Hot Licks Video is probably the one thing I am most known for, and with millions of students worldwide as a result, it's no wonder!
Back in the early '70s, between tours, when I was doing a lot of private guitar teaching. I found that through the course of most of my lessons, many of the things I would teach or play would sometimes get lost in the process. I decided to encourage my students to tape their lessons on cassette, so nothing would get lost, and so they could continue their studies between lessons. In 1973, this one student, who moved away to Colorado, told me he missed our taped lessons, and requested if I could send him a few taped especially for him. BOING!! The light went off in my head, and I knew right then and there that one day, I would create taped lessons as a business!
Years went by, and I did many tours, such as John Prine, Art Garfunkel, Phoebe Snow and many others, while still continuing to teach privately, and authoring several books. I already knew that I was well-known, and had had much coverage in Guitar Player Magazine, both as a player and an instructor/author. In 1979, I was already living in NYC with my soon to be wife, Deborah, when the "phone stopped ringing". I didn't get that big tour I was so used to getting every 6 months or so, so armed with our last $2000, I decided that the time was right to start this taped lesson venture I had thought of 6 years earlier. The $2000 got me a used Sony tape deck, and a ½ page ad in Guitar Player Magazine, that advertised not one, but no less than 48 taped lessons with yours truly! (some of you may recall the ads that featured me holding my famous map-shaped National guitar!) They were six-tape sets that included Blues Guitar, Nashville Guitar, Slide, Acoustic, you name it, and it was really helpful that my teaching "chops" were so high at the time, due to my constant teaching round the clock! The success was instantaneous, and the mailbox was overflowing at 46 Warren St., just two blocks north of the World Trade Center. It became so popular that even Dave Edmunds and his 2nd guitarist, Mickey Gee, arrived there one day to visit this "phenomenon" called Arlen Roth and Hot Licks, thinking it was a store, when it really was just my home! They helped the UPS man carry the boxes of tapes up the 4-story walkup, and were home with Deborah when I arrived there. I had just returned from teaching Paul Simon of all people! (They sure were impressed with that!) Edmunds asked that I sit in with him that night at The Ritz, and I happily obliged. He became a true fan, and always has been. What a great guy and wonderful musician!
Soon after the success of my own tapes, I started branching out, and signed other artists to the Hot Licks label. John Entwistle, the bassist of The Who, Steve Morse, Tal Farlow, Jerry Jemmott and keyboardist John Jarvis soon followed and we were really off and running. Hot Licks was a wonderful success for Deborah and I, and I had performed in Japan and England to help promote them. I kept signing other artists, when I was offered the Simon and Garfunkel world tour in 1983. Deborah was expecting our first child, Gillian, and was holding down the fort and the business as much as she could while I was off on this grueling tour. After coming back, Gillie was born, and we moved up to the country. I was then offered the "Crossroads" movie gig, and at the same time, I had decided that there were enough VCRs in the world to warrant doing videos now! So, while teaching Ralph Macchio the parts for the film, I was also recording our first videos, which consisted of 6 of mine, and one by my trusted friend, the late great John Entwistle! Before you knew it, the video roster started to grow enormously, and it was not uncommon to see double-page Hot Licks ads in GP magazine! It was such a joy to document artists such as ERIC JOHNSON, JOE PASS, EMILY REMLER, TUCK ANDRESS, MICK TAYLOR, BUDDY GUY, DANNY GATTON, JAMES BURTON, JOE MORELLO, STU HAMM, VINNIE MOORE, BRIAN SETZER, TAL FARLOW, CHARLIE BYRD, MUNDELL LOWE, LARRY CORYELL, CORNELL DUPREE, JUNIOR WELLS, JAY GEILS, RONNIE EARL, DUKE ROBILLARD,WARREN HAYNES, ALLEN WOODY, DAVID GRISSON, SCOTTY ANDERSON, LEE ROY PARNELL, BRENT MASON, and so many more, in addition to continuing to do more of my own titles. It was such fun, especially since so many of these artists were heroes of mine, and it was such an honor to work with them. Again, it afforded me a wealth of experiences that were totally unique unforgettable
In ensuing years, we always continued to grow, and averaged about 10 to 15 new titles a year up till the tragic accident that killed both my wife, Deborah and my daughter, Gillian in 1998. After this unspeakable tragedy, I had lost heart, and was only able to create new projects on a far more limited basis. The next seven years were spent trying to recover from the loss, and to somehow keep the business afloat. Unfortunately, Deborah was the one much better at that than me, so, in 2005, I eventually sold the business to Music Sales Corp., the company I wrote my first books for back in the early to mid-seventies. Here, I feel that Hot Licks can once again flourish, with good distribution and promotion, and I can continue to produce new tapes for them, which has always been the part of the business I truly enjoy, anyway!
So, here's to a great future for Hot Licks, and to a great new home for this incredible catalog I amassed over the course of 25 years! Make sure you all visit Music Sales to see the latest happenings with Hot Licks!