The following text is excerpted from an article in the ARIZONA DAILY STAR in connection with the release of the “Cloudy Summer Afternoon” LP.
Travis Edmonson leaned lightly on his cane as he made his way from the living room to the kitchen of his cosy paraphernalia-packed home. He sat down at the old wooden table, and presented his hot-off-the-press Bud & Travis “Cloudy Summer Afternoon” album under the soft light of the lamp.
“What does this mean?” Edmonson asked rhetorically, his face beaming a mixture of emotions only a half century of experience can concoct. “It means everything. It means I'm back in it again.”
Edmonson absently regarded his daughter Erin, playing with her dolls on the braided rug. He was listening to a 20-year old recording of him and his old partner Bud Dashiell singing “It Was a Very Good Year.”
“Listening to this is just like being up on stage again,” Edmonson said, more for himself than for us. “I thrill avell, as the Jewish expression goes, every time I hear this. It brings my heart right into my mouth.
Edmonson looked up, and his eyes were full.
Edmonson, 51, a former member of the Bud & Travis folk-singing team of the 50s and 60s, suffered an aneurysm in the spring of 1982. For many months no one knew if Tucson's Singing Ambassador of Goodwill would survive.
For weeks he was in a coma. He drifted in and out of consciousness while thousands of letters from well wishers across the country piled up in his room and his home. Edmonson didn't even know if the people who had come to visit him were really there.
Finally, Edmonson came around.
“!The most disgusting thing was, when I came out of the coma, my calluses were gone,” Edmonson chuckled. “That was the first time I could remember being without them.”
Music has, indeed, always been a part of Edmonson's life. As he grew up in Nogales, Arizona, he'd sneak across the border to hear the mariachis play, and was a little mariachi himself. During summer's on his uncle's ranch, the Cheer-Cow in the Chiricahua Mountains, he listened to the cowboys sing in the bunk house. The music he heard during these years stayed in his head, and provided the foundation for his life's work.
He came to Tucson in 1948to attend Tucson High School, and studied anthropology at the University of Arizona, but still managed to get in a little music. He, Roger Smith (later to become an actor and wife Ann Margaret's manager), and once in a while, Lou Murphy, would wander around campus, serenading the women under the windows of their dorms.
“They'd thrown roses, hankies, once in a while, an old boot.” The quasi-Juliets weren't the only ones peeved at the night time escapades of the young Romeos - who once were hauled in by the police, and forced to get a serenading license.
With all this excitement and intrigue stemming from music, it's no wonder Edmonson eventually chose it over anthropology.
Edmonson went from singing for the women to singing for the boys, during a brief stint in the Army Special Services. He estimates he performed more than 500 shows, and even appeared on the “Arlene Francis Soldier Parade Salute,” during which he barely got time to salute.
After military service, Edmonson settled in San Francisco, playing at the Purple Onion and hungry i clubs, both solo and with The Gateway Singers.
He remembered how the places where he worked and lived were infested with budding comedians like Lennie Bruce and the Smothers Brothers. “The Smothers Brothers used to live under us,” Edmonson recalled. “We thought they were trained apes.”
Edmonson met Bud Dashiell through his brother - the two were Army buddies. Bud came over to the Edmonson house one day, and “all we did was play Mexican songs for three days and three nights.”
When Bud and Travis became a working entity in 1958, Mexican music was included in their varied repertoire.
“I brought all that Mexican music to the fore, and he dug it,” Edmonson said softly. “I bless him for that.”
Bud & Travis have been categorized as a folk-singing duo, but they didn't fit the Pete Seeger sense of the genre. They tapped into music from a wide variety of sources: European, Latin American, Canadian. They also did originals, including Edmonson's “Cloudy Summer Afternoon” and songs like “Scotch and Soda.”
“It's all folk music, really,” Edmonson said. “Like I always say, I never met a mule that could sing.”
Bud and Travis toured constantly for four and a half years. “We only took off one day a year: Christmas,” Edmonson says. “We did shows anywhere and everywhere.”
Dashiell, in his liner notes for the “Cloudy Summer Afternoon” album writes, “The reason that Bud and Travis ceased was our business, nobody else's.” Edmonson explained it as “we burned out on each other.” They broke up in 1965.
Edmonson moved back to Tucson, and began singing cowboy music in clubs around town. He and Dashiell lost touch with each other.
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
May 6, 1984
The Cloudy Summer Afternoon LP now available on CD (click link at top of the page for more info
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Travis Edmonson made his breakthrough with The Gateway Singers, resident group at the hungry i
Be sure and check out the website celebrating the great San Francisco club at www.hungryi.net
For More of the best in 1960s entertainment, Click the logo above to check out the ultimate illustrated guide to "I Spy" with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby at www.l23.org