I’ve been thinking. It seems like life might be comprised of small forks in the road. I also think you only know which were the most important ones when you look back. A month ago, an important fork in my road passed away. And I’ve been thinking about it. Not it, rather, him.
Here are some questions I get asked over and over: “Bob, what was the day you knew you’d make guitars?” “When did your big break come?” “What happened that changed it all?” “Did you always know Taylor Guitars would be this huge success?”
My answers are always, “None of the above.” I never felt like “this was the day it all started” or “this was the day it all changed.” It’s always been a progression, and often it felt like regression, or at least backwards progress if there is such a thing.
I’d always try to give a writer a big moment since they were waiting to hear, and relay, that in their story. Eventually I quit making moments seem bigger than they really were. But I had to figure out how to not be rude or uninteresting, so I would highlight important forks in my road — nudges that helped our progress in one way or the other. Recently I realized Mike Broward was my first fork, because without him, there’s a good chance there’d be no Taylor Guitars.
When I was in the third grade, about 8 years old, there was a kid across the street who played guitar. His name was Mike. He’d stand in his garage facing out to the street. He had an electric guitar and an amp with a mic plugged in, and he’d play and sing to the street. I think he might have been about 11 or 12 years old at the time. He was certainly older than me. I remember the songs he’d play. Some surf songs. Some early ’60s British rock ‘n’ roll — “Mrs. Brown, you’ve got a lovely daughter,” he’d sing, mimicking a British accent. I’d watch for as long as he’d play or until my dad called me in for dinner.
I bought a junky acoustic guitar from him for three dollars, and he taught me how to play “Green Onions.” Single notes. No chords. They came later when he taught me the chords to “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.”
That guitar fascinated me so much. How was it built? I had to know. It had painted-on binding that I sanded off and repainted. It wasn’t long before I sawed the neck off to keep it aside because I wanted to build an electric guitar like Mike’s, using that neck. That whole attempt failed.
Mike was a good boyhood friend who uncovered my love of guitars, and I tell you right now, I might not have found that love anywhere else at any other time. And when I think about it, that three-dollar guitar was cheap enough that I had no problem sanding it, painting it and sawing off the neck. What if it had been a good guitar? My life could have been very different.
Without Mike, there’s a good chance there’d be no Taylor Guitars.
I moved to a new neighborhood after knowing Mike for two years. I was in business for 20 years before we made contact again. And after that, over the past 30 years, we would write, say hi, try to get together.
Mike never left the guitar. He was a professional player and singer his whole life, right up until he passed away. He wrote, played and sang island music, beach music, weekend music. And he was good. His acoustic was a Taylor, and that made me proud. He passed away innocently; he got sick and died all within a couple weeks, to everyone’s shock.
Thank you to Mike Broward for being such a positive and important fork in the road for me. It’s only looking back that I feel this strongly about it, even though I’ve written about Mike many times. With the passing of Jimmy Buffett just a few weeks after Mike, we lost two Parrot Heads. I loved them both; they both brought us great music. But Mike brought me something else besides. If you’d like to listen to him, you can find him on YouTube.