September 23, 1932 - May 9, 2009
Travis Edmonson was a gift to the world, enthralling everyone who knew him or heard him sing - as part of Bud & Travis, The Gateway Singers and as a magnetic solo performer. Not just an entertainer, Travis Edmonson was inevitably also a profound source of inspiration to those who listened to his music.
Mixing that incredible vocal range with the ability to profoundly touch the heart or create an instant smile, he consistently drew each member of the largest audience into a direct one-to-one relationship.
To understand Travis Edmonson's extraordinary life, a look back at the beginning will reveal many links to the inspiring entertainer who captivated us all so completely.
Born on September 23, 1932 in Long Beach, California, Travis Jerome Edmonson's first sojourn as a Californian was short-lived, and from infancy to leaving college, he lived in southern Arizona, not merely a state of residence for him, but a virtual state of mind which affected much in his life, his career and his thinking.
He grew up in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, where his home environment was the springboard which developed an intellectual curiosity that flickers clear across the spectrum of his work.
The erudite forum reputed to be the dining table of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy would certainly have met a rival in the Edmonson household, which everyone remembered as a white light of scholarly inquiry.
Discussion of public, philosophical and cultural issues was inevitably part of the fare. His father was the first social wwelfare officer in southern Arizona and his mother a dedicated teacher renowned for her wisdom. There were three older brothers, all academically minded from their youth. Monroe became a distinguished professor of anthropology at Tulane University; Earlloyd followed his father into social work, and Collin was considered to be one of the finest educators of his time in classics, holding a chair at the University of Washington and being Secretary of the American School in Athens.
But they were avidly musical as well, each playing an instrument. Collin was a particular role model here (possibly for a later two-man act?), performing on the guitar and singing Mexican music with a friend. Credited as the single greatest influence in his entertainer brother's life, Collin Edmonson's knowledge and love for Mexican music was the foundation for the latter's own promotion of Latin songs.
Indeed, those melodies which wafted across the border were as much a part of family life as the cerebral discussion. But just a part. For the balladeer to be, however, music was everything.
He'd made his public debut at the age of seven at the local St. Andrew's Episcopal church where the family sang in the choir. His other youthful gigs were quite something else though. A favorite pastime was to cross the border and join with the mariachis at a variety of "colorful" venues in Nogales, Sonora, including the cave restaurant "La Caverna."
Starting out on simple instruments which the mariachis used, it was inevitable that Travis would gravitate to the guitar. His cousin Bud helped him with the basics, and with that alone, he was able to be in constant demand as a musician throughout secondary school.
It was also in his early teens that he began developing some of his other creative inclinations - writing poetry, drawing and painting, artistic activities which Travis pursued throughout his life.
After distinguishing himself as well on the basketball court at Nogales High School, he then transferred to Tucson High to complete secondary education. All the while his enthrallment with music was escalating, and he became proficient on a number of other instruments, the guitar becoming a constant companion.
It was during this period that Travis collected so many of the beautiful Mexican songs which became staples of his career repertoire - discovered traveling around Mexico, from recordings, and from those whom he performed with
These were not casual, but stirring experiences for the young musician, and the intensity of initial encounters with such melodies as "Malagueña Salerosa," "Caminante Del Mayab" "Rayito De Luna," "Sin Ti" and "La Vaquilla Colorada" audibly reverberated on and on in his moving performances of them as an adult.