Scores written, a style of guitar playing named for him, generations influenced, and songs included in the seemingly universal lexicon of American pop songs that everyone knows. These are, of course, just select generalizations of a few of the gifts that Merle Travis contributed during his long and illustrious career. If you’re a regular visitor to our site or simply enjoy learning about musical history, you may also be aware of how important Travis was to Paul Bigsby. Without Travis, it is plausible that Paul Bigsby would not have created his True Vibrato–but before that, he may not have even started building instruments! A shared love of motorcycles brought them together and we are all reaping the benefits of this relationship. Seemingly both Travis and Bigsby had a ‘can-do’ attitude which may have been part of the powerful bond that helping create not only the first ‘vibrato that worked’ but arguably the first solidbody electric guitar. MUCH more information is available in Andy Babiuk’s book The Story of Paul Bigsby Father of the Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar
The Story of Paul Bigsby
Travis was a native of Muhlenberg Country Kentucky, and the folks at Kentucky Educational Television (KET) created a documentary of him for their series Kentucky Muse. A bit of background on the series from their website details that ‘Kentucky Muse celebrates the world of creativity found within the Bluegrass state. It offers thoughtful and provocative documentaries on artists, issues, events, and places that reflect Kentuckians’ diverse and exciting means of expression while offering a fresh perspective on contemporary artistic life.’ Without a doubt, the story of Merle Travis certainly deserves to have the documentary series examine his life. A multi-faceted gent whose interest spanned many areas and whose gifts seemed boundless. Grab your favorite snacks, sit back, relax and enjoy this fascinating look at one of the greats—Merle Travis: Guitar Man
Be sure to look for the little Bigsby/Travis guitar silhouette when names are introduced on the bottom of the screen–we’d recognize that shape anywhere!
Learn more about Kentucky Muse on KET HERE.