Vintage Guitar - June 2018 - open - 44
John Veleno (b. 1934)
was a guitar player from
Massachusetts who moved
to Florida in '63, where he
worked with aluminum in
a machine shop and taught on
the side. He fabricated an aluminum guitar-shaped mailbox
to promote his sideline when
some wag suggested he make
a guitar out of aluminum. He
finished one in '67, and in 1970
began showing it to folks in the
burgeoning St. Petersburg rock
scene. Veleno guitars were carved
out of aluminum and plated in
chrome or other colors; John
stopped making guitars in '77.
Clifford Travis Bean (19472011) was variously a machinist,
metal sculptor, motorcycle racer,
movie-set builder, and rock
drummer. In '74, he hooked
up with Marc McElwee and
Gary Kramer to devise their
aluminum neck concept. Only
Kramer's account is available,
but he apparently financed the
operation and went on the road to
promote the guitars.
The concept behind Travis Bean
guitars was described in their first
brochure with a "manifesto" delving
into the technical reasons for the idea.
They argued that wood was inefficient, with
portions of the string vibration dissipating
into the headstock and body at the bridge.
In addition, they argued, most guitars use
pickups mounted in a plastic frame, which
isolates them from the body. Their solution
was to carve the head, neck, and bridge
mount out of a single billet of Reynolds 6061T6 aluminum, upon which the pickups are
mounted. This makes a single, dense, metal
base to control the entire string vibration
top to bottom, plus it isolates the strings
and pickup. All of this is set into a dense
chunk of Koa.
No reliable, detailed chronology of Travis
Bean guitars has yet been written. Guitars
began to be made in '74 at 11761 Sheldon
Street, Sun Valley, California, with the
patent filed in October. Anecdotal accounts
The back highlights the TB1000's aluminum "core."
place the TB1000S as first
guitar, followed soon by
the TB1000A Artist and TB2000 bass. The double-cut
Standard had a slab body,
while the Artist had a handcarved/arched top. The bass had a
slightly elongated offset body. The
first price list was dated March,
1975, and had the Standard at
$595, Artist at $895, and bass at
$655; a case ran $95.
This Standard (serial number
1210, circa '78) is a boss guitar.
The epoxy-sealed pickups are not
loud like a DiMarzio, but they're
clean and balanced, and the sustain is remarkable. Essentially,
this idea worked extremely well.
But, these guitars are heavy, and
that doesn't mean philosophically deep, as in "That's heavy,
According to Kramer, he returned from a sales trip to find
Bean had filed for a patent in his
own name - not all of theirs or
the company's. This precipitated