Room to Rock
Saddle River’s Rich Taylor is enamored by the look, feel and sound of guitars. Could that be why he’s chosen to collect them—to the tune of 100-odd models?
Rich Taylor isn’t lead-guitarist material, but that’s a fact the Saddle River resident doesn’t fret over—he accepted it a long, long time ago. Though he barely plays a lick (so he modestly says), he is one of the leading guitar collectors in North Jersey and has amassed a stockade large enough to make Leo Fender smile.
Inside Taylor’s 8,000-square-foot home is an entire room dedicated to housing his guitars. He estimates the collection is north of 100 six-strings plus a handful of hefty bass guitars and other instruments. And you can’t hear the power of each axe without an amp—he has approximately 60 of those in different styles, sizes and wattages. It’s quite a collection for someone not named Clapton, Page or Van Halen.
Taylor did play regularly when he was a young teenager. He bought his first guitar in 1967, a Harmony Monterey, and he jammed with the spirits of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Who inside of him. But by the time he reached 15, any dreams of becoming the next Pete Townshend and playing to sold-out arenas vanished. Life and reality, as they say, got in the way.
Though he had stopped playing, Taylor never stopped loving guitars. He began collecting them, acquiring long necks while passing life’s other milestones: graduating from Bergen Catholic and college, marrying a lifelong friend, starting a family and a business. He and his wife of more than 40 years, Aleta, are also notable community volunteers—Taylor is a longtime board member of Paterson-based homeless shelter Eva’s Village.
“I’m grateful for what I have in life, my family and a good business,” says Taylor, who’s now in his mid-60s. “I’m grateful that I’ve been so blessed that I could continue collecting guitars.”
Like other collectors, Taylor uses all of his resources to add to his arsenal. There are visits to shops and dealers, online searches and treks to conventions and guitar company headquarters. “I’ve bought a few at Sam Ash in Paramus. It’s a collector community out there,” he explains. “It’s something that sits with the soul.”
That old Harmony he started with? He still has it—the luscious curves and rich, seductive sound were too good to let go of—and today it’s one of the centerpieces of his collection, which includes vintage, modern and custom pieces in a variety of woods like mahogany, maple and Brazilian rosewood. Also in his treasure chest are roughly 18 Fender Stratocasters, an amp signed by former Saturday Night Live band lead guitarist G.E. Smith and an impressive lineup of Gibson guitars: a stunning display of Les Pauls in cherry and sunburst, a Les Paul Black Beauty, a custom-built axe signed by Les Paul himself and more. (Sorry, metalheads, he doesn’t own a Flying V—yet.)
“It’s hard to pick a favorite. You like each one for different reasons,” says Taylor.
He loves guitars and music so much that he attends numerous guitar festivals and concerts and hosts private jams with friends at his home. A September session included legendary jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.
“I don’t play much—in fact, I play well enough to clear a room,” Taylor jokes. “I’m more of a collector than a player. I just love everything about guitars, from the way they look to their sound. And I love the music that goes with them.”