When Taylor Guitars was founded in 1974, its young owners knew little about running a business. Nineteen-year-old Bob Taylor was a self-described "wood-shop nerd," who used the guitars he’d made in high school as his resume for his first guitar-making job at a shop called American Dream. When the owner of that shop decided to sell out, Taylor and two other employees, Kurt Listug and Steve Schemmer, decided to buy it—as it turned out, the sale did not include the rights to the American Dream name, which was a bitter disappointment to the green businessmen.
That first year, the young entrepreneurs managed to make six guitars. By 1975, Taylor Guitars had made 36 instruments, including the 810, a six-string, rosewood dreadnought with the company’s trademark mustache-shaped bridge. Serial numbers that year began with the number 10, to denote the firm’s first full year in business. Output jumped to 168 instruments in 1976 (with serial numbers beginning with the number 20), but Taylor Guitars was struggling to make ends meet. One of its most pressing worries was the money due for a batch of Indian rosewood it had purchased from none other than Martin guitars.
But despite such concerns, 1976 was also the year of the company’s first big break. That came when McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica agreed to carry the Taylor line. The next year, Taylor came out with its 700 series guitars (they were less expensive and featured less abalone inlay than the 800s), as well as a new 900 line (a pricey, bird’s-eye maple guitar). Collectors will note that serial numbers on Taylor guitars made in 1977 changed from five digits to three mid-year.
In 1978, Taylor introduced two more affordable guitar lines, the 500s and 600s, both of which had mahogany bodies. Then lightning struck when Neil Young, vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second. Taylor Guitars subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps." To this day, Young still performs with his vintage Taylors, which may explain why Bob Taylor has only one artist’s photo on his office’s wall—Neil Young’s.
Today, Taylor guitars are played by an incredibly diverse lineup of artists, from k.d. lang to Prince to Bonnie Raitt. In addition to six- and 12-string dreadnoughts and jumbos, the company also makes a line of smaller Baby Taylor and Big Baby guitars, several acoustic/electric models (the T5 has earned rave reviews), and it even has a line of solid-body electrics.