As some of you know I am a big fan of guitars NOT made out of wood. I think it's pretty silly we still make guitars out of it. It's a VERY inconsistent material that reacts badly under tension, humidity and temperature and no two bits are the same. Pretty silly to make something we expect to be consistent out of really ?
Travis Bean was a drummer and machinist from California, who, in 1974 decided to "fix" some of these issues but people had tried before, and since with similar ideas.
I used to own a Wandre that was AWESOME but due to my rule of not keeping stuff that doesn't get used, or hired, I sold it a few years back. I've owned a couple of Vaccaro guitars and I still own an old Kramer and I have made my own versions on this idea too. Here's the one that influenced me to make them myself.
I knew about Travis Bean years before being able to buy one as I remember seeing one in a guitar book and loving it from the second I laid eyes on it. Seriously, this is a GREAT shape and that metal neck and headstock........... so cool.
I didn't even understand the design or reason behind them, I just wanted one.
I had played a couple of TB's before I got this and even re-finished one for a guy in Brisbane and while I loved the concept, I was a little put off by the neck at first. It's not the material but the shape that I couldn't get on with. I'm ALL about necks and a guitar can have THE best sound in the world but if I don't love the neck, I don't love the guitar. I was amazed at how different every one I tried was ? I thought they'd be more .......... consistent than they were.
Bodies seemed to vary in thickness and weight dramatically and one TB500 I played I thought wasn't a very nice guitar at all.
With that said when the opportunity came up to buy one, unplayed, I took it. It was the right price and they are one of the few "modern" guitars that demand outstrips supply so I knew I could move it on if it wasn't "right".It is a TB1000S and is the most common version of all the Travis Beans made with just under 1500 being made between '74 and '79.
Well, when it turned up, it was RIGHT. This neck "seemed" to be better to my hands and the body was thicker than others I'd tried which balanced out the neck a little better than the thin ones I'd played.
It wasn't in "collectors" condition but it was still mostly original and had all the right bits. The only non original parts are three knobs (who cares) and someone had fitted a coil tap/phase mini switch to it at some stage near the pick up selector switch. I didn't care. I don't collect guitars for originality.
But the neck was good and the pick ups were original. That's all I needed.
I'm not sure of the exact year of manufacture but my guess would be '78/79 ? Anyone ? I'm also not exactly sure of the body timber if anyone can help there. It looks a little like a walnut but it's pretty light for it's thickness ?
Anyway, how does it sound ? That's the beautiful thing about these, and most metal neck guitars I've owned and built. I LOVE the sound of them. The sustain and attack is unequaled in the timber neck guitar world. I'm one of the few people I know who DIDN'T buy a TB because of Big Black/Steve Albini. I love the "idea" of the construction not anyone who's used them.
Travis went for a "through neck" style with the neck running back to the bridge whereas other manufacturers inc myself have gone for a more conventional bolt on style neck. I'm not going to go into the pros and cons here but to me it's THE NECK that I like, not the overall construction techniques.
It really is a work of art, as if all guitars aren't works of art. This really is an idea that should have taken on had it not been for conservative guitarists who buy brands rather than guitars. Sure, they have inherent problems like any other guitar but overall they're a GREAT design and a great idea.
The main complaint when they were released was the "feel" of the neck feeling too cold and not "organic" enough. This was an issue Kramer took on board when they produced aluminium neck guitars later after leaving Travis Bean. More on that later.
To me the necks don't feel odd at all. You get used to them instantly and if the guitar has been on a stage with lights on, they're usually NOT cold. That brings up the other issue. Aluminium has a certain instability with temperature and even good quality, billet necks like these can change in string pitch when they go from cold to warm, but hey, so can timber necks.
I don't play this as much as I should but I do offer this for hire and I must say, I'm surprised how LITTLE attention this guitar gets in the hire section. If someone was hiring a TB when I was playing more I would have been hiring it every second week.
I'll do some stories on some of my other metal neck guitars inc some I've made so stay tuned !!