Way back when I was first teaching the guitar privately, I had arrived at the idea of having my students audio tape my lessons. This was a great tool for them, as they not only were able to retain all the information that may’ve been lost in the course of the lesson, but it also showed them how it really should sound! But most of all, what this did was to plant the “seed” in me of what was to become a milestone idea.
One day, one of my longtime students who had moved away to Colorado wrote to me and said “I sure do miss those lessons on tape, Arlen!” Well, with this an immediate light went off in my head about what would one day be a thriving business; my Hot Licks taped instructional series! Now, this was 1973, and I was just really breaking out on my own as a player, and about to embark on many years of touring and recording, but I knew that one day, when the right time presented itself, I would create a business such as this.
Sure enough, in 1979, when I was starting to date my late wife, Deborah, I had suddenly not gotten any calls for any major tours, and was worried about our financial situation. I had just toured with Art Garfunkel for a year, and then Phoebe Snow, but the phone was not ringing, and work was slow. I was still teaching as much as I could, but I needed to make something bigger happen. We had $2000 left to our names at that point, and I decided that with that money, I was going to finally start that business I had thought of 6 years earlier. So, $1500 bought a half-page ad in Guitar Player Magazine, a magazine that at that time had absolutely no competitors in the guitar field, and $500 purchased a 2-track used Sony tape deck. I was teaching a lot then, so my teaching “chops” shall we say, were quite high, and after long session of being with my students, I’d go into my bedroom and start recording the lessons.
When I first jotted down the lessons I wanted to do, I decided that repeat customers were going to be my most important priority, so I actually conceived of 7 complete courses of 6 hour-long tapes each. There was Lead Guitar, Advanced Lead Guitar, Blues Guitar, Nashville Guitar, How to Play Guitar, R&B Guitar, and Acoustic Guitar. Needless to say, the mailbox started to overflow with responses to the ad in GP, and we were absolutely in business! What was so wild was that the orders were flowing in faster than I could even record the actual lessons, but that certainly was a good problem to have!
So, we were off and running, and it was immediately apparent that I should start signing other friends of mine who did tapes for me as well, so I could really start entrepreneuring and also broadening the catalog. And here I was, still 5 years away from even doing my first video lesson! More on this ongoing saga in future installments!