image of Taylor co-founder Kurt Listug

Kurt's Corner

Another Grand Design

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A decade after the Grand Concert put Taylor on the map, the Grand Auditorium was born. The rest is history.

Last issue I wrote about the development of our Grand Concert body style, which was introduced in 1984 and fueled our growth throughout the remainder of the 1980s, introducing Taylor guitars to a lot of guitarists. By 1987, we’d outgrown our original shop in Lemon Grove, California. We moved to a larger shop in nearby Santee, outgrew it by 1992, and finally settled into a new build-to-suit building in El Cajon, where we remain today. The renewed interest in acoustic guitars that started in the mid-1980s, coupled with the popularity of our Grand Concert models, propelled our growth and led to the moves.

One of the artists who had discovered and was playing our Grand Concerts was country music star Kathy Mattea, who visited the factory in 1993 while she was on tour and in San Diego. Bob had been thinking about designing a new guitar, one that would be very balanced, like our Grand Concerts, but would be a little larger and louder, with more bass. While visiting with Kathy, Bob told her about his vision for a new guitar and offered to build her the first one. It was to become our Grand Auditorium.

Our Grand Auditorium was the right guitar at the right time.

In 1994 we introduced our Grand Auditorium in two different limited-edition 20th Anniversary models: the XX-RS, featuring rosewood with a spruce top, and the XX-MC, which paired mahogany with a cedar top. We followed these up the following year with six limited-edition Grand Auditorium models: the GA-RS (rosewood/spruce), GA-MC (mahogany/cedar), GA-WS (walnut/spruce), GA-BE (Brazilian rosewood/Engelmann spruce), GA-KC (koa/cedar) and GA-KS (koa/spruce). In the years that followed, the Grand Auditorium made its way into different series within our guitar line as standard models, including what’s considered by many to be the iconic Taylor guitar, the rosewood/spruce 814ce.

Our Grand Auditorium was the right guitar at the right time. A more comfortable body shape with modern styling, more balanced tone, an easier-to-play neck, with a cutaway and built-in pickup/preamp for amplification. All were innovations we had introduced in response to the market. The Grand Auditorium was instantly popular. It sold in huge numbers, helping propel our growth through the next 10 years, and remains our best-selling body shape. The Grand Auditorium is what most people think of when they think of Taylor guitars. I look forward to sharing more reflections in future columns about important developments that have helped build our company.

Speaking of reflections, 2021 was the greatest year so far in the history of Taylor Guitars. It was the first year of 100% employee ownership. We experienced the largest increase of business we’ve ever seen, the highest level of sales we’ve ever seen, the most Taylor employees the company has ever had, the most guitars we’ve ever made, the most guitars we’ve ever written new orders for, and the most guitars we’ve ever shipped in a day. I want to thank all our dedicated employee-owners for their hard work. The company is in good hands, for now and for the future.

I also want to thank all the Taylor guitar owners around the world for being such an important part of our growth over the years. We know that a lot of people have taken up the guitar for the first time recently, and we hope that all the new Taylor owners out there are enjoying their guitar experience. One of the goals of Taylor employee ownership is to remain focused on making the best possible guitars well into the future and continue to inspire people to express themselves through music.