In 2020, Tim Godwin, Taylor’s Director of Artist Relations, asked me my thoughts about partnering with Original Grain, a San Diego-based watch company that creates its products with wood sourced from famous places and well-known companies. For example, Original Grain makes watches with wood from whiskey barrels or old seats from famous baseball stadiums. The proposition was this: If Taylor Guitars would donate a small amount of the excess wood from the guitar-building process and allowed Original Grain to use our brand, they would build a line of limited-edition timepieces with ten percent of the proceeds going to a charity of our choice. Taylor Guitars would receive no monetary benefit.
Bob Taylor liked the idea and told Tim and me to choose the charity. We decided to split the proceeds between two organizations: Tree San Diego (TSD), a local non-profit that plants trees across the urban infrastructure of our region, and Guitars4Vets (G4V), a non-profit that provides guitar lessons at no cost to U.S. military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that causes flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, among other symptoms. Upon completion of the G4V program, participants are given a new acoustic guitar.
After the first year, Original Grain cut a check to Tree San Diego and deposited the Guitars4Vets portion into a special account here at Taylor to be used for purchasing heavily discounted guitars for G4V graduates. We held a small celebration to present new guitars to graduates on the deck of the USS Midway aircraft carrier museum here in San Diego.
The program was only supposed to last a year, but the watches ended up selling better than anyone expected. Encouraged by the success, Original Grain proposed that we continue the program for another year, and we happily agreed. Once again, the watches sold well, and charitable proceeds from year two (2021) were parlayed into almost 50 guitars. In October of 2023, we held our second annual graduation, this time in Nashville at the Copperline Ranch. Copperline generously allowed us to use the venue at virtually no cost, while Mission BBQ, Three Chord Bourbon and Stone Brewing Co. did the same with food and beverages.
Scotty Hastings, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter and U.S. Army veteran who was wounded ten times in Afghanistan, was our featured performer at the event. Scotty is a G4V graduate who recently signed a deal with Black River Records. You can check out his work wherever you get your music. We called the Nashville event the 21 Guitar Salute. That night, 21 G4V graduates received a new guitar, and an all-star band of graduates, friends and family played classics “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan and “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young. It was a moving experience to witness the culmination of this form of music therapy, which focuses on patience, acceptance, gratitude and empathy (PAGE) to help veterans come to terms with their experiences and improve communication, coordination and interpersonal skills.
Tim and I sent the remainder of the guitars purchased from the 2021 Original Grain watch partnership to KRAFT Music in Franklin, Wisconsin, who will distribute them to graduating vets in different regions of the country as determined by G4V. KRAFT does this at no cost.
In 2024, we’re heading into the fourth year of our partnership with Original Grain. How long will it last? As long as people keep buying the watches. We’re happy to donate beautiful tonewoods from the manufacturing process and allow use of our trademark. Tree San Diego and Guitars4Vets will remain our chosen charitable recipients.