Two Historic Travis Beans with Connections to Jerry Garcia Land on Reverb

Travis Bean guitars and basses carry a special mystique for some players. These forward-thinking aluminum neck instruments first came about in the mid-'70s and while only built for a short stretch, they've since become the ideal once-in-a-lifetime guitar acquisition target in the minds of a devout following of heavy music players.

While Travis Bean himself is obviously the recognized name from the company's history, in many ways the real force behind the making of these instruments was Marc McElwee—the guitar tech turned designer who co-founded the company with Bean.

In recent years, Mr. McElwee has collaborated with aluminum neck scion Kevin Burkett of the Electrical Guitar Company to bring a new generation of Travis Bean guitars to the playing public under the Travis Bean Designs moniker. This week, Kevin and Marc are selling two original Beans from McElwee's private collection, both of which represent a unique slice of the Travis Bean legacy.

First up is a TB1000A serial #1779 that was custom made for Jerry Garcia. Jerry played multiple Beans with the Grateful Dead in the '70s including a famous TB500 model with three pickups and an onboard effects loop. This guitar was one of the few custom builds produced in the Bean workshop, and Jerry remains one of the brand's most iconic endorsees.

The TB100A that comes to market this week features a gamut of appointments not found on any other Travis Bean guitar: There's a full German carve on a hollow body with a Koa top, a factory original sunburst finish, and coil-tapped humbuckers. The neck is in the Bean Artist model profiles but with dot inlays, while the all-black back of the body carries a unique Imron-coated rear plate.

The guitar was not fully assembled and never made it to Jerry in the '70s, but was stored with all its parts until its recent assembly by Burkett and his team at EGC. Everything was done with the original components with the exception of the 500K CTS push-pull pots. You can read more about the assembly of the guitar on the Reverb listing.

The second guitar on the block this week is an example of the TB500, the smaller entry in the Travis Bean catalog and the one you can see in the hands of Steve Albini. This model was originally intended as a more affordable offering for the high-end brand and originally carried a lower price tag than the rest of the Bean guitar line. Far fewer were made though, and on today's market, the TB500s typically sell at higher prices than the more common TB1000S and TB1000A.

The TB500 was made in two different runs and with somewhat differing shapes, and this guitar comes from the much rarer first batch that included only 20 guitars. This guitar is serial number #14 and since Bean serials started at #11 it would be the third one built. The first two were sent to Jerry Garcia, but this third one was kept by Marc as his personal instrument and has remained virtually unplayed since. According to Burkett, only one other has ever come to market in this condition, which was another kept by an original Bean employee.

To see the listings for these rare Beans, check out the Electrical Guitar Company shop on Reverb.


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