We had the good fortune of connecting with Bill Travis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bill, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Mesa did not have a theater for live music that specialized in top-level jazz and blues music, the music that originated in America. I felt there was a void to be filled so I formed an Arizona non-profit corporation and applied for the IRS 501(c)3 exemption so the theater could attract sponsors who also wanted to preserve and present that music in Mesa.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I was a high school dropout who was drafted into the Army in 1953. I studied and passed an audition to be accepted into the 4th Armored Division Band, and that’s when I learned that one could succeed if they set high goals, visualize achieving them, and work hard to reach them.
So, I got my education, began flight training, and eventually became a Captain for Pan Am Airlines where I had a 28 year career until retirement age in 1992.
I’ve been a musician, drummer, all my life, so after retirement, I formed my own 17-piece band and several smaller ones that I booked and performed with for 10 years in the San Francisco area.
After relocating to the Phoenix area in 2004, I gave up playing drums and did some other projects. During that time I wrote two books: “Pan Am Captain, Aiming High”, and “HOA Boards, What you need to know but weren’t told”.
While volunteering at a local community theater, in the sound department, I was asked to book some of the performances. After a while I decided to leave and start booking performances on my own at another venue. Due to Omicron, I had to shut down, and during the down time, I decided to put together a board of directors to develop a non-profit theater specializing in jazz and blues utilizing top-level local, and nationally known performers.
Our Grand Opening Extravaganza for our Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater is scheduled for October 2, 2022. At that special show, we will celebrate the 86th birthday of legendary blues performer Big Pete Pearson, and my 89th birthday, with a star studded group of performers consisting of three bands and four vocalists.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My long time friend, legendary drummer Mike Clark, is coming out from New York on October 7 to perform in a four day event at our Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater. The event will consist of two concert days, one drum clinic day and one day of private drum lessons. While he is here, we plan to take him to Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction so he can see some of the actual desert we live in.
He wants Mexican food, so we’ve been trying out various Mexican restaurants to take him. So far, the one who has the best food, service, and atmosphere is Garcia’s at Gilbert and University in Mesa.
For Italian food we plan to take him to Alicia’s restaurant, which is next door to the Connect Church where we have our concerts.
On one evening we will take him to the Nash, the jazz venue in Phoenix so he can hang out and meet the people there. If he had another day here, we would take him to the Musical Instrument Museum, but that will have to be for his next visit.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife, Dee, has supported me unconditionally all throughout our marriage when I would take on projects that seemed impossible. I owe all of my successes in projects to her.