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Guitarmaker Bob Taylor has become synonymous with acoustic guitars since his early days of working out of a small San Diego workshop, fittingly named The American Dream. In Guitar Lessons, the focus is more about growing a world-class guitar business from the ground up than how Taylor developed his craft. Since starting Taylor Guitars in 1974 with his business partner Kurt Listug, Taylor has had his fair share of ups and downs. One of the more notable stories from the early days is when Taylor made a trip to the Martin guitar factory and had an epiphany as to how to better streamline his own production process and get more finished guitars out the door.
Throughout the book, Taylor touches on topics ranging from hiring the right employees to developing and implementing new production technologies. A particularly interesting story happened during the early ’80s, when acoustic guitars were losing popularity and many manufacturers were drastically scaling back production—some almost to the point of going out of business. During this time, Listug hit the road with a load of Taylor guitars (likely the precursor to Taylor’s Road Shows) and proceeded to develop long-lasting relationships with independent dealers all over the country.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is how it’s arranged in a series of short anecdotes with each one offering a guitar-guru tidbit or some nugget of entrepreneurial advice. The chapter on artist endorsements provides an inside look into how these associations come together. From Neil Young using a Taylor 12-string in Rust Never Sleeps to Prince’s purple axe in the “Raspberry Beret” video, Taylor Guitars have been associated with some big artists. Taylor writes in an honest way how he started to work with these artists and why marquee names don’t always translate into marquee sales. Thankfully, Taylor’s conversational tone turns what could easily be a dry business book into a much more entertaining read.