Travis Bean TB-1000A Solid Body Electric Guitar (1975)

Travis Bean  TB-1000A Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1975)
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Item # 10772
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Travis Bean TB-1000A Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1975), made in Sun Valley, CA, serial # 161, natural lacquer finish, aluminum neck and centerpiece, koa wood body,rosewood fingetboard, original black tolex hard shell case.

This striking mid-1970's classic is a very early example of the Travis Bean TB1000A "Artist", the high-end model in the company's innovative but short-lived guitar line. It mates their patented raison d'etre aluminum neck/centerpiece with a carved solid Hawaiian koa wood body and ebony fingerboard with pearl block inlay. The company also offered the "Standard" TB1000S Bean model, similar but less deluxe, the budget TB-500 and the eccentrically shaped "Wedge" models. Of all of these the TB-1000A is the "classic" Bean, the most widely recognized and fondly remembered model.

Former motocross racer and lifelong tinkerer Clifford Travis Bean had two partners initially; guitar tech Marc McElwee and one Gary Kramer, who would soon split off to found his own (for a time) hugely successful guitar operation. The ads claimed their aluminum-necked designs were "the first new development in the electric guitar since the 1930s" although whether they were considering the early cast aluminum Rickenbacker steels is a moot point! The catalog continued "The...lightweight neck and receiver system forms a rigid link between the tuning machines and the bridge. When the strings are attached, a complete vibration connection is achieved. It is this patented chassis that makes the Travis Bean guitar what it is: an instrument that has become the most dramatic breakthrough in electric guitar technology in 50 years."

Bean's patented concept was a through-neck/central body core milled from T6061 aircraft aluminum, extending from headstock to the through-the-body strung six-saddle bridge. Narrow chambers running its length improved resonance and reduced weight, if only slightly. This metal centerpiece is mounted into a lovely grained Hawaiian koa wood body finished in natural lacquer. The Standard, Artist, and Wedge models mounted the company's own Alnico magnet humbucking pickups with "Travis Bean" engraved on their covers - the only branding on the instrument besides the subtle "T" cut out of the headstock! These in-house pickups have a stellar reputation on their own, but were never used on any other instruments.

This is a quite early Artist, carrying serial number #161 stamped into the headstock which would suggest manufacture in the first production year 1975. The neck is slimmer than later examples, and the elegantly carved body deeper but subtly slimmer in the horns. The guitar remains all original except the stock brass nut has been replaced.

#161 has an interesting pedigree; it was a one owner instrument until recently in the private collection of Davlen Sound Studios in Los Angeles. It was received as a gift from Travis Bean and Marc McElwee in appreciation for giving them access to the studios, equipment and electronics maintenance lab. In the 70s and 80s it was kept at the studio and often used by guitar players recording there, becoming a favorite among session players and stars alike. According to the previous owner #161 was used on hundreds of recordings by artists including Trower, Garcia, Carlton, Rios, Quaye, Ritenour, a very young Lukather, Cropper, Landau, Oates, Dudek, Scaggs, Joe Perry, the list goes on. After Travis Bean ceased production, co-founder Marc McElwee continued as the studio's guitar tech well into the late 80s.

The Artist model retailed originally for $1,395, making it one of the most expensive solidbody guitars on the market in 1975. While not a huge retail success they were featured by some major artists. At various times Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Bill Wyman all played them with the Rolling Stones in the mid '70s. Jerry Garcia played both a TB 1000 and a TB 500 for a time, models which many deadheads revere to this day. The guitars garnered a reputation for very high quality, but many players at the time felt the bare aluminum neck had a cold feel.

More recently, Travis Beans have been gainfully employed by a number of noise-rock players along with many denizens of myriad heavy sub-genres like doom and stoner metal. The Bean sound is powerful and articulate at lover volumes, but winds up magnificently to a shuddering crunch when pushed in these heavy contexts. It has a lot of gain which makes it ideal for plugging in using a passive direct box straight into mic preamp input modules. Travis Bean knew he had something great in the mid-1970s; while his vision did not lead to major success at the time he would no doubt be well satisfied by the lasting appeal to players and highly collectible status his creations have earned 45+ years on.
Overall length is 39 3/8 in. (100 cm.), 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 1/2 in. (622 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/2 in. (38 mm.).

Considering its reported history of considerable (if studio-only) use this guitar is in extremely fine condition. It remains all original except the stock brass nut was replaced with a Bob Colosi (Custom Guitar Saddles) organic material nut by Norik Renson. There are a few very small nicks and dings to the body finish, mostly on the back. The aluminum pickguard shows some light scuffing from play.

The rosewood fret board and frets show almost no wear, the neck has never been polished out, is scratch, dent, and mark free and still shines in all its natural aluminum glory. The fittings and electronics remain all original and very clean for a nearly 50 year old instrument. This one-owner guitar is a really special find, the nicest early Bean we have seen with a wonderful history complete in its clean original hard case. Excellent + Condition.