Hard Rock: How One Counterculture Cafe Was Turned Into a Global Brand
The Hard Rock cafe was the idea of two American businessmen, Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, based in London. Tigrett had been born into a wealthy family in Jackson, Tennessee, but was later expelled from his private, fee-paying school. Morton was raised with a background in the hospitality industry, as his father was the owner of Morton’s Steakhouse chain.
Their first Hard Rock Cafe opened at Hyde Park Corner in London. In the luxurious Mayfair district, it was a roaring success with its American diner feel and walls adorned with music memorabilia. It would be a haunt of the day’s rock stars and counter-culture icons.
From here, it quickly expanded to other parts of the globe making it the first themed restaurant chain in the world. Its second location was in Toronto, Canada, and venues soon followed in Chicago, Paris, and Berlin. Ownership of the company then split, with Tigrett buying most of the world rights. However, Morton still owned the right to the name in the eastern states of the US, Israel, Australia, and Columbia. This led to a very fragmented business model.
Expansion Into Other Industries
Despite numerous entities owning the business, this varied approach may have been what truly turned Hard Rock into a world brand. In 1995 Morton invested around $80 million of his money into the Hard Rock Hotel, building it close to the Vegas strip. While it would later be sold to various parties, it started Hard Rock’s foray into the lucrative gambling sector.
Now, it has a range of hotels and casinos across the world. This is backed by a sizable investment in the iGaming sector. The website CasinoSmash rates it as one of its top five offerings based on its expert reviews of the best online casinos. With locations in Sacramento and Toronto, it is working hard to build a truly global gambling brand.
Not all forays have been so successful. A Hard Rock theme park opened in South Carolina in 2008. Predictions were that it would bring in around 30,000 visitors a day. However, the company operating it, HRP Myrtle Beach Operations, filed for bankruptcy not long after. The park reopened under another name with new ownership, but still only managed to last a year.
Amazing Facts About Hard Rock
British artist Alan Aldridge designed the iconic Hard Rock logo. This was a fantastic choice, as Aldridge already had numerous counterculture connections. Famous for his unique sixties style as per The Guardian, he had done work for The Beatles and Elton John.
This connection with the Beatles continued to the first Hard Rock show. Before 1973, there had been no live music at the Hard Rock Cafe. That was until Paul McCartney’s second band, Wings, decided to do an impromptu warm-up gig at the venue.
Originally, the cafe did not have any memorabilia at all. While it had some interesting decor, the first piece of music history to adorn it was a guitar from Eric Clapton. He asked Tigrett to hang his guitar over his favorite spot. By the next week, Pete Townsend of the Who had donated one of his. It had a handwritten note claiming that his guitar was as good as Clapton’s, and the penchant for memorabilia began.
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