BOSTON – Isaac Tigrett, founder of two’s Boston favorite entertainment venues, Hard Rock Cafe and House of Blues, visited the city recently, celebrating Hard Rock’s 46th birthday and reminiscing about the early years when he was inspired to take American music and culture worldwide.
It’s a remarkable tale of a young man from Tennessee who was living in London where he yearned for a hamburger, opening the first of what became an almost 200-unit chain of Hard Rock Cafes worldwide.
He’d grown up with Bluegrass music and found himself, as he puts it, “dedicated to educating and celebrating the history of Southern culture.”
The mission, as he viewed it, was to create profitable, principled global entertainment celebrating, as he describes it, “the diversity and brotherhood of world culture.”
“I wanted to introduce the world to Southern Blues, Rock and Roll, R&B, gospel jazz, and more,” he explains, and after the first one in London, considered doing maybe two or three more.
Today, Hard Rock has close to 200 units in 70 countries around the globe. The company began to expand when Tigrett and partner, Peter Morton, began opening new units in New York, Boston, Dallas, Washington, DC, Orlando, Paris and Berlin.
The search for a good burger was enough at the beginning, but musical entertainment quickly became a key element. Musician Eric Clapton, an early fan of the first Hard Rock, wanted his own favorite bar stool to assure it would always be there for him. He hung his guide above his favorite one! The rest, as they say, was history. One week after hanging his guitar in the cafe, Pete Townshend of The Who’s sent a package with a guitar and a note with the message, “Mine’s as good as his! Love, Pete.”
Today, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hard Rock International has venues in 75 countries including 176 cafes, 24 hotels and 11 casinos.
Tigrett went on to launch the International House of Blues Entertainment Company in 1991 with partners that included The Disney Company, Harvard University’s Endowment Fund, and Chase Manhattan Bank’s Venture Capital Group.
Having succeeded in the mission of bringing American music and culture to a global audience, he went on to, through the non-profit Rama Foundation of Zurich, Switzerland, fund the SSSIHM, a free 500-bed high-end super specialty surgical hospital in Andra Pradesh, India.
Tigrett is also the benefactor of the Freedom Award at the National Civil Rights Museum USA, presenting them to civil rights activist Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Jimmy Carter.
He’s been commended publicly on the floor of the U.S. Senate for his contributions to American culture worldwide; awarded two PhD honorariums for his work in promoting racial harmony and African American culture.
Today, he serves as CEO of the Prakashan Book Society and oversees publication of spiritual books in 15 countries globally.
A highly knowledgeable student of religion, he’s been honored at Harvard University. Today, he lives in his early home in Tennessee.