Breaking The Rules To Make Better Guitars And Help The Environment
It was just another ordinary day of work at a Southern California gas station for high-school kid Bob Taylor when his friend pulled up in a bronze Chevy van. As the van doors swung open and the radio blasted “Take It Easy” by the Eagles, it was Bob’s life that was in for a change. The song filled his ears, infusing him with a passion for music that would transform him into the world-renowned guitar maker, music industry innovator and environmental pioneer he is today.
Taylor grew up in a home in which members of his family created virtually everything around their house, from reupholstering their cars to making the clothes they wore. This creativity influenced him; from the age of thirteen, he was already winning state industrial arts expositions for his metalworking projects. The first guitar he ever made was in high school woodshop, where he settled on making a twelve-string, rather than a simpler six-string.
As Taylor explains, “Everything I ever owned I made. When I started making guitars it was this perfect storm of my two loves—the guitar and making things.”
As the evolution of rock music sparked the evolution of what would later become the world-renowned Taylor Guitars brand, it was The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Taylor and others who were fusing acoustic folk guitar with rock and roll in a way that Bob “had never heard before.” Those groundbreaking sounds literally shaped his approach as a guitar maker and player. As he soon became a leading industry innovator, Taylor spawned one revolutionary advancement in guitar-making after another, such as the bolt-on neck to allow for easier guitar repair and better intonation over a guitar’s lifetime, an eco-friendly, UV-curable finish, computerized routers, and the proprietary “Expression System” pickup system, to name a few.
Through the years, Taylor has kept a sharp focus on manufacturing innovations, but he has always been acutely aware of the environmental impact of his enterprise. An early pioneer of the environmental movement, he has continued the search for a greener approach to his art. Techniques such as the incorporation of the “NT Neck” with stacked heel and headstock have meant the use of less wood, for example. “When I think of a guitar, I think of trees in the forest, I think of a factory and people working the wood. I think of a retail store. I think of a player…The whole cycle from a tree to a song,” explains the guitar maker.
Taylor Guitars has even adopted several programs around the globe to ensure they are using sustainable practices in sourcing and harvesting their woods, including the Greenpeace Music Wood Campaign, which monitors forestry techniques from harvesting to how the wood is ultimately cut. For the last ten years, Taylor Guitars has also run a project in Honduras that monitors the low-impact harvesting and cutting of the mahogany the company uses for its instruments. “We are putting a lot of effort into the very genesis of where the wood comes from,” Taylor explains. Taylor also stays true to his “greatest good for the greatest amount of people” philosophy. Rather than keep his eco-friendly technologies from his competitors, Taylor freely shares his innovations with the rest of his industry so he can “affect the planet in a positive way.”
Today, Taylor Guitars has over 500 employees, maintains a worldwide distribution and runs factories in Southern California and Mexico. And though Bob Taylor has certainly come a long way since his guitar making ventures in high school woodshop, he has continued to tap into that same youthful passion that has driven him to challenge convention since the 70s. As Taylor Guitars now celebrates its 35th anniversary and spans several generations, a diverse array of top artists choose Taylor as their brand—from young country sensation Taylor Swift, singer/songwriter Jason Mraz, and new alt-rock icons Paramore to legends such as Neil Young, Gregg Allman, Prince, and Dave Matthews. Though the success of Taylor Guitars is due in part to its namesake’s unyielding innovation, the heart and soul of the brand owes itself to Taylor’s passion for music, which is as vibrant today as it’s ever been.