The History of Hard Rock

Hard Rock History

The History of Hard Rock

Some companies have a history that stays firmly in the past. We're fortunate to have a legacy that permeates our present like a classic song, not with nostalgia, but as the reminder of a timeless foundation and simple beginnings.

When you consider we have hundreds of unique locations, which include restaurants, hotels, casinos and live music venues, around the world, it’s hard to believe that it all started so innocently: the search for a good burger.

Read on to discover when we invaded Old Park Lane, who was the first to put their guitar on our walls, how we came by our famous t-shirts, and to get an idea of where we're heading in the future...

Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton Hard Rock logo created by celebrity artist Alan Aldridge Paul McCartney & Wings perform first live impromptu concert The iconic Hard Rock T-shirt Hard Rock opened in London in 1971 Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend guitar memorabilia Hard Rock Cafe Los Angeles the 1st U.S. Cafe Hard Rock Cafe Tokyo highly collectible Hard Rock pins Hard Rock memorabilia collection grows Hard Rock Signature Series T-shirts The first Hard Rock Live opens in Mexico City Las Vegas is the first Hard Rock Hotel & Casino All Is One Hard Rock Hotel Bali Hard Rock Live Orlando Hard Rock's Pinktober breast cancer awareness Hard Rock's 30th Anniversary logo Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hyde Park Calling The Seminole Tribe Of Florida Punta Cana The First All-Inclusive Resort 40th Anniversary Rita Gilligan Celebrates 40 Years! First European Hotel 80,000 Memorabilia pieces
1971 - The Beginning Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton were two shaggy-haired Americans who just wanted to find a good American burger while living in London. Their solution? They opened up their own American style diner in an old Rolls Royce dealership. They called it Hard Rock Cafe.

Fun fact: Isaac & Peter were only given a 6-month lease. Guess the landlord didn't think it would last...
1971 - The Logo The now famous logo was actually created by celebrity artist Alan Aldridge, who's best known for his work with the Beatles. It was based on Isaac's idea to model it after the simple design of Chevrolet's car hood ornament. Originally, they were going to make the colors red, white and blue, but decided that would be too much "Americana". Good move guys, we like it just the way it is.

Hard Rock Cafe logo
1973 - The First Live Music Paul McCartney & Wings perform an impromptu concert at Hard Rock Cafe, a warm-up gig for their 1973 U.K. tour. Today, Hard Rocks around the world host 15,000+ live music events every year. 15,000+!
1974 - The T-Shirt Would you believe that we came by our signature world-famous t-shirts completely by accident?

The London cafe sponsored a local football (soccer) team, and the team t-shirt featured the simple Hard Rock logo. The extra shirts were returned to the cafe and then given away to loyal customers. They became such a huge hit with the public that one report said more people would show up to buy a shirt than to sit and have a bite. Not only did Isaac and Peter have the good sense to begin to sell them, but a stand-alone shack had to be built outside of the cafe just to handle the retail requests.

Today, retail makes up approximately 40% of our Cafe business. What they say is true: Better lucky than good.
1977 - Invading The Airwaves Carole King scores a hit with the song "Hard Rock Cafe." When Hard Rock opened in London in 1971, it became an instant success and the place to rub shoulders with rock stars and regular folks alike. That popularity led Carole to pen this rollicking ode to, well, us! She really liked the burgers, too.
1979 - The Memorabilia Our memorabilia? The world's largest living rock 'n' roll "museum"? Another awesome stroke of luck...

Eric Clapton, one of rock's most incredible and enduring guitar gods, was a regular of the Hard Rock Cafe in London. Eric asked Isaac to hang his guitar over his favorite bar stool to "mark his spot." A week later, a package arrived with a guitar and a note that stated, "Mine's as good as his! Love, Pete." Pete was, in fact, the one and only Pete Townshend, guitarist extraordinaire for The Who. And so our collection began as a good ol' fashioned one-upmanship battle between two of rock's greatest guitar players. Not a bad way to begin.

Our memorabilia collection now has over 80,000 pieces and is growing every day.
1982 - The 1st U.S. Cafe Hard Rock begins a world-wide expansion, with the first U.S. Cafe in Los Angeles. Today, we have over 200 Hard Rock locations in 68 countries. Like Carol King's song says, "After a hard day's work I guarantee/ There just isn't anywhere better to be..."
1983 - Going Global Hard Rock expands to Asia with the opening of Hard Rock Cafe Tokyo - making the brand truly global. We now have over 40 locations across Asia and, believe it or not, we're actually adding more, such as Hard Rock Hotels in Shenzhen and Haikou, China.
1985 - The First Pin The now ubiquitous and highly collectible Hard Rock pins debut. Above are some of the early ones. In total we have created over 80,000 pins in our 45 year history. They commemorate everything from events to holidays to city landmarks.
1986 - The Collection Grows Hard Rock cleans out Sotheby's '86 rock memorabilia auction - cementing itself as the world's premier music museum. Our memorabilia is acquired in a number of ways and has resulted in the possession of Michael Jackson's red "Beat It" jacket, John Lennon's glasses, Madonna's "Like A Virgin" wedding dress, Jimi Hendrix' Flying V guitar and so much other cool stuff that we can't go on, otherwise it'll be extremely obvious that we're just bragging at this point.
1990 - Signature Series T-Shirt The first Signature Series t-shirt debuts, designed by Peter Max and helping to raise funds for a very worthy organization. This established the blueprint that lives on today, with a total of 34 Signature Series T-Shirts raising millions for great organizations around the world. As a means for musicians and artists to benefit charities of their choosing, each artist donated an original piece of artwork which was reproduced on a limited edition T-shirt and sold at Hard Rock locations worldwide and online. Signature Series partners have included Eric Clapton, Ozzy Osbourne, Jon Bon Jovi, Ringo Starr, The Who, and Peter Gabriel.
1994 - Hard Rock Live The first Hard Rock Live concert venue opens in Mexico City. Today, Hard Rock Lives have hosted some of the biggest bands in the world, from Coldplay to Beck, Weezer to The White Stripes.

Hard Rock Live logo
1995 - Double-Down At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino The first Hard Rock Hotel & Casino was opened in Las Vegas, Nevada, just off of the Vegas Strip. Now, we have 23 hotels & 11 casinos, including our brand new Panama Megapolis location and our all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and Vallarta, Mexico. Our hotels offer more than just luxurious accommodations. There, we bring the rock star fantasy to life.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino logo
1996 - All Is One After a decade of growth around the world, under the control of a few different companies, the Hard Rock brand is finally consolidated into one company, when the Rank Group purchases the rights from the different companies and brings Hard Rock Cafes and Hotels together under the same roof.
1998 - Hard Rock Hotels Expand Hard Rock brings the rock 'n' roll resort experience to Asia with the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel Bali. There are now 23 Hard Rock Hotels across the globe, including five in Asia alone. We're pretty proud of them, but, to be honest, we think the world could stand to have a bit more Hard Rock in it.
1999 - Hard Rock Live Expands Hard Rock Live opens in Orlando, Florida, right next to Hard Rock Cafe Orlando. The grand opening party featured the one and only Elton John, a truly worthy headliner for an amazing venue.
1999 - Philanthropy Rocks Hard Rock's Pinktober breast cancer awareness initiative launches, helping to raise funds for breast cancer research and to raise awareness around the world through the sale of the Pinktober pin and by hosting Pinktober events. Proceeds go to various breast cancer charities, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
2001 - 30th Anniversary Hard Rock's first landlord, all the way back in 1971, didn't think the restaurant would last 3 months, let alone 30 years! Man, that guy was dead wrong. Hard Rock celebrated this milestone the way it celebrates everything, with great food, good times, and cool people.
2004 - Hard Rock's New Partners The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino opens in Hollywood, FL, and Tampa, FL. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates both properties, opening their eyes to the possibilities and worldwide recognition of the Hard Rock brand.
2006 - Hyde Park Calling The first Hyde Park Calling concert is held in Hyde Park, London. Two years later, the festival is re-branded as Hard Rock Calling and becomes the "must-attend" summer event for many in London and around the world. Since its beginning, this festival has seen the world's biggest bands perform on its stages: Aerosmith, The Police, The Who, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The Killers, Bon Jovi, Paul Simon, Soundgarden, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney, to name just a few.
2007 - The Seminole Tribe Of Florida A sovereign government, with an elected Tribal Council, the Seminole Tribe has achieved remarkable success since it became the first U.S. Indian Tribe to open high stakes bingo halls in 1979. In 2004, the Seminole Tribe opened two Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos in Florida. With the March 2007 acquisition of Hard Rock International, the Seminole Tribe of Florida added one of the world's most respected brands to its portfolio. And it was a union of kindred spirits. Like the Seminoles, Hard Rock operates on a strongly held set of principles, including the importance of being authentic and independent, as well as a dedication to preserving our wildlife and protecting the planet. Come together.
2010 - The First All-Inclusive Resort Hard Rock opens its first all-inclusive resort, in the incredible locale of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The sprawling property offers visitors unparalleled amenities, restaurants, and nightlife, setting the stage for the continued worldwide growth of the Hard Rock into the all-inclusive segment of the lodging industry. Not to mention, Hard Rock Resort Punta Cana seriously rocks.
2011 - 40th Anniversary! 40 years! Not many companies can say that they've been in business four decades. Hard Rock, however, isn't just any company. We've been going strong for the past 40 years, adapting to the times and changing when change demands. We aren't looking back, though. We're looking forward to the next 40 years and beyond.
Rita Gilligan Celebrates 40 Years! Rita Gilligan, the original Hard Rock waitress, celebrates 40 years with the company. You read that right. Rita has worked for Hard Rock for 40 years. She was the first employee of Hard Rock, hired by Isaac and Peter all the way back in 1971. These days, she travels the world on behalf of Hard Rock, and we couldn't ask for a more dynamic and amazing spokesperson.
2013 – First European Hotel Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza becomes the first Hard Rock Hotel to open in Europe. This hotel offers 493 rooms - including 253 suites - and vast amenities, such as the Rock Spa®, Body Rock® workout facility, and world famous Rock Shop®
2015 – 80,000th Memorabilia Piece Hard Rock acquires the 80,000th piece of memorabilia: Elvis Presley’s 24-karat gold leaf grand piano. This piano was played by the King of Rock and Roll inside the Music Room at his Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee. Presley originally purchased the piano for his mother in 1955 and installed it in their home on Audubon Street.