Chandler Travis started playing music professionally in the mid-sixties with his college roommate Steven Shook. The two Boston University students formed a funny, folky duo named Travis Shook & the Club Wow. With Travis on bass and Shook on guitar, they soon developed a following for their irreverent, slightly off-center brand of musical humor. They played at colleges, folk clubs and were the opening act for a number of bands who played the Boston Tea Party. After a few years the , duo expanded into a four piece rock band, The Incredible Casuals, based on a bit where, well into their set, Chandler would introduce the two of them as The Casuals. “Hi, I’m Jack Casual,” and Steven would follow with “And I’m Jack Casual.” Soon after forming the Casuals, Shook left to work in the building trades, but would return occasionally as a guest performer. The Incredible Casuals were Travis on bass, Johnny Spampinato, from NRBQ, on guitar, Aaron Spade also on guitar and Rikki Bates on drums. They went on to play Sunday afternoons at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet on Cape Cod every summer for better than twenty-five years.
Travis relocated from the Boston area to Cape Cod where he formed the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, a large multi-horn band that has been described by one critic as “the missing link between the Kinks and Sun-Ra.” Chandler prefers to say they “Put the harm in Philharmonic.” In this group Travis sings, plays guitar, writes and arranges. A number of players in this ever shifting ensemble are faculty members at Berklee College of Music, a tribute the appeal of Travis’ songs and sophisticated arrangements. Maybe the lunacy is appealing as well. They play their gigs dressed in pajamas. From dixieland to free jazz to hard rock, they put on a remarkable show. And, always, there is Chandler’s faithful and attentive valet, Fred Boak, to assist with Chandler’s many costume changes and sing back-up as well.
When a stage can’t accommodate the many players of the Philharmonic, Chandler has smaller versions: the Philharmonette and the Chandler Travis Three-0, a trio plus, of course, the valet.
(by Fred Johanson)