An organ. A vacuum. And an entrepreneur.
In 1959, as a world-changing, paradigm-shifting counterculture revolution was about to explode in America, Wayne Mitchell bought a small appliance and organ store in Hollywood, California. Seems like the end of the story, right? Not even close.
They really got him
When the British Invasion hit and Mitchell first heard The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks, he was gobsmacked. He could feel the guitar's driving beat in "She Loves You," "Satisfaction" and "You Really Got Me." And he had a hunch that the demand for guitars and amplifiers was going to be big. As big as the groups he was falling in love with.
All amped up
Taking a huge risk, but believing in the magic of rock and roll, Mitchell opened the first Guitar Center. It was a modest place with old carpets mended with duct tape, and display cases that he'd bought at bankruptcy sales. But he didn't care, his focus was on the music driven by guitars and amps.
Stuntman by night
Desperate to get the word out, Mitchell resorted to all kinds of stunts, including keeping his store open 24/7 for 11 days—a Guinness Book world record, at the time—and creating the world's largest Les Paul guitar cake.
The cake must have been good, because soon Mitchell was expanding throughout the U.S. By the '80s he opened his innovative, unconventional flagship store on Sunset Boulevard where the sales staff, who were mostly musicians, encouraged customers to handle the merch, pick it up and play.
The name stays
This was a turning point for Mitchell and The Guitar Center. Over the years, he'd seen the positive impact music had on people's lives. Now he was determined to spread the power of music by offering all kinds of musical instruments for all kinds of people.
Being a sentimental guy, Mitchell kept The Guitar Center name. But he began reaching out to communities, schools, orchestras and bands, offering all the instruments and gear they needed.
Headliners and buskers
Soon, The Guitar Center became the go-to place for all kinds of musicians at every level. It wasn't unusual to see famous musicians hanging out, test driving products and talking gear. One time, Steven Tyler even gave an impromptu drum lesson to a young shopper.
Reaching a bigger audience
Heading into the 21st century, The Guitar Center experienced incredible expansion. For example, in 1999, they purchased e-retailer Musician's Friend to offer a robust online option to musicians. And in 2005, they acquired Music & Arts, now the country's largest educational music source providing instruments, lessons and everything musical for students, parents and educators.
It's all about family
To answer the growing need, The Guitar Center formed a family of brands, each concentrating on its own area of expertise. Today, The Guitar Center Group includes Guitar Center, Musician's Friend, Music & Arts, Woodwind Brasswind, Guitar Center Private Brands and AVDG—for audio, video and lighting needs.
Cementing our goals
Over the years, The Guitar Center Company's pledge to support musicians has resulted in a slew of programs that showcase musical talent like the Guitar Center Drum-Off, one of the music industry's longest-running artist discovery programs, the King of the Blues contest, The Singer/Songwriter program, Guitar Center Sessions and, of course, the Hollywood Rockwalk.
Not in a vacuum
It's been a long journey since that small appliance store, but our mission to spread the power of music is as strong as ever. The Guitar Center Music Foundation, Woodwind & Brasswind alliance, and various outreach programs help keep music alive in communities and in the classroom.
The world is a better place with music in it.
And we're proud to be part of the movement.