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Traveler Guitar offers a line of quality guitars made especially for mobile musicians.

Traveler Guitar

High-quality solutions for mobile musicians

Since 1992, Traveler Guitar has been the leading innovator in the design and manufacture of full-scale travel guitars. Traveler has sold more than 60,000 instruments in 30 countries worldwide, and its instruments have been played all over the world, from a submarine deep in the Atlantic to the peak of Mt. Everest. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the company remains focused on its original goal: providing high-quality, portable solutions for mobile musicians.

The original Traveler Guitar was the brainchild of inventor Leon Cox, who in 1992 repurposed tuning machines from an old acoustic guitar, spare conduit left over from a home improvement project, and wood salvaged from a discarded bar top to build the first Traveler Guitar in his Redlands, California garage workshop. 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.

After refining the design, over the following three years Cox had sold more than 300 of the instruments when, by chance, they were discovered in a Redlands retail store by musician/entrepreneur J. Corey Oliver. Fascinated by the unique instruments, Oliver offered to take the entire inventory on a sales road trip. Along with then-partner Carey Nordstrand (of Nordstrand Basses and Nordstrand Pickups fame), Oliver 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. Oliver and Nordstrand struck a deal with Cox to take over the business and assembled a small crew to produce the guitars in a modest Redlands industrial space.

Nordstrand left the company to pursue other ventures in 1997. By early 1998 demand for Traveler Guitars had exceeded the company’s production capability. When executives from Fender offered to move Traveler Guitar’s manufacturing to Fender’s prestigious Corona, California production 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 outpaced Traveler’s production allotment in Corona, and Oliver moved manufacturing again, this time to a larger factory overseas. The quality of the guitars from the new facility exceeded expectations, and Oliver immediately began drawing up plans for new designs. Over the years, Oliver and his team transformed what was once seen as a novelty into a valued guitar industry category.

Doing business in global markets has proven both productive and eye-opening. For example, although Oliver presented the Traveler Guitar to Chinese retailers in the same way it was marketed in the West—as a quality instrument for the traveling adult musician—they immediately began promoting it to younger players. “That’s an example of how the Chinese market doesn’t necessarily follow Western market precedents,” he says. “Consumers there determine how they see and use products that are new to them.” After consulting with some of Traveler’s new dealers in China and analyzing the demographics of the consumers, the company is considering creating new models specifically for the Chinese market.

Meanwhile, Traveler has been expanding its product range by introducing travel-sized guitars with more traditional shapes and tuning designs such as the CL-3EQ, a 3/4-size cutaway acoustic with mahogany back and sides, a solid spruce top, and a built-in Shadow Nanoflex pickup paired with a custom Shadow preamp, onboard tuner, and Shadow’s renowned headphone amp technology. It has also begun collaborating with mainstream guitar brands: Its new LTD EC-1, a full 24-3/4" scale electric travel guitar based on LTD’s best-selling EC series, was designed in partnership with ESP.

For a company whose original concept was “smaller,” Traveler’s world is clearly expanding. Oliver concludes, “We’re not a traditional guitar company making throw-away, short-scale, travel guitars as an afterthought. We’re a solutions company. A lifestyle company. Our sole focus is making the lives of traveling musicians easier, more productive, and more fun.”


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