Former Promotions Director for The Arizona Folklore Preserve, BONNIE BROCK recalls her very first Travis Edmonson concert, then fast forwards to some incredible and memorable jam sessions in The New Century.
I am one of those lucky people who saw Travis Edmonson perform live. But that first Travis concert was not in the 50s or 60s or even the early to middle part of the 70s. It was sometime in the early 80s (probably within just a few months of his aneurysm and stroke). I felt privileged to witness such a great talent.
But I didn't see him again until August 2001, when Travis came to the Arizona Folklore Preserve where I work as a volunteer.
It was definitely “Travis Day” at the AFP. Rose and Dolan Ellis were very excited about the visit, and I too discovered what an absolutely charming man Travis Edmonson is. In fact, Travis and Rose Marie have been my friends ever since!
Rose Ellis greeting Travis at the AFP, August 2001
Dolan's program that day included several songs in tribute to Travis: “Scotch & Soda,” “I'm a Drifter,” and “Malaguena Salerosa.”
Dolan, Arizona's Official
State Balladeer and original member of the New Christy Minstrels, founded the Arizona Folklore Preserve south of Sierra Vista some years earlier, and he's clearly stated that when it came to role models for his singing style, Travis Edmonson was definitely the very first.
Later, for a newspaper article I was writing, I called Travis on the phone one afternoon, and we talked for a full hour. In the mean time, Travis and Rose Marie have stayed at my home, and I at theirs. We also meet often in Tucson, and I am regularly on hand when he co-hosts “Valley Views.” I've grown to admire Travis for his spirit, his humor, and his encouragement
of other artists.
It seems like there is almost always a jam session when I see Travis with other musicians. He always takes an active part in these, and is a great "audient" too. (Remember the line on the "In Person at the Cellar Door" album?)
I also recall a particular concert, after which the entire group sang “America the Beautiful” with Travis standing tall (he is very tall) and singing loud and beautifully as well.
We had an Arizona Folklore Preserve Road Show in Tucson in March 2003, and the management of the Radisson Hotel allowed us to have a jam session in the lobby after the show. The music went on for a couple of hours. About 1:30 AM, Travis announced that he wanted to sing for us. He had been working with Bill Kamper, giving Bill guitar lessons on Travis' favorite songs. They began with “Sin Ti,” then went on to “Rayito de Luna” and “I'm a Drifter.” Some of the other musicians joined in, and it was a great Travis moment.
Travis Edmonson at a jam session, surrounded by Lessa Greenwood (back to camera) performing his song, "Lavinia's Parlor," Belinda Gail (on his right) and Rose Marie (on his left) among others.
The next day, Travis was eager for more jammin', and the occasion was a party at the home of one of the musicians who had performed at the Road Show, Tim Wiedenkeller
there is definitely a mutual admiration between Travis and Tim, one of the most talented musicians in Tucson, and third guest on “Valley Views “after Travis began co-hosting that TV show. It was altogether wonderful, especially when Tim shared his guitar with Travis. Tim played the chords while Travis did the famous huapango strum with his beautiful right hand, performing the song from Sonora, "A La Orilla De Un Palmar," after which Tim assured Travis that he would treasure the memory always.
In September 2003 Travis was kind enough to sing at some concerts and events in conjunction with my retirement from the Civil Service. Everyone understood that they were witnessing a great event as Travis sang an authentic Apache chant, then “Scotch and Soda” at the end of the first show, and a Travis original, “Wind Song,” at the end of the second.
As always, the dinner ended with a jam session. A young friend of mine, Elena Garcia, 19, has a really beautiful voice and a promising career ahead of her. She loves to sing both the Mexican songs and jazz. Elena had been playing Travis' albums all her life, and was absolutely thrilled to meet him and sing with him.
People at the party who did not know who Elena was, watched the two of them together and decided she must be his granddaughter, because the two of them (despite the fact they'd never met before) had such a wonderful rapport and sang together so beautifully. A highlight of that evening was their "Malaguena Salerosa," with Dolan Ellis playing guitar (as he had learned from Travis more than 40 years before).
Part of the Travis Edmonson display at the Arizona Folklore Preserve
I think the Elena element of this story is significant because it illustrates so much about the value of Travis and his music. He has influenced dozens of musicians in his own, and the following generation. That he is admired by a whole new one is a special tribute to his legacy.
I've met many seasoned performers who admire Travis greatly, and are pleased to find that he is so active. But even more exciting, is the fact that younger musicians, who missed the Bud & Travis era, have become fans by listening to the CDs that are now available.
Travis has brought a lot of joy to my life, both through his timeless recordings and through his friendship. And I have to include Rose Marie in my tribute too, because she is one of the loveliest people I have ever known.
The dear friend of Travis, this website and its founder, passed away on January 22, 2011 after a brave battle with cancer.
Travis and his pal Bonnie Br
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Travis Edmonson made his breakthrough with The Gateway Singers, resident group at the hungry i
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