I began to buy Zone VI Brilliant paper (probably the second incarnation - mid-80s) after I bought one of the prints Fred Picker sold for $25.00. He made them from negatives that didn't require dodging or burning, and he sold them in part to advertise his paper, and in part so that folks living in the backwoods (as I did then) could see what a good print looked like.
It worked. My printing improved a great deal from studying the print, and I bought his paper to print on. Wish I had known about Azo then.