The Original Traveler Guitar Prototype
Using tuning machines from an old acoustic guitar, spare conduit left over from a home improvement project, and wood salvaged from a discarded bar top, inventor Leon Cox conceived and built the very first Traveler Guitar (pictured below) in his garage workshop in Redlands, California in October of 1992. Cox, whose wife worked as a nurse, was inspired to install the diaphragm of a stethoscope in the body of his prototype to provide the player with a battery-free, private listening experience.
Cox had no idea that his invention would blossom into a brand, leading to the production and purchase of more than 85,000 instruments in 30 countries worldwide over the next two decades. After a year of trial-and-error, the first Traveler Guitar was sold on July 23rd, 1993 at Redlands Guitar Shop in Redlands, CA—the town Traveler Guitar still calls home. During the next three years, more than three hundred of “The Traveler” guitars were produced, both in Cox’s garage and at an outside shop. Then, in the summer of 1995, Corey Oliver walked into Redlands Guitar Shop, and the fate of Traveler Guitar took a twist. Oliver was fascinated by the unique instruments and offered to take the entire inventory on a sales road trip. Cox agreed. So, Oliver and then-partner Carey Nordstrand (of Nordstrand Basses and Nordstrand Pickups fame), piled the guitars into an ’89 Bronco and called on music stores all over California and Arizona. When they returned two weeks later, the back of the Bronco was empty.
“50 guitars in two weeks—100 guitars per month,” says Oliver. “That sounded like a business to me!” He and Nordstrand sat down with Leon Cox and structured a deal to take over Traveler Guitar. They moved the business to a local industrial space and, over the next few years, the small crew of locals produced guitars as fast as they could. “Many of those original instruments are still out there being played,” says Oliver. In 1997, Carey Nordstrand left to pursue other ventures. By early 1998, demand for Traveler Guitars had exceeded the small company’s production capability.
Oliver was contemplating his next move when another twist of fate changed the course of Traveler Guitar history: executives from Fender approached Corey and offered to move Traveler Guitar’s manufacturing to Fender’s prestigious Corona facility—a first for the iconic American guitar company. Oliver accepted. With his new manufacturing partner in place, Oliver turned his focus to sales and marketing, and the brand began to grow. By early 2001, demand had outgrown Traveler’s production allotment in Corona, and Oliver moved manufacturing again, this time to a larger factory overseas.
Guitars started coming in from the new facility, and their quality exceeded expectations. “We were so excited,” says Oliver. “When we saw what the factory could do, we immediately started drawing up plans for new models.” Dealers loved the Pro-Series and began asking for a full-scale travel guitar for electric players—and so, the Speedster was born.
Shortly after its introduction in 2001, the Speedster began to outsell the Pro-Series. Numerous color variants followed, and to this day, the Speedster remains Traveler Guitar’s best-selling model of all time. In 2012, Traveler Guitar commemorated the Speedster’s 10th anniversary with the introduction of the Speedster Hot Rod which added functionality with its built-in headphone amp and coil-split switch.
In 2013, Traveler Guitar introduced the all-new Traveler Acoustic Series, the world’s first full-scale, compact hollow-body travel guitar—and in 2015, with the release of their new V2 electronics package, Traveler Guitar remains on the cutting edge of travel guitar technology.
Traveler Guitar's release of the Travelcaster Deluxe in 2017 was inspired by over six decades of heritage and tradition. It was an opportunity to integrate traditional tuning, pickup and a tremolo into a full 25 1/2” scale electric travel guitar.
Thanks to the expertise and focus of Corey Oliver and his team, Traveler Guitar has transformed the travel guitar from a novelty into a real guitar category. Traveler Guitar remains the industry’s premier manufacturer of full-scale travel guitars, available in hundreds of retail locations in the US and 30 countries worldwide.
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