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PALM LATITUDES

CLOSE UP : Taylor-made

June 13, 1993|Sharon Whitley

A lot of teen-agers flirt with the idea of skipping college and running off to play guitar. Bob Taylor was a little more original. As a high school student in '72, Taylor told his parents that wanted to make guitars. His mom was distraught, but his dad merely looked over his newspaper and said, "Let the kid do what he wants."

And what the kid has done is make a name for himself: El Cajon-based Taylor Guitars--sold via 350 U.S. dealerships and 20 foreign distributors--projects sales of $5 million this year. He has more than 100 celebrity-artist customers, including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Julian Lennon, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and Prince.

Not bad for a self-described "no-name dork in high school," who made his first guitar in high school wood shop. In 1974, Taylor hooked up with partner Kurt Listug, who handled the marketing, and went into business. For the first year, they sold directly to San Diego musicians, but in 1975 they took a load of guitars to Los Angeles to show dealers there. "We came back with no guitars and a lot of checks," Taylor says. That year, Neil Young and David Crosby bought Taylor guitars.

Today, 23,000 acoustic guitars later, Taylor, 38, and Listug, 40, supervise 80 employees who craft 28 guitars a day from spruce, mahogany, Indian rosewood, maple or koa wood on high-tech, computer-programmed, megabucks machinery. The guitars are priced from $1,000 to $4,000. To meet mounting demand, they're planning to increase production next year to as many as 10,000 guitars.

Taylor takes the celeb sales in stride. "Most of the time I'm ecstatic over the method of building the guitar," he says, "rather than who's playing it."

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