The Memory Business in the USA

Home Odd Stuff From Ron White The Memory Business in the USA

This Thanksgiving week I am thinking of the things that I am thankful for and one big thing in my life is my career and speaking. I am very grateful for a chance meeting in 1991 that really changed my life. Here I will give you a little history of the memory training business in the USA (as I see it) and how I can to be a part of it.

Now, mind you, this is only a history of the memory business in the USA. It has been around for 2500 years since the days of Simonedes.

I am sure I am going to get comments saying I am leaving something out or not going back far enough but I will start with Dale Carnegie, who wrote the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ in the 1930s. In his book and course he concluded that the sweetest sound to a person’s ear was their name and their favorite subject was them self. In his program he has a section on memory and how to remember names and also teaches something that today we refer to as the peg system.

Later, on the scene in the late 1950s appeared Harry Lorayne who has been referred to as the, ‘Yoda of Memory Training’. Today Harry is 85 years old. He co authored a book simply titled ‘The Memory Book’ with former basketball great Jerry Lucas that hit the best seller list. He was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and he is the one who gave me the idea to meet people and then have them stand up and when I call off their name sit down. I saw him do this on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson! Amazing how Harry’s legacy impacts the very speech I give today 10-15 times a month. 🙂 I can’t say enough good about the work that Harry Lorayne has done and I have been recommending his books for years.

In the 1970s Dr. Michael Van Masters did some work with the Oklahoma School for the Blind on memory and he went around giving presentations at businesses to sell his memory training course. As fate would have it, at one of his meetings at a Buick dealership he met a young Kevin Trudeau in 1982. Kevin was a quick learner and he successfully sold memory training workshops and CDs up until the 90s. His CD album ‘Mega Memory’ was a blockbuster success in infomercials with child star Danny Bonaduce. Kevin ran into some legal hiccups along the way and because of that was in and out of the memory business. As of today, I am not sure if he still sells his memory CDs or not.

One of Kevin’s business partners along the way was a gentleman named Blaine Athorn who had a company known as Memory Training Institute. MTI taught seminars across the nation using what I assume was a very similar business model to Michael Van Master’s that Trudeau had learned in 1982. It is a business model that works if you are a good salesman and Blaine and Kevin certainly are.

In 1991, Blaine hired a gentleman by the name of Harold Francis Counihan as a telemarketer. I graduated high school in 1991 and 2 weeks later my friend Deacon asked me if I would like a job as a telemarketer. I said, ‘Sure!’ I went to work for Metroplex Chimney Sweeps in North Richland Hills, Texas. I couldn’t have been working their for longer than a week when one day I called Harold. I gave him my sales pitch and he said, ‘Sorry we don’t need our chimney cleaned we are trying to sell the house.’ I replied, ‘Sir, if you are trying to sell your house then you are going to need a clean chimney!’ He laughed and said, ‘You are a good salesman. I need a good salesman. I sell memory training. Do you want to go to work for me?’ That was June of 1991 and I can remember it like yesterday. Working out of Harold’s house setting up meetings for David Coffill, who was a big memory speaker at the time. He was on all the talk shows and even had an infomercial with Alex Trabec. He is still conducting seminars to this day. I like David and would love to reconnect with him sometime. It looks like he is holding events in Phoenix and Oregon in the next few months

Things at MTI went well enough. By the time I was there Trudeau was gone. I never met him but worked with Blaine and to him I am sure I was just some 18 year old telemarketer but Blaine was always fair with me and taught me the business model that Trudeau had learned from Michael Van Masters. In 1992 or 1993 there was trouble at MTI and the President of the company, Harold Mangum, split and started ANOTHER MTI! Ha! Such similar names. His company is Memory Technologies Institute and he is still teaching today as well I left Blaine and Kevin’s company because I was closer to Harold Mangum. Afterall, Mr. Mangum lived in Dallas (my area) and Blaine and Kevin were on the east coast. Harold Mangum and I conducted memory seminars together in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Little Rock, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and all over the Texas/Louisiana/Oklahoma area. He is still a good friend to this day but like dead fish, most business partnerships begin to stink after a while and I split and I formed Memory Education Institute in 1993. Since 1993 the name changed to Memory Masters and then Ron White Training.

Blaine eventually sold his company to 2 businessmen in 1996, Roger Seip and Eric Platenberg and they formed Freedom Personal Development A few years ago, they hired me to teach a memory training seminar for them in Wisconsin and I have interacted with both Eric and Roger on the phone. They seem to have built a successful training company and expanded beyond memory training.

My company has snow balled into something I could have never imagined…I take that back, I did imagine it. In 1998, I was flat broke, living in my car in Seattle (where I was conducting memory seminars and went broke). I worked on memory seminars during the day and as a waiter at night. I was in my car eating a banana and I thought to myself, ‘You should be depressed right now! But you aren’t because you are the President of an international training company that is just struggling a little right now!’ ha….since that night my company certainly has taken me all around the world. In 2005 as I stood on a stage in Singapore teaching memory to 4,000 I wondered if it could get any better….it has.

Although recently (last few years), I have gained attention for winning tournaments or being on tv. That all came AFTER my business was solidly cruising along.

There are a few other in the memory game in the USA now. Dave Farrow moved from Canada to NYC and is now a memory speaker in the USA. Chester Santos who won the 2008 USA Memory Championship is teaching seminars in San Francisco and holds webinars and conference calls on memory.

So there you have it, a brief history of companies that hold memory seminars in the USA. I know I am leaving out some people or businesses but this is from my perspective and how I came to interact with everyone. This is a topic that interests me though…perhaps I will research and see what I can find going back even before Dale Carnegie…

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