind, but how well it would fit into the hands of the player, and how well it would feel when picking it up and playing. The HT/13 was definitely an incredibly well-planned out model, feeling meticulous and deliberate in its every aspect. Though there will always be a small group who incorrectly insist that skill sets and adherence to standards of quality are relative, Santa Cruz Guitar Company have substantially proven the notion that if you put every degree of effort and personal perseverance into something, beginning with a well-formed idea, leading to an unimpaired execution, you can wind up with an end product that is mechanically well-constructed, aesthetically pleasing, and one that meets standards and criteria of objective quality associated with the medium.
From time to time at Heartbreaker Guitars we are treated with the opportunity to handle incredibly storied instruments that are born out of an innate sense of creativity, craftsmanship, and passion. These types of instruments are a reminder to the guitar community—and the artistic community at large—that the creation of art is often benefited by the creation of other art in a vastly different field. Through Happy Traum’s influence as a musician, Richard Hoover’s passion for music, his excellent artisanship and creativity, something entirely unique was conceived out of the collaboration of these two fields. Lutherie—while being philosophically utilitarian in its essence—is an art of its own kind. The incredible amount of hours spent researching the wood, finding the correct pieces to craft into models, how everything is going to fit together, and exactly what level of resonance, brightness, and clearness would be able to be achieved through the model’s assembly. With Happy Traum’s lasting influence on the guitar community, as well as Richard Hoover’s well-established credibility as one of the great working luthiers of the modern day, this guitar is the well-deserved result of many tireless years of musical creation, passion for fine instruments, and a meeting of the minds that changed lives, principles, perspectives on art, and—utmost—the greater guitar community.
With all of that said, we at Heartbreaker Guitars are incredibly proud to be a certified dealer of the Santa Cruz Guitar Company, and are incredibly thrilled to have this guitar in our shop. We pride ourselves on being able to offer the finest guitars on the market to our customers, and we believe that this is one incredibly special guitar. From the intent behind it, to its masterful construction, along with its exceptionally beautiful and versatile range of tones, this is definitely one model that you will want to seek out, at least to play it just once.