Travis Wammack


photograph of Travis Wammack

I. Travis Wammack (born November 1946 in Walnut, Mississippi, United States) is an American rock and roll guitarist from Memphis, Tennessee. He began his professional music career when he wrote and recorded his first record at the age of eleven. A child prodigy, Wammack's first record was issued when he was twelve years old and at 17 he hit the American charts with "Scratchy", an instrumental which peaked at #80 in 1964 Wammack got work recording at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the 1960s and in 1975 released a solo album which generated two hits in the U.S. "Easy Evil" (#72; written by Alan O'Day), and "(Shu-Doo-Pa-Poo-Poop) Love Being Your Fool" (Billboard Hot 100 #38; written by Jerry Williams, Jr. and Charlie Whitehead.

He was Little Richard’s band leader from 1984 until 1995. He wrote "Greenwood, Mississippi" which Richard recorded in 1970, featuring Wammack on lead guitar. In 1988, Richard recorded Wammack’s “(There's) No Place Like Home“, planned as a new single, but shelved. It is featured on an Australian DVD of a 1989 concert, “Giants of Rock and Roll”. Still performing, Travis now works with Muscle Shoals Music Marketing, and has added record producer to his resume. He is a member of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and in 1999 Wammack received the Professional Musician Award from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. In 2005, he was inducted into The Southern Legends Entertainment & Performing Arts Hall of Fame. In May 2006, Gibson Guitars presented Travis with a new Gibson ES-335 guitar as part of their documentary honoring legendary Gibson ES series players.

Wammack performed with Billy Lee Riley and with Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers at Newport, Arkansas's annual "Depot Days Festival" on September 27, 2008. On August 30, 2009 at the Silver Moon in Newport, Arkansas, Wammack again played with Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers, and with other bands, at the Billy Lee Riley benefit concert, which was held to defray expenses incurred by Riley's family due to his long and losing battle to cancer. Riley died on August 4, 2009. Wammack continued to frequently perform at the "Depot Days Festival", including on September 30, 2017.

Wikipedia: Travis Wammack

II. Besides being able to pick his Gibson 335 at close to the speed of light, just what was the secret to Memphis guitar genius Travis Wammack’s sound? “I used A tenor banjo strings for my G string,” says Wammack, “I’d go into clubs and look at the picker’s guitar and if he didn’t have an unwound third string I knew I could burn him up. I could get the stretchy sound and lay some funk on him.”

And burn he did, from his Eddie Bond-sponsored debut recording on Fernwood Records (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Blues”) at age eleven clear through session work in Muscle Shoals and, most recently, holding down the guitar chair in Little Richard’s band. As if these accomplishments aren’t enough, there’s always the very thing that rock ‘n’ rollers love most about Travis Wammack: the series of recordings that he cut at Roland Janes’ Sonic Studios from 1963 through 1967. There were the originals; “Scratchy,” “Firefly,” “Tech-nically Speaking,” “Distortion Part 2.” There were the classics; “Night Train,” “Hideaway,” “Louie, Louie,” “Hallelujah, I Love Her So.” There was even one vocal number—the incredibly great “Try To Find Another Man”—that barely utilized Travis’s “Scratchy” guitar and still managed to be a complete work of genius. Generally backed only by bassist Prentiss McPhail and drummer Danny Taylor—a rhythm section that sounded like a freight train at full roar, and often moved just as fast—the teenage Wammack laid down a wailing pound of sound the likes and intensity of which will surely never be heard again. It’s almost impossible to grasp the fact that this much sound could come out of three people, but their ferocity of attack coupled with their sheer playing power made this band a true “power trio” years before the term came into usage.

When Janes tried to license a few of the cuts to Chet Atkins, the great picker refused them, flatly stating, “This scares me—I pass!” But Roland, having played guitar on every Jerry Lee Lewis hit at Sun, knew rock ‘n’ roll inside out and issued the tracks himself, denting the charts briefly with “Scratchy” in 1964. But by and large, Travis’s wild guitar workouts proved to be too crazed and ahead of their time even for the radical musical climate of the sixties. After a stint with the Bill Black Combo he concentrated on session work, first at Sonic and Hi and eventually at Fame, where he cut a pair of hits under his own name in the early ‘70s. Meanwhile, the Sonic masters languished for decades until they were finally issued by Bear Family and Zu-Zazz, blowing the collective minds of a whole new generation of guitar maniacs.

The Ponderosa Swamp: Travis Wammack

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