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The Top Nine People Who Turned Away Greatness

by DannyGallagher   March 15, 2010 at 10:00AM  |  Views: 1,506

No one can predict the future. Anyone who claims they can is either a lying tool, trying to get on television, or both. So it's hard to fault some people for being a bit shortsighted and passing on things with a hint of success. These people, however, passed on things that were epicly huge.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

By Danny Gallagher


9. Grand Ole Opry Manager Jim Denny

Source: Beth Gwinn/Redferns/Getty Images

Elvis Presley's larger-than-life career has inspired all sorts of strange stories. From his epic hunger for anything fried in fat and shoved on a stick to the never-ending wave of post-mortem sightings in truck stops, cornfields, and ether frolics, we've pretty much heard it all about the King.

Even the man's struggle to reach the throne of music royalty has forever tarnished the lives of men who might have influenced one of music's most enduring legends. When a young and pre-bingeing Elvis tried out for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1954, the show's longtime manager turned down an opportunity to induct him and told him he should put down the guitar and stick with truck driving. Both went on to have wildly successful music careers, but Denny's would forever reek of the stink of shortsightedness for passing on perhaps the most famous musician in the last century that no amount of Febreze could extinguish.


8. Drummer Bobby Graham

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Many people have had the unholy distinction of being named as the "lost" Beatle, that unholiest of musical business card titles (behind John Tesh backup singer and Nickelback band member).

Bobby Graham, who passed away last year at the age of 69, has the rare distinction of being one of the few people in history who turned away the Beatles. When the band's manager Brian Epstein fired drummer Pete Best, he offered Graham, a very competent and versatile drummer who later worked with the likes of Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, and Van Morrison, the drummer's seat. Legend has it that Graham turned him down because he didn't want to join a band that "no one outside of Liverpool has ever heard of." The seat then went to Ringo Starr, whose drumming was good but whose singing voice is one that everyone wished they had never heard of.

7. The Xerox Board of Directors

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When it comes to economic shortsightedness, no one does it better than the corporate elite. Goldfish have better long-term memory for financials and economic development than most of the fat-cats that occupy the cushy seats of America's most expensive boardrooms.

Xerox wanted to be known for more than developing office technology that allowed people to photocopy their ass, and they formed a special development team to come up with the next big thing. So in the 1970s, they formed their legendary Palo Alto Research Center (or PARC, for short) and came up with what can probably be labeled as the Alto, the first modern computer complete with a graphical interface, a printer, and a mouse. Unfortunately, the brass didn't see any real use for the thing and labeled it as an "absurd" idea for mass marketing and consumption. Instead, they let a young Steve Jobs look at their hard work. Jobs harnessed it, repackaged it, and turned it into the first Apple Macintosh.

Despite this historic blooper, Xerox still remains the world leader in ass-copying technology.


6. Decca Records Executive Dick Rowe

Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Very few moments in life come down to an epic flip of the coin where one path leads to riches, fame, and undying devotion to your cause and the other leads to complete ruin, destruction, and epic disaster.

Rowe faced that exact moment when he had to choose between signing one of two rock bands in 1962. Both had given great auditions and worked seamlessly together as musical groups, but marketing got in the way of his thinking and so he chose to sign Brian Poole and the Tremeloes over a then-little known rock group called The Beatles because "guitar groups are on the way out," he told their manager Brian Epstein.

He thought the guitar, the most basic and groundbreaking musical instrument since two cavemen discovered that beating rocks together produces sound, is on the way out? What kind of musical instrument did he think would replace it? The electric accordion? The skin flute? The air guitar?

5. DEC Chief Ken Olsen

Source: Susanne Walstrom/Johner Images/Getty Images

It's easy to understand why someone might choose a person, a band, or a product over something else because of marketing strategies or shortsighted thinking. Turning your mind away from an entirely new field of opportunity and a way of life, however, is more unforgivable than a Citizen Kane remake starring Jack Black.

Olsen, the founder and chief executive officer of the Digital Equipment Corporation, famously said in 1977, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." It's one thing to say this when you aren't able to witness the rise of a new trend or way of life, but Olsen said this as Apple unleashed their Apple II on the tech hungry marketplace. Olsen was later ousted from his job, his company, and quite possibly his family tree.


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