Posted in music on July 13, 2011

by BBG & Klaus Kinski

Stephen O'Malley playing his Travis Bean (more by Greg Cristman)
Travis Bean

Ask your average Jane or Joe on the street to name an American guitar manufacturer and you'd probably have a solid 99% 'good answer' success rate. Ask your average Jane or Joe on the street to name an American luthier (besides Les Paul) and you probably wouldn't get any answer besides "What's a luthier?" And there's no shame in that, people. I know that's the answer I would have given prior to writing this article. Regardless, without talented luthiers you wouldn't have your Fenders or your Gibsons and whatnot. On July 10, 2011 we lost Travis Bean, one of America's most innovative luthiers of all time.

In 1974, he partnered with Marc McElwee and Gary Kramer to start Travis Bean Guitars, which made high-end electric guitars and basses featuring machined aluminum necks. This was an unusual design, departing from more traditional wood necked instruments. The aluminum center section ran through the instrument body, with the pickups directly mounted to the aluminum. The majority of these instruments featured solid koa wood bodies and humbucker pickups. Though praised for their sound, the use of aluminum necks also made Travis Bean guitars heavier than other electric guitars. Models included the Artist, Standard, Wedge (rare), and TB500 (rare) with single coil pickups. - [Wikipedia]
Kramer and Bean ceased collaboration in 1975 when Kramer went on to establish the mighty metal guitar empire Kramer Guitars.

Travis Bean Guitars have a somewhat cult following, mostly due to the fact that aluminum lends to longer sustain. These vintage guitars are used by the likes of Stephen O'Malley (sunn O)))), Albini, Public Image Limited, Sonic Youth, Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), The Arcade Fire, Justin Foley (The Austerity Program), and even bands like The Rolling Stones, Kiss, The Grateful Dead and others. A documentary detailing the cult of Travis Bean guitars, entitled Sustain, is currently in production and a trailer can be viewed below.

Travis Bean passed away at his home in Burbank, California after fighting a long battle with cancer. RIP Travis Bean, though lord knows you made enough noise in your time.

Travis Bean Documentary - Sustain

takes a beating; Sustain teaser

Travis Bean Documentary - Sustain

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Tags: RIP, Travis Bean

Comments (25)

Vincent Gallo just bought the last reaming Bean while you were reading that.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 4:05 PM

Rivera Knucklehead in the last video.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 4:14 PM

Travis Bean))))))

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 4:14 PM

coming Dec 2009, 2010...err most likely never

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 4:17 PM

Thanks for your sounds...may they sustain eternally! RIP!

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 4:18 PM

Vincent Gallo)))

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 4:40 PM

I wonder if Stephen O'Malley ever thinks about how ridiculous he looks. Like is their a moment of clarity where he realizes he is a grown man playing dress up?

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 4:42 PM

time to buy some electrical guitar company stock stat!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by knowYERbassGODZ | July 13, 2011 5:01 PM

these guitars are for infants. garbage!

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 5:01 PM

Check out King Buzzo from Melvins talk about his aluminum guitar here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRnhN9KmIAQ not sure if it's the same luthier or company or what...

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 5:15 PM

4:42: I, for one, happen to think he looks cool. It suits the music well.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 5:24 PM

I was always wondering what they were called. I almost asked Duane Denison at the Brooklyn Bowl show last month.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 5:40 PM

You can get a nice ringy tone out of these, but for feel and usability, these are crappy instruments.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 5:52 PM

Anyone know where I can get a travis bean for abuor $300?

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 6:09 PM

a travis bean will cost more than 300 depending on where you find one and which type you find. You can get a knock off brand aluminum guitar for cheap. I would look for that.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 6:19 PM

You should email vincent gallo and see if he'll sell you one of his beans for $300

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 7:46 PM

Vincent gallo dropped a rather large hummus platter on my Travis bean and it caused a short circuit on my humbucker pickup causing it to sound more reminiscent of a food processor whenever I play a C-chord.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 8:57 PM

Vincent gallo dropped a rather large hummus platter on my Travis bean and it caused a short circuit on my humbucker pickup causing it to sound more reminiscent of a food processor whenever I play a C-chord.

Posted by Anonymous | July 13, 2011 8:58 PM

Electric guitar co, in Chicago I think it is makes guitars based on these Bean guitars which are probably more affordable. I cant believe someone has a Travis Bean on ebay right now for something like 50,000 dollars. Ridiculous.

And was Duane Denison here recently?? Dont remember hearing of a Jesus Lizard show or his jazz group playing at Brooklyn Bowl.

These guys makes guitars for Buzz, Uzeda, and Steve Albini.


http://www.electricalguitarcompany.com/

Posted by Anonymous | July 14, 2011 1:19 AM

I have an aluminum 7.5"

Posted by The Honey Badger | July 14, 2011 7:17 AM

Agalloch also uses these guitars. Saw them in at LPR. Amazing tone but they look really heavy and uncomfortable to play.

Posted by Anonymous | July 14, 2011 11:11 PM

To the anonymous who posted "these guitars are for infants. garbage!", before you start putting them down, I'm sure real guitarists who can actually afford to get one would differ with you. If my father-in-law's guitars were for infants and were garbage, you wouldn't see the likes of Jerry Garcia, Slash, Keith Richards, ZZ Top (and the list goes on) owning and playing them. I met a lot of Travis' friends, musical artists and fans at his memorial who did nothing but speak praises of the man and his guitars.

RIP "Papa" Bean, we will miss you.

Posted by Robert (Travis' Son in Law) | July 25, 2011 3:39 PM

Vincent Gallo played a live show in New York City two years ago. His guitar was a beautiful red Travis Bean Artist. The show was extremely nice and his tone was the best I have heard from anyone. In the right hands Beans sound incredible. I consider Vincent Gallo's hands the right hands. Everyone always mentions Steve Albini with Travis Bean. I have heard his sound. Albini's guitar sounds like it could be any guitar or any guitar player.

Posted by Terry M | May 19, 2012 1:25 PM

crappy guitars

Posted by Anonymous | July 23, 2012 10:30 AM

I hate Travis Beans. They're not made well. I prefer my old Fender Jaguar or a Gibson LP.

Posted by The Brown Bunny | July 23, 2012 11:17 AM

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