The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Inside the Collection of Art Collins: A Backstage Pass to the Rolling Stones

Monday, October 21: 5 p.m.
Posted by Anastasia Karel
Art Collins' tour notes on the Rolling Stones used as in-house Atlantic Records bulletin.

For as long as there's been an entertainment industry, an “insider’s scoop” has been a reliable way to gain media attention. Over the years, however, many of those rare glimpses, unique perspectives and behind-the-scenes stories have been lost – or perhaps they were never shared. As we discover almost daily at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Library and Archives, many such stories are hidden within the boxes of an archives, waiting to be discovered by researchers. Art Collins has one such story. 

Collins began his career at the age of 22 in the Atlantic Records promotion department, and two years later, in 1977, he joined Rolling Stones Records as the Stones’ tour manager. For the Rolling Stones’ 1978 U.S. tour, Collins traveled with the band from show to show, and he took notes about each stop on a yellow legal pad. These notes were later condensed into a report for the in-house Atlantic Records bulletin. Both versions can be found in Collins’ files, but, for a researcher, the handwritten draft tends to be the more valuable of the two, because it may contain extra information that does not make it into the final text.

Rolling Stones 1978 tour notes, Cleveland World Series of Rock at Municipal StadiumFurthermore, looking through his files offers the researcher a consistent perspective of what happened during a Rolling Stones tour, rather than the opinion of a different journalist in each city. On one piece of yellow paper with the top dated "June 30" Collins has written in blue pen: "Travel day to Cleveland for staff only." The note is followed with an entry for "July 1" at "Municipal Stadium Cleveland," noting the day and place for the World Series of Rock event that also featured Peter Tosh, Etta James and Kansas. Collins notes from that show detail "83,000 in attendance. Overcast day and rain throughout Stones set but crowd failed to notice." More examples of Collins' notes are on display at the Library and Archives through the end of this year, or you can access all of them in the Archives Reading Room.

By 1981, Collins had replaced Earl McGrath as the president of Rolling Stones Records. Collins still accompanied the band on the road during their ’81 U.S. tour, but with a new purpose: a live album and documentary. Collins’ notes from this period were devoted to finding the best performances by the band, and, for many shows, he created a song-by-song analysis. The film, Let’s Spend the Night Together, features footage from two concerts (Tempe, Arizona, and East Rutherford, New Jersey); the album, Still Life, contains songs from four shows (the two in the film, plus performances in Rosemont, Illinois, and Hampton, Virginia). Full length audio and video recordings of these shows (with the exception of Tempe), are part of Collins’ collection. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Library and Archives has two collections of materials created by Art Collins. The first, the Art Collins Papers, was donated after his death in 2005 by wife Nikki Collins. The second batch of files can be found in Series III of the Jeff Gold Collection. Gold acquired these files from Nikki Collins and later donated them to the Library. It is this second collection that contains all of the notes and correspondence on the Rolling Stones, but to get the full scoop on Collins’ career, you’ll need to consult both collections.

Email to make an appointment to come in and see what other hidden stories you can find in the archives.

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