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Jeff Nolan #042

On the latest episode of EventSpeak, Big John sits down with longtime friend & tour buddy Jeff Nolan, an expert music memorabilia consultant whose credits include Hard Rock Café. Jeff reminisces about various memorabilia and the stories that go with it as well as playing lead guitar in his band The Ludes. It’s a real treat to hear the boys touch on stories that include Bryan Jones (original guitarist of the Rolling Stones), Mud Honey, Mother Love Bone, Lemme of Motorhead, Scott Weiland and Pearl Jam. Jeff also talks about his interview with guitarist, Johnny 5, which recently went viral as a result of Howard Stern coming across the clip on YouTube.

So grab a stool and tune up your guitar and be prepared to laugh and get an earful of Experiential Marketing meets all things rock and roll!


Behind the Scenes of Rock & Roll with Hard Rock Cafe Historian Jeff Nolan

Jeff Nolan is a longtime collaborator of Hard Rock Cafe and has been their main memorabilia historian for many years.

He was a music writer for a long time, a genuine lover and maker of rock music, and happened to find himself in a town where hard rock happened to be headquartered. They were in desperate need of somebody who knew their rock & roll stuff back and forth. They needed someone with real passion who could express that to the guests. Jeff was a perfect fit.

The Face of the Hard Rock Cafe

Jeff was essentially the face of the Hard Rock Cafe. He did a lot of media, contextual writing for pieces, put things in the company’s cultural space, and almost served as the company’s mascot. What he realized relatively quickly is that your passion easily spills into how you do in business, life, and with clients. When you’re dealing with corporate people and bosses, it really comes down to who is genuine and who is not.

Before he became the lead guitar player in the Ludes, Jeff was in a band called I Love You that got signed to Gaffin and later became part of Pearl Jam’s first tour. This band made a couple of records for Kevin, did a ton of touring, and Jeff wound up working with Scott Weiland for a couple of years.

Battling Addiction

As most people know, Scott struggled with addiction most of his life. Unfortunately, that often overshadows his massive talent, though he was one of the great lead singers of his generation. 

Scott’s massive drug problem informed everything, creatively. Jeff loved working with Scott because you could give him a two-note riff, and he could put a vocal hook on it that made it sound like an instant classic. He was just that gifted. But the thing that people don’t often know about Scott is how big-hearted he was. When Jeff’s grandfather died, the very first person to come check on him was Scott. He didn’t call, he didn’t send flowers, he just drove to the house, gave Jeff a hug, and asked if he was okay or if there was anything he could do. At the height of his rockstar status, he was still that kind of guy. The drug addiction was debilitating, and his death was heartbreaking for the rock community. 

The Ludes

Fast forward to the present to find Jeff still living in the heart of rock. Involved in a power trio called the Ludes, Jeff is focused on inspiring the next generation of rock & roll lovers. The best part of this is that he is having fun doing it.

Jeff believes he was incredibly lucky to get the major label, record deal, and to have worked with big artists like Scott. He wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, but in the end it’s all about a good jam. 

It can happen anywhere. It can happen in our rehearsal studio. It can happen at a sweaty club. It can happen at Madison Square Garden. Jeff doesn’t really care as long as he gets to share it with others.

That is the passion that gave him his start, and it’s also the passion that inspired him to start guitar clinics at Hard Rock Cafe hotels and other places.

While it’s more of an independent entity, and not always tied to the Hard Rock Cafe, it was a scary move to make after working with a company for such a long time. Jeff had always felt at home doing event-based and experiential things.

His guitar clinics involve team-building exercises called string theory, which is based around getting people to play guitar. His partner Brian is the genius teacher, while Jeff plays the role of the commentator. They’re also working on adding obscure trivia, scavenger hunts, and other incredibly interesting projects. 

Artists Navigating the Pandemic

Jeff and his wife Erin have tried to keep busy during the quiet and isolating months of the pandemic. For Erin, this meant a lot of graphic design projects, while Jeff did a lot of writing and recording.

While they kept the creativity flowing, Jeff mentioned the most difficult part was learning how to stay physically active. They’ve enjoyed creative outlets like the Blue Oyster Cult’s socially distant show, but keeping active and healthy in their home in California has been difficult. 

As things finally begin to open up, and they regain the ability to go out again, Jeff and Erin recognize they’ve become much more grateful for the things in life they previously took for granted. Moving forward, they’ll be vastly aware of what they have as opposed to what they desire, which he believes is the true definition of gratitude. To keep up to date with all of Jeff Nolan’s projects, both as a creator and as a Hard Rock Cafe Historian, follow him on Instagram. To keep in the loop of artists, technology, and all event-related news, listen to Big John’s podcast or explore the Event Speak home page.

Big John

About Author /

Big John got his start as co-founder and playing guitar in former Chicago band SweaterGirl. After 4 consecutive summers on the Van's Warped Tour as one of the first ever DIY bands to be invited to tag along, Big John was ready for what's next and stumbled into the event industry in 2005. Big John stayed on the road managing Mobile Marketing Tours, logging over 3 Million miles on the Warped Tour as well as a plethora of experiential tours, campaigns, events, and initiatives.

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