Amber: I’m here in Nashville at 424 Church Street and my guest today is Warwick Stone who is a memorabilia curator and also known as the Rock Collector, just wait. So Warwick what do you mean by Rock Collector?
Warwick: It’s a cheap device to label myself.
Amber: That’s okay.
Warwick: It’s a rock’n roll collector but now I’m in Nashville so that should be the music collector.
Amber: So you’re going to expand your horizons; that’s good, that’s good. So what do you mean when you say you’re a memorabilia curator?
Warwick: For many years I supplied or dressed the interiors of Hard Rock Café and Hard Rock Hotel around the world; most people know.
Amber: Right and they have plenty of memorabilia.
Warwick: Obviously the world’s largest collection but also the first and original collection of rock memorabilia.
Amber: That’s right.
Warwick: I went to the first high end Sotheby’s rock’n roll auction in I think 1985. It was a small catalog of Beatles suits.
Amber: I was going to say what was the thing being auctioned?
Warwick: It was mostly Beatles stuff.
Amber: And did you get it all?
Warwick: Between me and some of the other people working with Hard Rock yes, we probably got most of it.
Amber: How in the world did you get into this business?
Warwick: I used to be a rock’n roll tailor. When I left home when I was still at school I used to make leather pants.
Amber: So I want to know more about tailoring.
Warwick: Well my mother was a seamstress and I couldn’t play a guitar, so this was it.
Amber: You kind of married the two worlds together with the fashion of the rock industry. And so how long did you – did you make custom clothes or how did that evolve?
Warwick: I did. I did that for about 15 years.
Amber: Okay so that was the first part of the direction.
Warwick: The journey was I moved to California in my early 20s because there was a few years later that the Sex Pistols coined the term no future and although I spent the 70s sunning in California I sort of realized later that I missed a whole lot of really horrible times in England. In the 70s it wasn’t a good time. It was much better in California making leather pants for rock stars.
Amber: Heck yeah. Which rock stars have you graced with your leather pants?
Warwick: I did stage costumes for Freddy Mercury for two tours so that was good.
Amber: Yeah, I would say that’s okay.
Warwick: And for Fleetwood Mac and those people, anybody from the 70s. We were selling in Beverly Hills and I’d put stuff in shops there.
Amber: And it was catered to the rock’n roll community obviously, the look and the feel.
Warwick: The world was smaller back then and there were like two shops where rock stars shopped and so you put your stuff in there and they bought it. It was easy.
Amber: So fast forward, we have the Warwick Stone fashion line for rock stars – you should also copyright that – come full circle to memorabilia for hard Rock.
Warwick: Come the 80s it wasn’t paying me enough because I did everything myself so I said I want to be in the restaurant business. It was at that time my brother-in-law was the guy who was starting the Hard Rock as one of his restaurants.
Amber: So you had a nice in there.
Warwick: Well it turned out not to be a nice in. It was like oh I’m not giving you any favors, you’ve got to start in the kitchen and bravely I said yeah I’ll do that. And proudly I learned the restaurant business from the kitchen up. But they’d always be saying why don’t you go today to Denver and shop for antiques or go to Graceland and buy some Elvis souvenirs to hang on the wall. And I started being the hang-on-the-wall guy. And then because of that I’d always get run afoul over wanting to hang something on the wall, somebody has already put a fixture there, so I started in with the blueprints and the architects.
Amber: Because there are a few more Hard Rocks that came up after the original.
Warwick: Right? Two or three restaurants in I was pretty much doing all the design direction.
Amber: On all the walls and the memorabilia.
Warwick: And so memorabilia at that point actually became secondary, putting Cadillacs over the bar and things like that.
Amber: Part of it to me that’s interesting is that it’s not just memorabilia, it’s the whole process you have to go through of sourcing it, making sure it fits onto the aesthetic of what you’re doing; making sure it also works together with all the other things. There’s just a whole lot of process that goes into it and then you have to insure it and make sure it’s valued properly.
Warwick: And you have to create an inventory system once you start getting a lot of it and it goes where did that go? We bought a valuable piece, where is it? I don’t know.
Amber: So you’ve had to build out a whole bunch of things outside of this one thing; you’re not just wandering around shopping all day.
Warwick: So now part of my expertise is the software that takes care of the stuff; the valuations, the ups and downs, the insurance.
Amber: Sure because they’re investments really.
Warwick: Fast forward to my new life in Nashville and I’m more of an appraiser than anything else.
Amber: I see, so tell me about this new chapter for you. You just moved here from Las Vegas not long ago, so what are your prospects now? I know there’s a lot of places you can go to here.
Warwick: One of the first people I met before we’d even moved here was the curator for the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Amber: Right down the road actually.
Warwick: Who said we have all these old musicians that are trying to give us their life’s merchandise, their memorabilia, but we’ve got 50,000 items we don’t know what to do with. We don’t want it; you should go into the business of appraising their estates. And immediately the penny dropped and I was like well yeah, I can do that.
Amber: Yeah, absolutely.
Warwick: I’ve got all the skills and the software and everything.
Amber: You’re set up and ready to go. Well real quick before I let you go I would love to know do you have three pieces that you are most proud of or that you got and you just thought man, I totally scored on this one? You can start with one.
Warwick: The first one is self-promoting; I own a very good Michael Jackson glove.
Amber: Oh wow.
Warwick: And I think Michael Jackson gloves are Smithsonian-worthy.
Amber: Yeah, I think they are too.
Warwick: They create in one object a huge picture of an era of how many millions of people were besotted by the glimmer of that glove.
Amber: Absolutely, it’s an icon the glove in and of itself.
Warwick: Yes, a true icon. The other one is also I think an icon, particularly to the English, and I said when I got this I paid way too much money for this back in 1999 but I had to have that exact piece because when they put out the Time Life Book of the 90s this would be on the cover. It’s the Union Jack corset dress from Ginger Spice.
Amber: I was not expecting that. But I love that I wasn’t expecting that and I agree you’re right.
Warwick: You know it. It was only worn once but everybody knows it. When they made a little Ginger Spice doll that’s what they had it dressed in.
Amber: That’s exactly what she was wearing.
Warwick: And it’s literally a corset, a black lace corset that her sister sewed a flag to the front and that’s it.
Amber: And it has a whole story behind it. Do you have one more?
Warwick: One more? There’s a variety of one mores; I think we should throw in an Elvis.
Amber: Okay, let’s do that; we are in Tennessee after all.
Warwick: I like the Elvis guns. My former employer would absolutely have a heart attack if I even mentioned guns on property so after he sold the company I could go back and revisit the subject of Elvis guns. Elvis was a gun nut and there was a lot of guns out there he would give away.
Amber: Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. We could talk about this all day, unfortunately we only have a limited amount of time here. Warwick thank you so much for joining us on the show today.
Warwick: It’s been a real pleasure.
Amber: I totally concur with that.
Warwick: I love being here.
Amber: So thank you.
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