Hard Rock Cafe/House of Blues founder Isaac Tigrett back in Boston

Isaac Tigrett at the Hard Rock Cafe at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Sonya Highfield
Isaac Tigrett at the Hard Rock Cafe at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

There’s nothing unique about the Hard Rock Cafe located next to Faneuil Hall. It looks an awful lot like the 180 or so other Hard Rock Cafes around the world.

It also looks very little like the first Hard Rock Cafe, which Isaac Tigrett opened in London’s hip Mayfair neighborhood in 1971 as a hangout for young people who were into — what else? — hard rock. (There was a single marijuana poster on the wall and no one over the age of 30 was allowed in.)

Tigrett sold his stake in the company ages ago — giving much of the money to charity before packing off to India to study with a guru — but he still stops into the Hard Rock Cafe when he’s in a city that has one. So after a conference on business and ethics at Harvard this week, Tigrett, who’ll turn 70 in November, headed over to Faneuil Hall Marketplace.


“I go to talk to the employees. I call them my children,” said Tigrett. “I’m blessed to have a very big family all over the world.” (In truth, he has just one child, a daughter, with late wife Maureen Cox Starkey, the ex-wife of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.)

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Hard Rock Cafe International Inc., which is owned now by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, has marquees all over the map, from Mexico to Malaysia, Boston to Bali. The franchise is best known not for its food — they sell a lot of burgers — but for its rock ’n’ roll ephemera, a collection that started with a red Fender guitar given to Tigrett by Cream’s Eric Clapton.

But Tigrett has other ties to Boston. When he finally returned from India, the Mississippi native created the House of Blues with business partner Dan Aykroyd, opening the first location in Harvard Square in 1992. He eventually left the company, which is now owned by corporate giant Live Nation.

Live Nation’s man on the ground in Massachusetts is Don Law, a longtime friend of Tigrett’s.

“I worship Don,” Tigrett told us.


Why? Simple. Tigrett is a huge fan of the blues and Law’s dad — he was Don Law, too — produced bluesman Robert Johnson’s only known recordings.

“When I came to Boston for the first time, I had to pay homage to the son of this amazing man,” said Tigrett.