Aerosmith’s ’70s-era tour van found in Chesterfield woods

  • The van used by rock icons Aerosmith to tour New England in the ‘70s was found in the woods in Chesterfield on an episode of “American Pickers” on the History Channel. SCREENSHOT VIA HISTORY CHANNEL

  • Jeff Keith, singer with 1980s rock band Tesla is shown with the old Aerosmith van in the woods of Chesterfield in August 2010. Keith was in town to support Aaron Lewis at the “It Takes a Community” benefit concert at Look Park in Northampton. COURTESY TIGER THOMAS

For the Gazette
Published: 8/8/2018 10:19:50 AM

CHESTERFIELD — The original Aerosmith tour van that rested in the woods of Chesterfield was a well-kept secret from most residents. Select Board member Robert Recos and his wife, Nancy, however, accidently became aware of the iconic vehicle more than 30 years ago.

According to Recos, the property off Soaker Road where the 1960s International Harvester Metro Van sat rusting for decades once belonged to Mark Lehman, who was manager of Aerosmith when they formed in Boston in 1970.

Aerosmith’s van was recently sold for $25,000 to Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz of the History Channel’s “American Pickers.” Ray Tabano, a founding member of Aerosmith, confirmed it was the van the rockers used in the 1970s.

Recos said that Lehman, who used to live at the property in a “very small rustic cabin,” had kept two tour vans there after they were no longer in use.

“He said he kept one in a garage, but I never saw that one and don’t know what happened to that,” Recos said. “The other he just left out in the woods and there it sat.”

Recos described Lehman as rough around the edges, a private person who had many items strewn about the property and left out in the elements.

“He was a kind of hermit living in the woods with no phone and he had these big dogs on chains outside, so nobody really went up there,” Recos said.

Recos said he came across the van covered in vines and brush while he was out hunting and had gotten lost about a half a mile from his house in the late 1980s.

“I thought, holy mackerel, is that for real?” he said.

Despite Lehman’s private nature, Recos said he and Nancy got his permission to go look at the van, and the couple went out to see it a few times and take photographs.

“I thought it was really interesting that it belonged to this band that was quite famous,” Nancy Recos said. “I have the pictures somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find them.”

Recos said she began to search for the photos after hearing that the van had been featured on “American Pickers.”

“One of our kids told us about it being on the show,” Nancy Recos said. “We watch it sometimes but we didn’t see that show and I didn’t know they were here.”

Mike Wolfe, one of the pickers on the show, called the van “a piece of American rock ’n’ roll history.”

Recos said he was surprised that he had not heard about the show coming to town, especially as he lives so close to the property.

“You would think that I would have seen them go by, but I didn’t,” he said.

Ed Severance, who lives in the center of town and is chairman of the Board of Assessors, also said he had no idea that the show was in Chesterfield

“You’re kidding! This is the first time that I am hearing about this!” he said Tuesday.

According to Recos, Lehman sold the property some years back to Phill Labbee, who now resides in Easthampton. It was Labbee, he says, who sold the van to the pickers.

Efforts to reach Labbee for comment were unsuccessful.

Rock in the hilltowns

Tiger Thomas, of Worthington, said he used to work with Labbee at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction.

Thomas, whose father, Tommy Thomas of Goshen, used to own the Lunchbox in Williamsburg, said he had known about the van for quite some time.

“I had heard stories at the Lunchbox that the band members used to go swimming up at the Chesterfield Gorge,” Thomas said. “It was nice to get some kind of credence to those stories.”

Thomas said he remained fairly tight-lipped about it so as to protect the landowner’s privacy, and to keep the property from being inundated with people.

One person he did share the information with was his friend Jeff Keith, the lead singer in the ’80s rock band Tesla.

“Jeff was up helping Aaron Lewis in 2010, when Aaron was doing a benefit concert for the Conwell School in Worthington,” Thomas said. “It turns out that Jeff is friends with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, so I took him up there to show him the van and took some pictures.”

Lewis, a musician with the band Staind who lives in Worthington, is also the founder of the charity foundation It Takes A Community.

Keith is a supporter of various charity organizations as well and, according to Thomas, is a frequent visitor to the area and always chooses to stay at a lake in the hilltowns rather than a hotel in the valley.

Thomas said Keith was very excited to know the van was on the property.

“You know, I think this is awesome!” Thomas said. “The way I see it, the hilltowns have lost a piece of history but I love that it has gotten into the right hands and will be restored.”

This story includes reporting from the Associated Press.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

© 2018 Daily Hampshire Gazette