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In 1974, machinist and all-around-tinkerer Travis Bean partnered with Marc McElwee and Gary Kramer (who left in ’75 to start his own company) to begin Travis Bean Guitars. The trio’s mission was to focus on high-end electric guitars and basses made with machined-aluminum necks rather than wood.
Considering the company was active between 1974 and ’79 and only constructed around 3600 guitars and basses, Travis Bean guitars were used by some pretty prolific hands—particularly the TB1000 models. Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards each used TB1000s (a TB1000A and a custom 5-string TB1000A, respectively) during their 1979 New Barbarians tour, Brian Robertson played his TB1000A during Thin Lizzy’s glory days, and Jerry Garcia was often seen onstage with his custom TB1000A and TB500 models.
The guitar showcased here is a 1977 TB1000A. Its double-cutaway koa body has a natural finish and is connected to the Reynolds T6061 aluminum neck with four wood screws. The patented aluminum neck-to-bridge design gives Bean’s guitars their incomparable tone and impressive sustain.
In 1977, the company reworked its body-chambering technique to remove some aluminum from the top instead of the side. The aluminum inside this guitar’s wood body was machined to create a U-shaped channel that provided a more rigid structure and also lightened the guitar a bit. However, this aluminum- wood hybrid still tops the scale at almost 10 pounds. Other features include a rosewood fretboard with large, pearl-dot inlays, original custom humbuckers with engraved chrome covers, and original hardware, tuners, pots, and capacitors.
A special thanks to Jeff Sadler of Rock N Roll Vintage Guitars (rocknrollvintage.com) in Chicago for the opportunity to feature this fine instrument and its story.