Not too unlike apple pie and football, the Hard Rock Cafe is seemingly as iconic and it is American. But, in fact, the Hard Rock traces its roots to London, where two American buddies thought it brilliant to open an American-style diner in the cultural heart of the UK. Known for a festive atmosphere filled with Rock music memorabilia and delicious cuisine, Hard Rock Cafe locations now dot the globe. These culinary rock museums have become a favorite across generations, boasting enough culinary flavor to match its music ferver.
You may recognize the faces, signatures, and memorabilia that adorn each location’s walls, but did you know facts behind the chain’s rise from daily diner to global gastronomic phenomenon? It’s fitting that the Hard Rock Cafe would have unbelievable stories to support its unique brand.
Read on to learn how Hard Rock cafe started, where the first location was, where the logo came from, and everything that helped grow a small idea into something big, delicious, and amazing.
Here’s just a taste of all the things you didn’t know about the famed eatery.
One Ex-of-a-Beatle, Two Americans in London, and a Six-Month Lifeline
In 1971, Peter Morton, son of Morton’s Steakhouse prez Arnie Morton and friend Isaac Tigrett, son of the man who made a small fortune off of Glub Glub plastic drinking ducks, set out to open a burger joint in London. Even their landlord doubted them, granting no more than a 6-month lease to prove their concept a success. London, being a Rock music capital, was the perfect jumping off point, as the restaurant quickly became popular among rock elite and everyday Joe’s alike. The two founders quickly became ingrained in rock culture, with Tigrett eventually marrying Ringo Starr’s ex wife, Maureen Starkey. The original Hard Rock Cafe location, set inside of an old Rolls Royce dealership on the famed Old Park Lane, still stands today, greeting visitors with friendly service and that trademark, Hard Rock flare.
Attribute: Hard Rock Cafes – London
Copyright © 2018, Hard Rock Cafe International, Inc.
A Design Legend Created the Logo and a Music Legend Rocked its Inaugural Show
Artist Alan Aldridge, best known for his work with the Beatles, developed works that appeared on the covers of books, album covers, and everything in between. His art brought him international acclaim in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Aldridge, with direction from Morton, created the logo with Chevy’s hood ornament in mind. How’s that for American inspiration? The Aldridge originally envisioned the logo in red, white, and blue; however, his designs turned a corner towards a more basic palette.
And speaking of the Beatles, Paul McCartney played at the Cafe’s very first live concert. While the show was simply a warm-up for a highly anticipated UK tour, the concert drew Beatles lovers from across London, and attendees still refer to the experience today. Now, with locations all over the world, the Cafe’s host over 15,000 music events each year.
The Famous T-Shirts Were An Accident
Most people living in the 80s will recall a time when they owned or knew someone who owned that iconic Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt. Emblazoned with the Hard Rock logo, and made complete with the location of the cafe where it was purchased, these shirts became a hot item by accident. Morton and Tigrett sponsored a soccer team in 1973 and gave players Hard Rock Logoed shirts. The duo made extras, which were passed out to loyal customers. Soon requests for shirts came pouring in. And a mighty profitable merch business had begun.
Eric Clapton was the First Musician to Contribute Memorabilia
It was Cream frontman and legendary solo-ripping guitarist Eric Clapton who originally gave co-founder Isaac Tigrett one his guitars. Not known for his guitar skills, Isaac decided to throw it in a case and hang it on the wall at his Cafe. When Who frontman Pete Townshend heard about the donation, he followed suit. It came with a note exclaiming: “Mine’s just as good as his.” As requested by Clapton, his guitar was hung over his favorite barstool to mark his spot. By the early eighties, Hard Rock Cafe had become a Mecca for rock collectibles.
By 1986, the company was going all in on memorabilia. At a Sotheby’s auction, they purchased John Lennon’s glasses, Madonna’s dress from “Like a Virgin,” and a slew of other pieces adorned by Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and other music legends.
You Can Eat for Free on Tax Day
What better way to celebrate tax day than to enjoy a free burger and fries? Every tax day, participating Hard Rock Cafe locations give out free meals to those brave enough to sing a little karaoke. Not a bad deal.
Today, in Hard Rock Cafe’s worldwide, you’ll find walls covered with priceless vestiges born out of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s greatest days. For the rest of the stories that happened between those walls and beyond, stop by your nearest location.