Travis Bean TB-1000A Solid Body Electric Guitar (1976)

Travis Bean  TB-1000A Solid Body Electric Guitar  (1976)
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Item # 9945
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Travis Bean TB-1000A Model Solid Body Electric Guitar (1976), made in Sun Valley, CA, serial # 411, natural lacquer finish, aluminum neck and centerpiece, koa wood body, ebony fingetboard, original black tolex hard shell case.

This striking mid-1970's classic is a 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 in design but less deluxe, the budget TB-500 and the very eccentrically shaped "Wedge" models. Of all of these the TB-1000A is the "classic" Bean, the most widely recognized and fondly remembered signature model of the bunch.

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 fairly early Artist, carrying serial number #411 stamped into the headstock, which would suggest manufacture in 1976. The neck is slimmer than later examples, and the body subtly slimmer in the horns. The electronics rig uses a matched set of DiMarzio pots from mid-1979, so it is likely the rig was replaced around that time; the work is quite professional. Other than that the guitar appears all original.

The Artist model retailed originally for $1,395, making it one of the most expensive solidbody guitars on the market in 1976. 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, Wyman even having custom short-scale basses made for him. Jerry Garcia played both a TB 1000 and a TB 500 for a time, models which many deadheads still 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 and clinical 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. Travis Bean knew he had something great in the mid-1970s; while his vision did not lead to major commercial 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.).

This guitar remains nicely original, showing some moderately heavy play wear but no abuse or alterations except for the (slightly) later pots. The thin (for the 1970s) lacquer finish has general dings and dents, with wear through to the wood on the upper armwear zone, lower cutaway and around the switch (somebody must have switched pickups a lot!). The edges and cutaway horns have some deeper dings and dents while the back has a noticeable belt buckle spot on the upper waist extending down to the aluminum center, which has attendant scuffing.

The plating has some minor wear, most notable on the lower string saddles. The back of the neck has only a very few tiny dings in the metal. The original jumbo frets and ebony fingerboard show surprisingly little wear, this metal-neck marvel plays excellent and sounds fantastic. While it has a played in feel with a slightly smoked vintage patina to the koa body, the neck still feels timelessly modern. The original HSC is included, fairly well battered but still functional. Excellent - Condition.