Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford discusses the history of the band’s original tour van

"Something was taking root in the streets of Boston."

The original Aerosmith tour van, found in the woods in Chesterfield, Mass.
The original Aerosmith tour van, found in the woods in Chesterfield. –Courtesy HISTORY/American Pickers

The original Aerosmith tour van is back in the spotlight.

In a 2018 episode of the History Channel show “American Pickers,” stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz traveled to Chesterfield to purchase the classic rock band’s original tour van for $25,000. In an episode set to air Monday night at 9 p.m., Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford appeared on the show to check out the van’s preservation progress and share the story behind the vehicle’s eye-catching art.

Standing with his son Graham, Whitford told “American Pickers” star Danielle Colby that he was 19 years old when he started riding around in the van, and explained the origin of the painting of the man on the van’s side.

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“That is the guy that owned this truck, Mark Lehman,” Whitford said. “Pretty good likeness of him, yeah. He was bald at a young age. There’s a line in ‘Mama Kin,’ actually. Steven [Tyler] sings, ‘Bald as an egg at 18,’ and he’s singing about this guy.”

The original Aerosmith tour van with a painting of Mark Lehman. —Courtesy HISTORY/American Pickers

Whitford discussed Lehman’s role in the earliest days of Aerosmith, when the group was cruising to gigs around New England.

“We didn’t have a logo or anything; this was kind of our stamp,” Whitford said of the painting of Lehman. “The roots of Aerosmith: that little painting on the side of the van. We were established. Something was taking root in the streets of Boston.

“Mark was kind of a fan and a buddy, and he lived in the apartment with us and helped us carry the equipment and donated his truck to the cause,” Whitford continued. “And that’s how we were able to get around New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island. Back in the day, this was it, this was how we got around.”

Later in the episode, Colby told Wolfe and Fritz that Aerosmith was paying for all of the work being done on the van and that Whitford hoped it would be ready for the start of the group’s Las Vegas residency in April.

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For Whitford, the work is a fitting tribute to Lehman.

“Mark made a major commitment to us back then,” Whitford said. “That’s why, as a band, we’re making a major commitment to this van.”

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