College and Army Years
Despite his passion and talent for music, when he attended the University of Arizona, it was not music, but anthropology that Travis Edmonson chose as his major. Its kinship with his hobby of archaeology, as well as a deep and abiding interest in local culture, made the subject almost as natural a choice.
There were, nevertheless, many musical highlights to the college years, and one of these seems only to be enhanced in the re-telling.
Roger Smith, a friend from early school days, was Travis Edmonson's singing partner in those days, before becoming a Hollywood heartthrob and starring in the hit TV series “77 Sunset Strip.” One might say that they were both famous and unknown, and thus their act became legend.
What a gig it was! A long-running one at that. The two made it a regular practice to slip into the shadows outside the women's dormitories and sororities late in the evening, and serenade the ladies with Latin songs.
The picture is so evocative and ultra romantic, it is sure that not one of the girls (all of whom would now be in their seventies) must think of those nights still without a little flutter.
All wasn't clear sailing though. House mothers would often call the police to disperse the intruders, but the usual outcome was that the local gendarme would just stay and listen to the music too. Certainly one would have to have a soul totally stripped of poetry to regard these delightful minstrels and their moonlight concerts as a nuisance.
Travis Edmonson was becoming more and more determined to sing and play the guitar professionally, and he and Roger Smith put together an act which they took on stage with great success. It had been a tough decision to make, going public with their music, and revealing the identities of the elusive and romantic swains whose voices stole hearts from the shadows.
Playing a repertoire of Mexican music, they not only won the University of Arizona talent contest, but also went on to triumph on Horace Height and Ted Mack competitions, the top national talent searches of the day.
It was also in his sophomore year that he took up serious study of the guitar under Luis Ramirez, a former pupil of Segovia. This represented Travis Edmonson's first formal instruction on the instrument, and provided the foundation for a career which took him to the highest levels in show business.
While his gift for `the family business' has been cited countless times, in the end, a decision was made not to take up teaching as a profession, and to let his unique voice carve the path for his life's journey.
Following college, Travis Edmonson served his military obligation, beginning in the infantry, and graduating to Special Services. A spot on the “Arlene Francis Soldier Parade” in New York then led to a long-running stint at San Francisco's Purple Onion.
Soloist and Part of The Gateway Singers
While developing his solo act to include more traditional American material, he was invited by Lou Gottlieb to join the newly formed Gateway Singers in 1956. He was touring with them in 1958 when he once again encountered Bud Dashiell in Los Angeles. Their chemistry together made a departure from the popular quartet inevitable, and brought the dawn of the B&T era.
In 1958 Travis Edmonson formed the duo Bud & Travis which represented the richest of the crem de la crème in folk music. In terms of musicianship, repertoire, style and sheer performance magic, Bud & Travis were among the most exciting acts of the sixties.
The development of the duo was something Travis Edmonson guided with great care and attention to detail during their rise to fame in 1958 and 1959, continuing to lead with an eclectic range of material, always spiced with a strong element of Latin sounds, during the following two glory years before he went solo again in 1962.
Travis Edmonson re-launched his solo career in 1961 with quite a distinction. When Frank Sinatra formed his own record company a few months earlier, his admiration for the folk singer made it a natural choice to sign him as one of the very first artists to appear on the new label.
From this heady beginning, being one of the initial members of the Reprise roster, Travis Edmonson resumed a solo career for the next two years until the demand for more Bud & Travis music prompted a reunion with his former stage partner in 1964.
In 1962, following a successful year as a solo artist, Travis Edmonson again began making records and touring internationally with Bud Dashiell.
It was a mellower, more easy-going Travis Edmonson which lead the partnership now, with an ever-broadening repertoire reflected on the three albums released during this period, culminating in, the treasured and tasty “Latin Album” which he produced himself.
Despite their onstage compatibility, disguised as friendly bickering, like so many of the great folk acts of the 60s, each decided that the time had come to graze new grasses, and to the desolation of their many fans, the partnership broke up for a second and final time at the end of 1965.
While the chance to make personal contact with his many fans across the US definitely had a special appeal for him, Travis Edmonson always found the rigors and touring schedule demanded of artists of his stature to be a major downside of the professional success Bud & Travis enjoyed.
A free spirit with a love of the landscape and peoples of the South West, he sought a compromise which enabled him to ply his trade, but at the same time enjoy the cultural riches and history of his native soil.
He limited his touring to what suited him, and set up shop in his `second' home of Tucson, Arizona from which base he spent the next 16 years singing, writing and collecting the lore of the land, both as a solo artist and, from time to time, appearing with other musicians, including his talented son, Steve Edmonson, the noted blues guitarist.
In 1982 Travis Edmonson suffered a traumatic stroke brought on by an aneurysm which left him paralysed on the left side, and disastrously resulted in his inability to continue playing the guitar.
The indomitable spirit, however, remained untouched by the catastrophe, and throughout the two decades which have followed, he has continued writing both songs and poetry, mentoring new artists, and inspiring all those who make his acquaintance.
In the 2001 and 2002, three new Travis Edmonson solo CDs were released by Folk Era Records, and with the renaissance of interest in Bud & Travis, new audiences have been treated to a chance to hear the legendary singer again performing live.
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Travis Edmonson made his breakthrough with The Gateway Singers, resident group at the hungry i
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If you're in Arizona, you can experience their music live, and even have them perform at an event you're arranging. But music lovers all over the US and beyond can experience the great STREET MINSTRELS sound on CD. Just go to www.streetminstrels.com to hear them and get ordering info!