Edmonson was born on September 23, 1932 in Long Beach, California, but grew up in Nogales, Arizona, just across the border from Mexico. At the age of 5, he briefly played the role of Curley on the TV show Our Gang. Edmonson began his singing career at age seven a member of the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church choir, where he sang with his three older brothers. He attended Tucson High School where he further developed as a singer and learned to play the guitar. After high school, Edmonson attended the University of Arizona, where he studied anthropology. Edmonson took a strong interest in Native American tribes, including the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, helping to produce a Spanish-Yaqui dictionary. As a result, in 1948, the tribe made him an honorary member. Travis studied other native communities, and even lived on an Apache reservation.
Edmonson did not graduate from the University of Arizona, but he "became locally famous for serenading college girls" and met first his wife while studying there. In the early 1950s, Edmonson served in the United States Army, before beginning his musical career in San Francisco. After singing solo, he joined a quartet, the Gateway Singers with Louis Gottlieb. In 1958, he left the Gateway Singers to form Bud and Travis along with Bud Dashiell, a friend of his brother. The two recorded eight albums in seven years and became quite popular, appearing at many nightclubs and on television, including a guest appearance on the show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The two played folk music, infused with the influence of Mexican styles that Edmonson enjoyed, particularly mariachi. After seven years together, the two split up and Edmonson continued to perform solo.
Edmonson was considered a folk music "pioneer" and influenced groups such as the Kingston Trio. Bob Shane, the only surviving member of the trio, said in an interview that he "idolized him," saying "he had command of the stage better than anyone I've ever seen." Edmonson suffered a stroke in 1982, after which he experienced health problems and performed little until his death on May 9, 2009 in Mesa, Arizona.
For his musical accomplishments, Travis was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Tucson Area Music Awards in 1995.
- Weber, Bruce (May 14, 2009). "Travis Edmonson, Influential Folk Singer, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
- Terrazas, Ana Luisa. "Travis Edmonson". Folk Era Records. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
- Levin, Carol Lynne (May 10, 2001). "Folk legend Travis Edmonson's contributions to Tucson are honored". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
- "Travis Edmonson – Folk singer, 76". The Philadelphia Inquirer. May 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-14.[dead link]