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Guitar Talk: I Have a Metal Neck and My Name Is Travis

7th January 2011

For those that have followed me for a while, they know that I have a fairly addictive taste for writing. “Prolific”, for some odd reason, seems a bit of a pompous adjective, but I seem to be pumping out 2-4 articles a day across multiple platforms.

If you know me (and of course, you’re seeing the name of the blog in big whopping letters) you know I write about sports – mostly of the outside the lines variety. I’m that “BizballMaury” guy on Twitter, which was a concatenation of my company’s LLC name and, yes, my first name. It’s pretty clear I’m obsessed with sports.

But, for those that have known me for a long period of time, they’ll tell you my obsessions have run just as deep on other topics. As a kid and early teen,  it was motocross. As a late teen till now, it’s been guitars.

I took up playing one summer in Jr. High and immediately failed at it. For some strange reason, the following school year, I took to it like distortion to a Muff Fuzz. I took classes, learned to read music, and then went about ignoring the reading in favor of ear training, combing over albums to learn songs.

When I got to Portland, I began playing in the local music scene weekly, toured for a couple of years playing daily, and worked at more than one music store.

But, it was a certain music store in downtown Portland where I really started getting focused on vintage and rare guitars, mostly of the electric variety. The owner, who I will not name, was an obnoxious jerk that would gladly rip off any uneducated musician that walked in, but he gave me the assignment of cleaning and attending to the rare gems that hung high out of reach, only to be played by those that were serious and I mean in terms of how much money they had.

It was educational, and honestly, a bit lustful. Guitars are art to me – functional art. Some see them as worthy of hanging on the wall and are never played (which seems sacrilegious to me, but I digress).

So, in the first of what I hope is many columns on the topic, I’m going to bust out some known, and not so known, cool and valuable rods that I dig, and I hope you do too. Today, it’s about metal… as in neck.

I’m sure that other materials had likely been toyed with, but when Travis Bean partnered with Marc McElwee and Gary Kramer, the latter of whom would go on to start his own guitar company, in the mid-70s, they opted to try a aluminum necks that ran through the body. The cool thing was that the pickups, a unique humbucker design, was bolted to the neck-through body. The design did two things: It gave a wholly unique tone, that was more brittle, but it also gave the guitars incredible sustain. To add, with metal being the neck material, warping of them was a non-factor.

I never owned a Travis Bean, but had played many. They were unique, but still classy – the wood body was still made of quality materials and the wood-grained models showed that beyond the novelty of the metal neck, the designs were classic – most with a double-cutaway reminiscent of smaller horns on the Gibson ES=335.

According to Wikipedia, “around 3,600 guitars and basses were produced between 1974 and 1979.”

As mentioned, Kramer went on to start his own company in 1975, and while I did not own a Travis Bean, I did own a metal necked Kramer with three single-coils for a stretch.

The Travis Beans are highly coveted collectables. In searching eBay, the #1 Travis Bean is listed for (sitting down?) , $58,000.

They’re odd, cool, and classic. How I wish I was still sitting there in that guitar store cleaning and playing one.

2 Responses to “Guitar Talk: I Have a Metal Neck and My Name Is Travis”

  1. Maury Brown Says:

    I should add, one thing about metal necks… During the winters the one problem I had was when putting the guitar in say a trunk or back seat where it was in the cold. When going inside to a warmer location, the neck did what most other metals do; it would sweat — moisture would collect.

    This isn’t exactly what one wants on the back of a guitar neck. The moisture made it sticky.

    The lesson real quick was, carry it in the front seat closer to the heater.

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