Mi amor, mi coraz?“n
TRAVIS EDMONSON IS GONE
By Manuel C. Coppola
Published Friday, May 15, 2009 12:22 PM MDT
Travis Edmonson, a musical ambassador for the border region and the Southwest lost his battle to a series of illnesses including Parkinson's and lung cancer on Saturday, May 9, in a Mesa hospital. He was 76.
“He had tortillas in his chromosomes,” said Douglas native Mike Bartlett, a family spokesman and longtime friend. “He got so much out of the border land and the people and took so much of it out into the big live world in the U.S. He introduced the music and culture (including) huapango ??“ which most people could not even pronounce ??“ and opened a lot of eyes.”
Edmonson was born on Sept. 23, 1932, in Long Beach, Calif., but was raised in the family's home in Nogales, Ariz., where Nogales High School art teacher James “Sonny” Peters and his family now reside.
Edmonson was in Nogales in December 2006 and was honored as Grand Marshal at the Christmas Electric Parade sponsored by the City of Nogales. Mariachi Batiz serenaded him at the Americana Hotel and the celebration continued at Peter's home on MacNab Drive.
“We had a great time,” said Peters, a local music legend in his own right. “He got very nostalgic as I gave him a tour of the house. When he saw the bathroom with the original claw-foot tub, he said, `I took a lot of baths there ??“ every Saturday whether I needed it or not.'”
After majoring in anthropology at the University of Arizona for two years,
Edmonson wrote the only existing dictionary of the Yaqui Indian language ??“ this after actually living with the tribe for a year. He is most famous, though, for his Mexican and American folk songs.
"Travis influenced countless top musicians, and at the same time was a cultural icon, totally immersed in the Mexican, Native American, and cowboy folklore of the Sonoran Desert," said Bill McCune who was producing a documentary on Edmonson in 2006.
His father Everett worked for the county and his mother, Lillian. was a teacher.
It was during his formative years in Ambos Nogales, when a blurry boundary separated the United States from Mexico, that Edmonson began hanging out with mariachis and learned to play the guitar huapango style.
"Growing up here gave him an appreciation and understanding of Mexican people as well as their music," said Bonnie Brock, who was assisting McCune in the production. "As a young child, he sang in the (St. Andrews) Episcopal Church's choir on Sundays, and was seen across the border, singing with the best of the mariachi musicians at La Caverna.”
He attended Nogales schools through his sophomore year and then graduated from Tucson High School. Edmonson consistently made his fans aware of his hometown.
"Even when he was at the top of his popularity, as half of the Bud and Travis duo from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s, he always managed to mention Nogales whenever he was on stage," Brock said. "Those plugs for Nogales were even included in some live recordings of his concerts."
Edmonson joined the Gateway Singers of San Francisco and toured with them for several years before he and Oliver "Bud" Dashiell formed the folk duo Bud & Travis.
In 1982, he suffered a brain aneurysm and a stroke that derailed his career.
“Travis was a millionaire many times over,” said lifelong friend and former Nogales Councilwoman Jamelle Simon. “But he was not a good manager.”
The stroke left him practically broke and with no health insurance.
So Simon, Greg Scott, a local educator and other friends and fans organized a fundraiser at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Sonoita, featuring Chuck Wagon and the Wheels.
“We raised $10,000,” said Simon, whose first performance with Edmonson was when she was five years old in a production of Tom Thumb's Wedding, organized the Nogales Woman's Club.
“The barbecue fundraiser paid for his therapy and if it hadn't been for that
therapy, I don't think he would have come through,” Simon said.
The Tom Thumb production was not the last time Simon and Edmonson would share a stage. “In college we would entertain together for benefits at the UA hospital and other benefits. Later when he would come around he would invite me on stage.”
Addressing the troubadour's lifestyle, Simon's voice trailed off a bit. “I met
all (four) of his wives. He really never wanted to hurt anyone's feelings and so he avoided conflict,” she said referring to his four strikeouts with marriage.
“I would not call him a Don Juan, he just loved people, and women seemed to flock around him,” Simon said. “I am grateful for Rose Marie” Heidrick, who was a longtime companion of Edmondson. “She really loved him and stuck by him.”
In addition to Heidrick, Edmonson is survived by a son, Steven, of San
Francisco; and five daughters: Ellen Murphy and Erin Kissel, both of Tucson; Elizabeth Edmonson of Las Vegas; Tammy Edmonson of San Francisco; and Linda Schneider, who lives in the Midwest.
Services will be private. Bartlett said a public memorial will be scheduled
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