About Olson Guitars
A Bit of History
James A. Olson ("Jim") has been handcrafting acoustic flattop guitars since 1977. His instruments began getting national attention in the mid 1980s, after Phil Keaggy commissioned the first cedar-topped Olson SJ guitar and began playing Olson guitars almost exclusively on his acoustic albums and in concert. In 1989, James Taylor purchased three of Jim's guitars; through Taylor's visibility, Olson guitars became known and prized by a wide variety of players around the world. Today an impressive number of well-known players in styles spanning fingerstyle to bluegrass to country to pop are proud Olson owners, including Leo Kottke, David Wilcox, James Taylor, Graham Nash, Sting, and many others. But most of the 40+ or so guitars Jim is able to build each year go to players of less renown (like those of us who contributed to this site, and perhaps like you), although of perhaps equally discriminating taste!
Luthier and Toolmaker
Jim is probably more proud of his highly customized tooling than he is of his finely crafted guitars! Accordingly, a special feature of this site is Inside Jim's Shop. Over time we will place over a hundred photos of Jim's guitar-making process here, including many photos of the dozens of jigs and tools Jim has designed and manufactured to help him make the best possible instruments. Whether you're a luthier yourself or instead find yourself among those who have trouble not hitting their thumbs when they use a hammer, we suspect you'll find this corner of Jim's web site fascinating.
About This Site
As noted in Jim's brochure, "The reputation of his guitars is indebted to the artists who use them, recommend them, and love them." This web site exists to provide you with information about Jim's "fine art for fine artists," from the very artists (fine and otherwise!) who have invested in Jim's art. You'll find here, not only information on the features, options, and prices of Olson guitars; but also information about dozens of Olson artists, profiles of Jim reprinted from the music press, instrument reviews, notes on fun and serious appearances of Olson guitars in the media, and other information.
Here and there throughout the site you'll come across first-person comments; unless otherwise noted, they're from the webmaster (that's me, Tom Loredo), not from Jim. I'm an extremely happy Olson owner myself; in fact, this site began as my tribute to a fantastic instrument and the best purchase I've ever made. Over the years the site has grown and become more "official," and my friendship with Jim has grown along with it. Although this is now a commercial site, I hope the occassional informality helps to communicate to you my enthusiasm for Jim's art and my pleasure at helping you learn more about Olson Guitars.
We hope you enjoy your visit here. But keep in mind that Jim doesn't maintain this site himself (he's too busy building your future guitar!). Although we endeavor to keep the information here up-to-date, you can get the official word on Olson guitars (e.g., the latest info on the status of his waiting list) only from Jim Olson himself. Don't hesitate to call or write him; contact information appears at the bottom of nearly every page.
Finally, remember that "Olson" is spelled with two "Os"!