Just over a week before the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's newest exhibit, Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction, workers were still prepping the museum's top two exhibition floors. "You'd need a hardhat to go in there," says assistant curator Meredith E. Rutledge-Borger. She explains that ever since opening, the Rock Hall has wanted to have a special exhibit dedicated to the group, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. "The exhibit starts with the early days of the British blues scene and them being at the center," she says. "We start back there and bring it up to today." The exhibit will feature set lists, costumes, photographs, instruments and personal items that have never been seen by the general public. Instead of taking us into the main exhibit area, which is still under construction, she takes us to a small room called "the vault" where the final pieces are being assembled and provides a bit of history about the items.
Brian Jones Velvet Collar
I fear this was perhaps the only jacket he had. Knowing how they lived back then, I would think that's probably the case. This is an incredibly beautiful well-made jacket. They had no money. There's a photo we're using in the exhibit of him sitting at a diner drinking a milkshake or something and he's wearing it in that. I think that's where that small stain came from.
Keith Richards Leather Jacket
This is Keith's and he's wearing this on the inside booklet of The Rolling Stones first hits collection, Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass). There are pictures of Keith wearing little round blue glasses and he's wearing this jacket. We don't know where he got it but we know he owned it in the mid-'60s and it was his cool street wear.
Mick Jagger Dragon Jacket
This is something that Mick Jagger wore a lot in 1966 and 1967, most noticeably at a press conference the band gave at Green Park for Between the Buttons. It's Chinese silk that's been seen as psychedelic. Mick was a Leo. Can you tell?
Keith Richards 1959 Gibson ES 355 Guitar
Keith's played a lot of different kind of guitars. Sometimes he favors Gibsons. Sometimes Fenders. Most recently, it seems like he's been gravitating toward these kind of hollow body guitars more like his blues heroes. This one is similar to B.B. King's Lucille guitar. It's a Gibson and I'm not sure if he got it new. It doesn't have a lot of wear to it.
Alexis Korner's Guitar
Alexis Korner was the granddaddy of the British blues scene lent us this beautiful instrument. He and harmonica player Cyril Davies put together this group called Blues Incorporated and at one point or another — kind of like John Mayall's Bluesbreakers — anyone who had anything to do with British popular music cycled in and out of the band. Keith Richards says Alexis wasn't necessarily the best musician but he was an incredibly nurturing person who had a great heart and encouraged the careers of Eric Clapton, members of the Rolling Stones, Steve Winwood, all those cats. This will be part of the pre-history part of the display. All of the Rolling Stones met as a result of either going to an Alexis Korner gig or being in the band.
Keith Richards 12-String Acoustic Guitar
Most records that have acoustic guitar through 1967 use this guitar. A song like "Ruby Tuesday" or "Lady Jane" that has that 12-string guitar intro is played on this guitar.
Point of Sale Display for Sticky Fingers
This was for a bigger store like Sam Goody and it's really creepy. It's really suggestive and I'm sure there were many, many retailers that refused to carry it because it leaves so little to the imagination.
Point of Sale Display for Black and Blue
This display features a woman sitting spread eagle all bruised up. Someplace in Los Angeles there was a blow-up billboard of this woman and the Rolling Stones rightfully caught some flack for it. It points to their wink, wink attitude that they love women. It's this tug of war that starts out as early as "Under My Thumb" and "Stupid Girl" and carries on through the advertising campaign for Black and Blue and Some Girls. You have to question whether they're being winky about it or whether there's an undercurrent of misogyny and how much they're actually exploiting it or whether it's something being foisted on them. It's interesting.
Woodstock Hotel concert poster
People came all over Britain to see Blues Incorporated. They would take the train from Scotland. Brian Jones came from Cheltenham, which is about 100 miles from London. Most of the time he hitch-hiked because he didn't have any money. This was from one of the residencies that Blues Incorporated had at local hotel bars and clubs. The Stones themselves had their first regular gigs at the Station Hotel in Richmond. This came from a London collector who is very focused on Brian Jones and a lot of his collection is Brian Jones' stuff. In fact, he wants to buy the house with the swimming pool [where Jones died].
Rolling Stones Letter
That has to do with Altamont and Santana was one of the groups that performed. The Stones were asking for their permission to use their footage and Santana said no and didn't want anything to do with.
Brian Jones Dulcimer
That's the instrument he used on "Lady Jane" and some other early Stones songs. What I think is so interesting about it is that it's a medieval instrument and it's an interesting note on how the British musicians of that era were harking back to earlier eras. Zeppelin did that too.
Brian Jones Vox Guitar
All of the early photos he's playing that guitar and it became associated with him. Andy [Babiuk] of the Chesterfield Kings who is a guitar aficionado plays a Vox guitar. Those kinds of garage bands hearken back to that image of Brian Jones playing that Vox.
Charlie Watts Mariachi Shirt
For some reason, even though he's a no-nonsense guy, he has this tendency to wear ridiculous outfits. I guess he's a good sport. He did complain about that shirt because the sleeves got in the way and he couldn't play in it. Some years later, Jagger wore a shirt like it. I don't know if it was because he was trying to copy Charlie or what.
All that I really know about Mick's schooling is that hew as an excellent student, unlike somebody like John Lennon who had nothing but trouble. He applied his intelligence to his schooling as opposed to frittering. This is from a collector.
Mick Jagger's Cape
There was a big to-do about that when he was wearing it because it was made out of actual flags and it's illegal to do that. He laughed it off because he wasn't disrespecting one country and had flags from the States and Britain. It's almost like a James Brown thing. I think this was evoking that. He wore it at the end oft the show and was homage to James Brown. He wore it in 1981 and 1982, usually for the encore.