Martin Houseman, who roamed the world for many years on behalf of United Press International, knew Travis Edmonson from his youth, and they went on to be students together at the University of Arizona. (Be sure and read his charming tale about those times in the Recollections & Comments section.
Here he reminisces about high school days, some mutual acquaintances, and some songwriting stories.
I first met Travis Edmonson in high school, although our respective high schools were almost 200 miles apart. We teen-aged hoodlums from the mining camp of Globe frequently made the jaunt to Nogales, Sonora where anyone with a pulse, irregardless of age, could drink in the bars. Travis and his buddies became our "native guides."
One of his friends was nicknamed "Mickey Rooney" and he later inherited his father's salvage yard outside Nogales, Arizona. Another of Trav's friends was John Harker, the son of a medical doctor. John was fatally knifed by another prisoner in Arizona State Prison at Florence. (He had been a long-distance truck driver who "liberated" a 16-wheeler from one of his employers.)
The last time I saw Travis, in Roscoe's bar on North Central in Phoenix, in the late 60s I think it was, we talked about John and Gila Bend. It's hard to separate fact from fiction in the lives of legends like Travis, but he did shed light on two fuzzy episodes of his legendary life in our conversation about Gila Bend.
Travis told how the Kingston Trio had used a tune he had composed entitled "Hair-pin Turn at Gila Bend," which he had written in memory of his late high-school pal, John Harker. The Kingston version was "Dead Man's Bend" or something like that.
Also, Travis said that his song with the lyric, "bartender, hit me again" (was this Scotch and Soda? whatever it was, I recall that Nat King Cole recorded it) was composed in Gila Bend in tandem with a wayfaring stranger.
Travis said the large, beefy fellow, a traveling salesman, obviously had a musical background, but that he, Travis, had never been able
to track him down to get his name to share the credit with him.
They had been going in opposite directions on the highway, both had engine trouble, were towed to garages and found themselves in the only air-conditioned place in town. It was a piano bar and was empty in early afternoon except for Travis, the fat guy, who could play a little piano, and the bartender, who also offered contributions to the lyrics that the trio made up.
Accounts of this episode published decades later had both Travis and the stranger (said to resemble Jackie Gleeson) having fan belt ruptures and that their fortuitous encounter took place across the state line somewhere in Imperial County, Calif. east of El Centro.
Martin Porter Houseman
Photographer BOB ROSENBAUM recalls a cherished memory, and offers us a new picture of Travis Edmonson
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