Make It! It's History Day In Sunapee, New Hampshire - The Hometown Of Aerosmith

SUNAPEE, NEW HAMPSHIRE – August 17 and 18 marked very special days in scenic Sunapee, New Hampshire, for it was the second annual “History Day” in the little lakeside town that gave the music world Aerosmith. 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 hometown of arguably the greatest American rock band in the land.

Article and photos by Joe Milliken

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-year career, and elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

Sunapee has always held Aerosmith dear to its heart and why not, for 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 the band early on and has been a big fan for nearly his life, and in fact, 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 (Massachusetts) Civic Center in April of 1975, two weeks into the Toys In The Attic tour,” Robinson said in a recent Standing Room Only interview. “I was 15-years-old, in the front row and hooked!

“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!”

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 event, in terms of gaining public interest, but I wanted it to be much more!”

Robinson organized the inaugural Aerosmith celebration last summer, which was held at the Sunapee Historical Society Museum. “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.

Robinson was friends with another serious Aerosmith collector, Massachusetts-native Mark Blair, who possesses arguably 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. “His collection includes everything you could imagine, from posters and t-shirts, to rare albums, tour books and 45-singles, to one-of-a-kind collectables 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, Massachusetts) in 1985. I had collected a few live recordings up until then, but I really got excited about collecting after that show.” (Editor’s note: I also attended that great Manning Bowl show)

The word spread pretty quickly not only locally, but among other Aero-collectors as well. All of a sudden more people started contacting Jonathan about 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 a few of Perry and Hamilton’s pre-Aerosmith groups including Plastic Glass and 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 possesses so much from the band’s beginnings, including rare tour shirts, band jackets, collectables 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 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. “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 collection of backstage passes, rare tour shirts and other collectables. I also got to know Pudge Scott in the late 90s and he was very happy to participate as an honored guest.”

David 'Pudge" Scott: "My hats off to Jonathan Robinson and all the exhibitors. It was an honor to be included as an honored guest. It was a great event featuring a lot of Aerosmith history."

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 traveling 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 complement my archive display and put this event over the top! And it was!”

Fast forward to this year’s festivities, and after an overflow of Aero-fans had come to the inaugural exhibit held at the aforementioned Sunapee Historical Society Museum the second was held at The Livery building (Sunapee's former town hall) 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 (Deb Formica and Rob Phaneuf) to spice things up a bit.”

Deb Formica: “I attended last year 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 was thrilled to be an exhibitor this time around.

“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 tattoo’d on me. As for the event, the amount of cool Aerosmith t-shirts surprised me (laughing). I own over 150 Aero-shirts and I still saw shirts there that I had never seen before... I thought I had them all!”

Rob Phaneuf owns an amazing collection, including nearly every Aerosmith 45-single picture sleeve (minus two) that is known, as well as vintage posters, tour books and rare vinyl. He also collects other bands and has extensive collections on Cheap Trick, UFO, Led Zeppelin, Free and Bad Company. "I went last year as an observer, met Jonathan, Mark, Rich and all the exhibitors and had a great time. So, I decided to become an exhibitor this year and displayed my picture sleeve collection, tour books, vintage posters and some other items. It was a great time and I was happy to be a part of it all."

Jonathan Robinson: “This year’s event was a great success. Hosting from the new location allowed us to expand the display area and have a lot 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 Aerosmith History Day was a rousing rock-and-roll success, and there are already plans in the works for next year’s showcase. So, "Dream On" and stay tuned because Standing Room Only will be there again to cover the event! (Editor's Note: Also watch for an upcoming SRO photo gallery featuring many more images from Aerosmith History Day!)