Travis Bean 1947-2011

MusicRadar is saddened to report that the legendary American luthier and machinist Travis Bean passed away on 10 July at his home in Burbank, California following a long battle with cancer.

Clifford Travis Bean rose to prominence in 1974 when he partnered with Marc McElwee and Gary Kramer and began marketing high-end electric guitars and basses with innovative machined aluminium necks.

Early adopters included the likes of The Grateful Dead, while in the following decade, Travis Bean instruments became popular with underground noiseniks such as Steve Albini and Sonic Youth.

We asked former Nirvana and Foo Fighters guitar tech and current Wire Instruments mainman Earnie Bailey to pen a few words on a man who was a lifelong hero:

"Travis Bean was an iconoclastic luthier and inventor who along with co founder Marc McElwee, designed and built guitars and basses of impeccable standards during a time when American manufacturers were struggling to produce a decent instrument.

"Today their innovations and influence are at the core of a thriving music sub-genre, over thirty years after Travis Bean closed the factory doors.

"The subject of the documentary Sustain in current production, Travis Bean guitars are and were played by a diverse clientele which includes Keith Levine, Joe Perry, Steve Albini, Slash, Duane Denison, Stanley Jordan, Lee Ranaldo, Ron Wood, Bill Wyman, Keith Richards, Mick Karn, Tim Midgett, James Honeyman Scott, Roger Fisher, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weston, Rick Nielsen and Ace Frehley."

In addition, Hank Donovan from told us:

"Travis Bean designed some of the best instruments to ever grace this planet. The Travis Bean guitar and bass had the perfect mix of functionality backed by power and all wrapped in elegance. He designed the guitar to be played loud and to never fail, in which he succeeded.

"To me though, Travis Bean was an incredibly generous human being, with a witty and hilarious sense of humour. He was passionate in what he believed in, and that passion, through Travis, was incredibly contagious. I have to state, that Travis Bean Guitars would not be what it is without the crew of brilliant people he was with. Those people believed in the passion that Travis was preaching; to build the best guitars ever.

"On a personal note, I would call Travis a close friend of mine. I had the opportunity to really get to know him, and understand his struggles. We originally talked about guitars, but soon, we would just talk about life and music. I will miss those conversations, but I find comfort that his legacy will live on."

Travis is survived by wife, Rita, son, Darren Miller, daughter, Dawn Norvell, and grandchildren David and Ashley Miller, Michael Thorne, and Jenell Norvell. A memorial will take place on Saturday 23 July in Studio City, CA.

In addition, was created and launched by the maker of the documentary, Sustain, to help Travis' widow with years of medical bills. Check out the following teaser trailers for the forthcoming Sustain documentary movie here:

Chris Vinnicombe worked with us here on the MusicRadar team from the site's initial launch way back in 2007, and also contributed to Guitarist magazine as Features Editor until 2014, as well as Total Guitar magazine, amongst others. These days he can be found at Gibson Guitars, where he is editor-in-chief.