Golden Age

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Taylor’s 50th anniversary is a testament to passion, perseverance and innovation — plus the power of a great partnership.

Taylor Guitars co-founders Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug have come a long way since they embarked on their guitar-making journey together back in October of 1974. At the time, Bob was 19, Kurt was 21, and after teaming up with a third partner, Kurt’s childhood friend Steve Schemmer, to buy the American Dream guitar-making shop where the three had been working, they were excited to forge their own path in the guitar world. They had big dreams. They also had a lot to learn.

“Things were hard for a really long time,” Kurt says. “We had to learn everything. How to build guitars. How to sell guitars. How to build a business.”

But as Bob remembers, he and Kurt were fully committed to finding success.

“Kurt and I had this idea that if we were diligent in our work, tried to make good decisions, and each got better at what we could offer, maybe in ten years we’d have a viable company,” Bob recalls.

Bob had already established himself as a skilled, driven guitar builder while at the American Dream, so he became the lead designer and builder in their new venture, though initially, the building process was a collective effort.

“Steve did the finish work,” Kurt says. “I built the guitar bodies and sold the guitars. Bob made the necks and strung up the guitars after being finished.”

“We grew very comfortable with the idea of going outside our comfort zone.”

A Fresh Chapter

After nine years of scraping by and learning from their mistakes, Bob and Kurt bought out Schemmer in 1983 and carried on as a two-man partnership, more determined than ever to turn the corner and be able to pay themselves on a regular basis.

From the beginning, Kurt had a natural aptitude for the business side of things and a drive to learn how to sell — something Bob wasn’t particularly interested in. He was more focused on developing better ways of making guitars. That delineation became an important dynamic of their relationship and set the foundation for the company’s future success: Bob would focus on making guitars and the tooling for them; Kurt would focus on selling them, building the business, and establishing the brand. The arrangement played perfectly to each of their strengths and passions, and they held each other accountable.

Bob Taylor

Kurt Listug

They shared other attributes that served them well: gritty resilience in the face of adversity; a belief in innovative, problem-solving thinking on both sides of the company’s operation; and the ability to take the long view in their decision-making, as Kurt explains.

“Even if a long-term decision required us to go outside of our comfort zone,” he says, “if it was for the sustained success of the business, we’d do it. We grew very comfortable with the idea of going outside our comfort zone.”

Forward Momentum

Over time, Bob and Kurt transformed their small guitar shop into a world-class manufacturer without ever having to relinquish ownership control. Bob figured out how to make acoustic guitars easier to play with slimmer necks and a more comfortable setup. He also embraced modern tools and technology — often fabricating tools of his own to produce guitars more precisely, consistently and efficiently, with a feel and sound that appealed to players.

Kurt took countless road trips with a car full of guitars, logging thousands of miles, meeting with prospective dealers and slowly building a network of retailers who liked the playability of Bob’s wares. He also built a uniquely appealing brand identity for Taylor that tapped into the aspirational spirit of owning a high-quality guitar — an approach that was different from what other guitar companies were doing — that was inspired by what Harley Davidson had done for their motorcycles in their ad campaigns.

The rest is history. In the decades since, under Bob and Kurt’s stewardship, Taylor has continued to grow and evolve as a company and a creative culture. They’ve stayed true to their vision of inspiring people to play guitar by relentlessly innovating to enhance the playing experience. And they’ve continued to make decisions with the well-being of their employees, partners and the environment in mind.

In 2011, Bob hired Andy Powers to be Taylor’s next-generation guitar design architect, ensuring that guitar-making innovation continues to be a central focus in the decades ahead. The company has launched several pioneering forestry initiatives, including a scalable ebony planting program in Cameroon and the restoration of native forests in Hawaii, which includes planting koa trees for future guitars. And to preserve the company’s creative culture, Bob and Kurt put a succession plan in place by making Andy a partner in 2020, and in 2021, transitioning the company to 100-percent employee-owned. Andy is now President and CEO (in addition to his role as Chief Guitar Designer), while Bob and Kurt remain closely involved as senior advisors.

For his part, Bob, even while reflective, continues to look ahead.

“Here we are at 50 years, and not only am I delighted with our progress but humbled by the success of Taylor Guitars,” he says. “Fifty years is young for a guitar company, and there’s so much more to do. I’d like to say a sincere thank-you to our dealers and the players who’ve trusted us enough to buy our guitars over the years. It’s been a wonderful 50 years, and I’m not bored yet, nor too tired to keep going.”

Kurt is similarly grateful for the many people who have supported Taylor’s success over the years.

“We’ve had so many rewarding experiences and made lifelong friends over the past 50 years,” he says. “And like a lot of people our age, we have a lot of good stories to share. Many thanks to my lifelong partner and collaborator, Bob, my family and wife Jenny for their support, all our past and present employees, the many music shops that sell our guitars, and of course all the guitar players around the world who have enabled us to pursue our dream.”

From his perspective, Andy has enormous respect for what Bob and Kurt have accomplished and feels grateful for the opportunity to build on the company’s legacy through the role that has been entrusted to him.

“Fifty years ago, a couple of kids barely out of their teenage years decided to build some guitars, hoping they could someday do that as a living,” he says. “When they hammered their nail into the tree of music history, the music grew around this new addition and was forever changed for the better. Years later, and years ago, they asked another kid if I’d join in their journey. I feel fortunate to stand alongside Bob, Kurt and all the rest of us here at Taylor Guitars and say thank you to all of the players and enthusiastic dealers who have enjoyed the guitars we’ve made. We’re excited to start into the next 50 years and see what grows.”

As we like to say around the Taylor factory, the best guitar we make is the next one.

In Their Own Words: An Oral History Podcast with Bob and Kurt

Taylor’s milestone 50th anniversary year presented a golden opportunity to glean some of the company’s colorful history straight from the founders themselves. So, starting in 2023, we began recording a series of conversations with Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug about their partnership and approach to growing Taylor Guitars from a tiny guitar shop into a renowned guitar manufacturer.

Taylor’s Director of Sales, Dave Pelletier, interviewed the two, starting with their respective upbringings and early interest in music and guitars and progressing through some of the key moments of their careers, from meeting at the American Dream to setting out on their own to establish and grow Taylor Guitars into the company it is today. If you’re a Taylor fan, you’ll enjoy hearing Bob and Kurt’s personal stories, their philosophies of craftsmanship and business, and their insights about what it took to overcome the obstacles they faced to become an industry leader.

The series will be released episodically over the course of the year, and you can enjoy the conversations either as an audio podcast or via video. You can listen to the first episode below and check out our future episodes here.

A Timeline of Taylor Milestones

We’re also celebrating Taylor’s 50th anniversary with an historical timeline that highlights some of the notable moments and developments at Taylor over the past five decades. From game-changing guitar innovations that set Taylor apart to some of the artists who’ve played our guitars over the years, the timeline presents an informative chronology of Taylor’s evolution through the years. You’ll find an excerpt of the timeline on the pages that follow, with an interactive version at

The 50th Anniversary Taylor Limited Edition Guitar Collection

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