The Guitar Man

For Dawson Taylor, every day is take-your-guitar-to-work day

Published in 2007 Washington Super Lawyers Magazine — June 2007

Tax attorney Dawson Taylor prefers a very basic desk chair. 

“You can’t play your guitar in a chair that has arms on it,” explains Taylor, who works at Cairncross & Hempelmann in Seattle. 

While most lawyers have to go home to engage in their hobbies, Taylor often strums on his Aria classical guitar between appointments or while on hold on the phone. In fact, posted on his office door is a month’s schedule of scales he plans to practice. 

Taylor grew up in a musical home. His attorney father was a piano player and writer of love songs, several of which were recorded by the late Dinah Washington. 

“I always worried they weren’t about my mother,” jokes Taylor, 59. 

Taylor admits he once began playing what he called “hootenanny guitar” in hopes of getting girls. He later went from picking at his guitar to plunking out jazz on a grand piano. As a child, he dreamed of being a lounge singer. But reality—and the need to make a living—intervened, and Taylor decided to become a lawyer.

His musical hobby was sidelined in the mid-1990s when Taylor slipped on an icy sidewalk and broke his hand. But he returned to the guitar in 2000—with such a passion that he spent a three-month sabbatical studying with guitar player Jack Wilkins, attending a jazz camp for adults and recording a CD called It Could Happen to You in 2005, featuring a song written by his father and two that Taylor wrote with his wife, Lois Taylor, a literary-fiction writer and published poet. Thanks to sales on iTunes and a good review in Jazz Improv Magazine, sales have been surprisingly good.

Taylor planned to return to the studio this year to record a CD featuring songs about lost-and-found love, but his bass player got a better gig. So Taylor had to postpone until the tour ends. In the interim, a producer convinced him to focus on upbeat tunes—and jokingly urged him to call the CD It’s the Joy, Stupid.

Until then, he occasionally sits in with friends at Tula’s jazz club and keeps playing the scales in the office.

“I’d be a much better guitar player and musician if I didn’t spend so much time reading,” he jokes. “Spreading myself thin this way gives me an excuse for not sounding better than I am.”  

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