Bob Bonis (1932-1992) began in the music business as a talent agent at MCA in New York City in the late 1950s and through a series of unremarkable circumstances, went on to hold an extraordinary position at a pivotal time in rock history—Tour Manager for both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones during their first U.S. tours in 1964 and continuing through 1966. Since his personal passion was photography (he was quite a talented amateur photographer), he took his camera along wherever he went and took photos of everyone he worked with—capturing incredibly intimate photos that the world is about to see for the very first time.
In fact, the combination of his eye for composition and his unequaled access to the most significant performers of the 20th century yielded a truly remarkable archive, including some of the most fantastic images of both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles never before published or seen by the public. In addition to more than 3,500 photos he took of The Beatles and The Stones, Bob photographed Simon & Garfunkel, The Hollies, Cream recording in the studio, The Lovin' Spoonful, Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra and many of the jazz greats with whom he worked.
The Bob Bonis collection includes over 850 spectacular, candid photos of The Beatles – on stage in concert, backstage (rehearsing, tuning up, waiting to go on stage and clowning around), dressing and relaxing, on vacations or en route to shows or cities, and more. Additionally, the archive includes over 2,600 spectacular and candid photos of The Rolling Stones, not only in concert, backstage and in the dressing rooms but also getting their haircut, bowling, recording in the studio, at press events and just hanging around being themselves. The extraordinary nature of these images reflects Bob’s close friendship with the bands and offers a private, behind-the-scenes look into the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.
Bob started his career in the music industry at MCA talent agency in New York City. When MCA dissolved the talent agency, Bob started a jazz management firm working with a variety of jazz and big band performers including Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Harry Belafonte, Gerry Mulligan and others. Standing 6'1" and weighing over 200 pounds, Bob cut an intimidating figure—and earned a reputation for being able to deal with the wise guys that ran a lot of the jazz clubs.
Because of this ability, he was tapped to serve as The Rolling Stones’ tour manager for their first ever US tour. According to Bill Wyman in his book, Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock 'n' Roll Band, when Bob was asked to go on the tour, his initial reaction was that he didn't want to go out on the road anymore and that he wasn't a fan of rock ‘n’ roll. But, according to Wyman, when he saw the famous article from Melody Maker entitled "Would You Let Your Sister Marry A Rolling Stone?” Bob responded, "That's a great sales pitch," and agreed to manage the tour.
Bob did a great job of getting The Stones where they needed to be on time. Quite a feat considering that the "bad boys" of the British Invasion worked hard for their terrible reputation for trouble. His experience with them was quite the opposite, and he developed a great friendship with them that lasted long after his role as their tour manager ended. His success with The Stones’ tour led the band’s management office in England to recommend him to Brian Epstein for the same role with The Beatles. That led to Bob serving as The Beatles’ U.S. tour manager for all three U.S. tours.
Not Fade Away Gallery
A private man, Bob never sought publicity and had no aspirations to publish his photos or to write a book about his experiences with the two greatest, most important bands in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. He never participated in the fan culture or went to any of the conventions. He allowed only a handful of his photographs to be published in teen magazines in the Sixties, but after that, he wasn’t interested in pursuing attention based on his past exploits.
For over forty years, the negatives and slides have been safely stored away unbeknownst to anyone but his wife, son and friends. Bob's son Alex recently unearthed this astounding and previously unknown record of an important period in time, and as one of the founders of Not Fade Away Gallery, will begin to make these images available for exhibition and for sale as museum-quality fine art photographic prints (both black-and-white and color), in extremely limited editions and printed on era-appropriate paper.
Now, extraordinary private moments such as these are available for all fans of music and fine art photography to see at Not Fade Away Gallery, honoring the life and work of Bob Bonis.