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Profile by Ford Burkhart



Travis Edmonson's legendary persona as a pied piper was not just something that existed during the Bud & Travis era.

Both before and after the group's existence, especially in his native Tucson, wherever he appeared, young people from the University of Arizona and various high schools around the city congregated at his shows and, of course, after hours in late-night coffee shops where he became one of the gang, and left his philosophy and spirit of goodwill in their minds and hearts.  Many speak of how he influenced their thinking in a positive way for the rest of their lives.

Ford Burkhart, now a staff editor of The New York Times , gives his own appreciation of Travis and his music here, linking its significance to all the years which have followed.


Fifty years later, the Travis stuff still works. Fifty years, it's true.

For those of us in high school in the 1950's, Travis has left a great legacy in his recordings. On a quiet night in 2008, there's nothing like letting the two classic CD's - Bud & Travis In Concert and Viva Travis -- play and transport you back to 1958 and 1959, the nights of milk shakes and souped up cars, and taking a lovely girl to the prom in a car you borrowed from dad.

What is striking for me is how the songs and the humor between Bud and Travis seem to evoke the American pop culture scene that followed for the next 25 years, and even through today.  The sharp timing of the Bud and Travis humor has clear parallels to the Smothers Brothers in the years to come, and each song seems to point in some way down the road to where American folk music was headed.  You can see how those songs and arrangements had their impact at the Hungry I or the Cafe Wha and clubs all along the roads in between.

Watch American Idol these days and you want to tell the singers to listen to these CD's and learn something about polished performance, sharp enunciation of words, respect for the culture behind the songs, and clever timing in arrangements.

The Travis concerts in 50's Tucson were for many of us an introduction to the Mexican and Spanish songs that were a part of this Southwest culture and south of the border for hundreds of years. His classic Guadalajara, Guantanamera and La Bamba come to mind.

Listening to the songs again, it's clear why those 1950's concerts were such a hit with our crowd at Catalina High School in Tucson, and at Pueblo, Amphi, and Tucson High Schools as well.  The guitar skills are exceptional, the Spanish songs are evocative and the banter always warm and refreshing.

It seems American teenagers had more energy in the 1950's -- and Travis's songs and performance style certainly captured and reflected that energy.

And in the next 20 years, it seems that American pop and folk performers inherited and passed along the energy from Travis's style. Listen to each song on the Bud and Travis In Concert CD and you can hear a few elements that were passed along in the music of many American performers.

Ford Burkhart & Ann Evans
Ford Burkhart today, pictured with his cousin Ann Evans, a a troubadour herself, a huge singer of pop and classical, the works;

Thanks to everyone who put together the In Concert and Viva Travis CD's.  They are often innocent and simple songs, and other times clear statements that will never lose their magical powers to take us to distant and treasured times and places.


-- Ford Burkhart, January 2008



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Ford Burkhart
Ford Burkhart in his Catalina High days. Doesn't he bear a strong resemblance to the young Travis Edmonson?


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