Travis Bean

Steve Albini, tuning the TB500 onstage

Clifford Travis Bean (21 August 1947 – 10 July 2011, aged 63) was an American luthier and machinist from California.[1]

In 1974, he partnered with Marc McElwee and Gary Kramer to start Travis Bean Guitars, which made high-end electric guitars and basses featuring machined aluminum necks.[2][3] This was an unusual design, departing from more traditional wood necked instruments. The aluminum center section ran through the instrument body, with the pickups directly mounted to the aluminum.[4] The majority of these instruments featured solid koa wood bodies and humbucker pickups. Though praised for their sound, the use of aluminum necks also made Travis Bean guitars heavier than other electric guitars. Models included the Artist, Standard, Wedge (rare), and TB500 (rare) with single coil pickups.

Kramer and Bean parted ways in 1975, with the former starting Kramer Guitars. The first series of Kramer guitars were redesigned aluminum-necked instruments but utilizing wooden inserts along the back of the neck to cut down on weight and provide a more traditional feel; these modifications also avoided patent infringement of Travis Bean's original neck design.

Around 3,600 guitars and basses were produced between 1974 and 1979.

In the late 1990s, Bean teamed with master machinist/designer B. Kelly Condon and produced a run of 24 high end, custom instruments. These guitars and basses were aluminum-neck instruments, each machined from a 125-pound billet of 7075 aluminum. The pans weighed just over 4 pounds when finished and all were serial numbered and identified inside the pan.

A documentary called "Sustain" about Travis Bean guitars and the individuals that built these historic instruments and the players that play them (past and present) was reportedly in development in 2009.[5]


Musicians who play or have played the Original Travis Bean guitars and basses

Guitar Players

Bass Players

See also


  1. Douglas Martin, Travis Bean Aluminum Guitar Maker Dies at 63, New York Times. Retrieved on 2011-9-26.
  2. Moseley, Willie (January 1999), "Travis Bean Interview-Metal Machine Music - The Next Phase", Vintage Guitar Magazine
  3. Wheeler, Tom. American Guitars: An Illustrated History. New York: Harper & Row, 1982, pp. 351-352
  4. Travis Bean Patent. Pat.No. 3,915,049 Issued: 10/28/75.
  5. Travis Bean Documentary - Sustain. Retrieved on 2009-12-24.
  6. Electrical Audio Steve Albini's Studio showing two TB3000 Wedges and one of his TB500 guitars
  7. We Still Got It video on YouTube music video showing the guitar
  8. The Jesus Lizard Photo from 7/19/98.
  9. Modern Guitars TB1000A reaches $312,000.
  10. Guitar Site Jerry Garcia TB1000A mention.
  11. Maverick Music Jerry Garcia TB500 mention.
  12. Stanley Jordan's Magic Touch Album Cover with his TB1000S.
  13. SPIN magazine At home with Stephen Malkmus.
  14. Woody Tone Photo of Joe Perry with Black TB1000S
  15. Foals Yannis playing Black TB500.
  16. The Sonic Youth Gear Guide. Retrieved on 2008-09-25.
  17. Sonic Youth Lee Ranaldo's Red Bullseye TB1000S.
  18. Tim Midgett with TB4000 Wedge
  19. Tim Midgett with TB1000S modified to Baritone
  20. Tim Midgett with TB2000 Bass
  21. Smoke Stack Lightnin Bill Wyman bio mentioning Travis Bean bass
  22. Hard Rock Memorabilia Photo of Bill Wyman TB2000
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