All photos of Aerosmith History Day 2018 courtesy Joe Milliken
Scenic Sunapee, New Hampshire was the backdrop for the second annual “History Day,” in the little lakeside town that gave the music world Aerosmith, this past August. Featuring Steven Tyler on vocals, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford on guitars, Tom Hamilton on bass and Joey Kramer on drums, most music fans recognize Boston (with good reason) as being the launching pad for the success of arguably greatest American rock band in the land.
However, it was in Sunapee, in the summer of 1969, when Steven Tyler first met Joe Perry and Tom Hamilton and saw them perform onstage. Not long after they formed Aerosmith, which has since gone on to sell more than 150 million albums in a nearly 50 years career and was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
Sunapee has always held Aerosmith dear to its heart — and why not? The town and surrounding area is littered with landmarks that are now legendary within the history of the band, including The Barn, where Tyler first saw Perry play guitar and The Anchorage, the little restaurant/ice cream shop where Joe was washing dishes when the duo first chatted about forming a band.
Enter Sunapee resident Jonathan Robinson, an Aerosmith fan, historian and archivist who owns an archive service. Robinson discovered Aerosmith early on and has been a big fan for nearly all is life, and in fact, he also happens to possess one of the largest collections of Aerosmith paper memorabilia (newspaper articles, magazines) in the world. “My first Aerosmith concert was at the Springfield (Ma.) Civic Center in April of 1975, two weeks into the Toys In The Attic tour,” Robinson said in a recent interview for Rock Cellar. “I was 15 years old and in the front row!
“I came up with the idea for this event when I was reunited with my Aerosmith archive collection after some 13 years of not knowing where they were located. In the late 90s I was involved in a project called The Boston Rock & Roll Museum, and to make a long story short, the archives got moved around and I not only lost track of them, but also the business partner with whom I was working on the project!”
Robinson organized the inaugural Aerosmith celebration last summer, which was held at the Sunapee Historical Society building. “My Sunapee connection originally came about because, although I lived in Amherst, Ma., my grandfather was a dentist in nearby Claremont, New Hampshire and he bought our place on Lake Sunapee in 1952. After summering there as a kid, I moved to Sunapee full-time in the 80s.
In 2016, Robinson finally got a call from said partner when his Aero-portfolios had finally been recovered. “I raced down there and picked them up,” Robinson said. “Finally, one of the largest collections of written archives of the band in the world, had made its way home to me! It was at that point I decided to organize the first ‘Aerosmith History Day.’ I already had a good idea that my archive collection could carry the day, in terms of gaining public interest, but I wanted it to be much more!”
Robinson was friends with another serious Aerosmith collector, Massachusetts-native Mark Blair, who possesses perhaps the largest collection of Aerosmith memorabilia in the world. “Mark has a ton of stuff, but his collection concentrates on so much more than just printed materials,” Robinson added. “Mark’s collection includes everything you could imagine, from tour posters and shirts, to rare albums, tour books and 45-singles, to one-of-a-kind collectibles and just about any promotional item you can imagine!”
Mark Blair: “Yes, Jonathan had been searching for articles to add to his archive and he heard about me being a big collector,” Blair said. “I originally got hooked on Aerosmith after seeing them play a show at the Manning Bowl (Lynn, Ma.) in 1985. I had collected a few live recordings up until then, but I really got excited about collecting after that show.” (note: This writer also attended that great Manning Bowl show.)
The word spread pretty quickly not only locally, but among some Aero-collectors as well. All of a sudden more people started contacting Jonathan and getting involved … and some pretty prominent names at that, including Aerosmith founding member and guitarist, Raymond Tabano (pre-Brad Whitford), Annie Perry, sister of famed guitarist Joe Perry, and Pudge Scott, a drummer in Perry and Hamilton’s pre-Aerosmith group called The Jam Band.
“I got a call from Raymond, who, after leaving Aerosmith in 1971, returned to the band in 1973 as their tour merchandise director,” Robinson said. “Of course, Ray possessed so much from the band’s beginnings, including rare tour shirts, band jackets, collectibles and original artwork. Raymond said that if I were to hold such an event, that he wanted very much to be included.”
Ray Tabano: “I’ve known Jon for many years. He’s talked about putting together an Aerosmith museum for a long time and we’ve discussed it a great deal. I participated in the first two and I’m sure I’ll be at next year’s gathering as well. The amount of rare Aerosmith memorabilia at the event was impressive. The single most rare item I brought this year was the t-shirt I was wearing, with a picture of Geronimo on it, when the first-ever Aerosmith promo photo was taken at Terrier Stadium at Boston College Field in 1970.”
The word continued to spread locally about Aerosmith History Day, and the news reached the aforementioned Annie Perry in nearby New London. “Annie was intrigued enough to contact me through the Sunapee Historical Society, where I was holding the event,” Robinson added. “She offered to be the fourth exhibitor with her rare collection of backstage passes, tour shirts and other collectibles. I also got to know Pudge Scott in the late 90s, and he was very happy to participate as an honored guest.”
Through Jonathan’s Aerosmith contacts on Facebook, a couple more serious collectors were interested in contributing as exhibitors and the event was all systems go! “My friends, Rich Johnson and Dina Warchal, had amassed one of the largest collections of band photographs in the world and could rotate thousands of photos displayed on a big screen TV throughout the day.”
Rich Johnson: “Jonathan discovered my Aerosmith pages on Facebook, and would comment on some of the photos I posted. After it was decided that I would be an exhibitor, we would count down the days leading up to the event like Christmas was coming! ‘Only 120 more days until Christmas’ we would say. (laughing) The amount of memorabilia and rare items on display, last year and this year, was just incredible to take part in, but seeing Ray’s (Tabano) original ‘Aero Knows’ t-shirt from the early days was probably my biggest surprise.”
Finally, Jonathan’s sister, Wendy R. C. Sisto, was brought into the fold as an exhibitor. “Although my sister was travelling during the event, she was happy to let me display her extensive collection of live Aerosmith photography that she shot during the 70s and 80s. So, now I had a diverse collection of contributors who would immensely compliment my archive display and put this event over the top! And it was!”
Fast forward to this year’s event, and after an overflow of Aero-fans had come to the inaugural exhibit held at the aforementioned Historical Society building, the second was held at The Livery building on Main Street, which allowed for more exhibitors, and visitors.
“After the great success of last year’s inaugural event, I thought that, upon hearing about Sunapee’s plans to celebrate their 250th birthday with many different activities and such, that it would be a great time to have a sequel, especially given how integral the Aerosmith story is to Sunapee’s history. So, I retained the same exhibitors and added two more to spice things up a bit.”
Deb Formica: “I attended the first event and spoke to Jonathan, telling him about my collection and to contact me in the event they did it all again. I’ve been a serious collector for over 30 years, getting hooked after I got my first photo signed by Steven Tyler.
“I have a few rare items, including one of Joe Perry’s equipment cases that he used on the road for over 25 years, and I also proudly have 27 Aerosmith signatures tattooed on me. As for the event, the amount of cool Aerosmith t-shirts surprised me (laughing). I have over 150 Aero-shirts and I still saw shirts there that I had never seen before … I thought I had them all!”
“This year’s event was a great success,” Robinson concluded. “Hosting it from The Livery allowed us to expand the display area and have more room for visitors. It all went off without a hitch and we more than doubled our public attendance of 700 people from last year!”
Yes, the second annual Aerosmith History Day was a rousing, rock-and-roll success, and there are already plans in the works for next year’s showcase event.