Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ralph Stanley

I mailed this 1971 Rebel LP out to Ralph Stanley's mountain home in Southwestern Virginia in March of 2010 and received it back yesterday. I don't really think I could ask for a better looking Ralph Stanley autograph. The LP cover has a nice design, the signature is clean and bold, and it has perfect placement. In general, I wish Ralph didn't sign his name with a "Dr." in front of it, but he has done this ever since he received an honorary Doctorate of Music from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee back in 1976. I assume that every Ralph Stanley autograph signed with a sharpie says "Dr." on it.

My friend John and I went on a road trip to McClure, Virginia in the summer of 2008. After touring the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood, we drove six or seven miles up a windy mountain road to pay our respects to Carter Stanley at the Stanley family plot on Smith Ridge. As you can see from the photographs, Ralph's own resting spot is already designated. Before we left the area, we stopped at the gate of Ralph's modest ranch house and rang the buzzer, but no one answered.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Willie Nelson

By 1982, the Outlaw Movement was long over and commercial radio-friendly pop music (e.g, the 1981 smash "9 to 5") had practically taken over the country music scene. In light of this trend, it made sense for legendary Memphis producer Chips Moman to record Willie singing a few well-chosen rock, soul, and pop selections from the 60s and 70s, though I doubt anyone could have predicted the immense popularity of Elvis's "Always On My Mind" as sung by Willie Nelson. As far as I know, it's his biggest hit as a performer.

Despite its obvious commercial appeal, Always On My Mind is not without aesthetic merits. Willie's voice was recorded perfectly and while the music isn't especially groundbreaking (The Flying Burrito Brothers recorded a country version of "Do Right Woman" back in 1968), the album cover has a post-modern quality to it that makes it stand out, despite its ubiquity. Whether intentional or not, the synthetic nature of Willie's chrome-colored outfit, his painted hair, and the collage of mountains in the background makes Willie look like some sort of futuristic hippie-cowboy in an alien landscape. At the same time, the look is his eyes is warm and inviting.

I mailed the Always On My Mind cover to Willie's ranch in Austin, Texas in January of this year and received it back yesterday, practically a year later. When I opened the package and examined the cover, I was surprised by the location of Willie's autograph, which is in the top right corner directly below the album title (pictured above). I've seen several signed copies of this record on eBay, but I haven't seen any signed in this particular spot. While one can never be 100% sure whether through-the-mail autographs are authentic, I do believe mine is real, despite the unusual signature placement. Otherwise, why would it have taken so long for the package to be returned to me? A secretary could have signed and returned this record 11 months ago. I also know that Willie has a reputation for being a very willing signer.

Below the album scan is a picture of a Willie Nelson autograph that I know is real. To my eyes, both autographs look like they were written with the same hand, though the first loop after the "W" on the album cover is higher than it is in the second photograph and in most other examples I have seen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

John Prine

I found this signed John Prine album at a local record store on the same day I found the signed Emmylou Harris LP I wrote about earlier. At the time, I already owned a copy of Common Sense, but decided that the autograph alone was worth the $2 price tag, so I bought another copy.

As you can see by the above picture, John signed the back cover of this 1975 LP with a ballpoint pen, which was still a very common thing to do in the early to mid 1970s before the advent of the Sharpie. He quoted a line from Side A's "Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard," which leads me to believe he was promoting this record at the time that he signed it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charlie Louvin

I never thought I’d get to see Charlie Louvin play a dive bar in New York City, let alone have the experience on multiple occasions. The above picture was taken in 2006 at The Rodeo Bar in New York City and it gives you a sense of the intimate environment, as well as the configuration of his band. Charlie brought along with him a bass player and a female harmony singer/acoustic guitar player and the trio was rounded out by three local musicians: a mandolin player (partially obscured), drummer, and electric guitar player (not pictured). The New York backing band did an excellent job and, as you might gather from the look on the drummer’s face, the band played loud, energetic honkytonk music, not the watered down stuff you hear at Opryland.

My friends and I were in good spirits that night and were sitting at the front table, in plain view of the performers on stage. At the beginning of the show, I don’t think Charlie quite knew what to make of our group, but when he realized the extent to which we knew and loved his music, he warmed up to us pretty quickly, sitting at our table between sets and posing for pictures. At one point he even sang a song while seated at our table.

As I recall, Charlie’s setlist was a mix of Louvin Brothers tunes, hits from his solo career, and country standards. During the break I asked him if he would sing "I Don’t Believe You Met My Baby," which he reluctantly declined to play because he didn’t feel that his harmony singer would be able to hit the high notes that Ira hit on the old Louvin Brothers recording. The following year when I caught Charlie at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ, I asked him if Ira, who died in 1965, could ever have imagined the environment Charlie found himself in now. He paused for a moment and said "I don’t think Ira could have handled it." I guess his answer didn’t surprise me, but I didn’t forget it, either.

It was at the Maxwell’s show that I asked Charlie to sign the above copy of his most popular solo record. I think you can tell by the illegibility of his signature that he was holding the record with one hand and signing it with the other, as there were no tables in the room for him to place the record while he signed it. Though this isn’t my most attractive cover, it does have sentimental value. I don’t know that I’ll ever have the opportunity to see a country music legend of Charlie’s stature in such a small club again.

I can’t end this post without mentioning that Charlie is recuperating from surgery he had this past summer for pancreatic cancer. The surgery did not go as expected, and he needs your prayers and support. Visit his website if you care to leave him a message.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Les Paul

Les Paul was 92 years old when I caught one of his regular Monday night gigs at the Iridium on March 17, 2008. It was on the list of things I wanted to do before I moved from New York City and I'm just glad I didn't wait any longer, as he died 17 months later. I guess my hesitation in seeing him was that I knew he would not be playing at the level he was playing ten or twenty years earlier. It wasn't until I saw him perform that I realized he could still put on a very entertaining show on the strength of his personality alone. Sure, he missed a few notes and he shared the spotlight with a few guest performers, but the banter between the musicians and with the audience gave me priceless insight into Paul's personality and a reasonable understanding of what his post-Mary Ford shows were like in earlier times, despite not hearing any blistering guitar dynamics. And, the fact that he came out after the show, sat down at a table, and shook hands and signed autographs made for an even more memorable evening.

As I stood in line to meet Les Paul after the show, I had three LPs and a brand new sharpie with me. When it came my turn to go up to Les's table, I handed him the records in the following order: least favorite cover, middle favorite cover, then my favorite cover. My thinking at the time was that the autograph on the third LP would probably look the best; after all, he'd have ample practice on the first two records. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first autograph, on the World is Still Waiting for the Sunrise album I had inscribed to my friend John, came out beautifully with a cool personalization: "Howdy!" with the "P" in "Paul" making a pretty, round arc around the inscription. The second autograph on the mediocre Hits of Les and Mary cover came out okay, but the "Keep Rockin’!" personalization doesn’t fit with the music on the LP, which, like all of Les Paul’s music, simply isn’t rock and roll, and the "P" in "Paul" is much messier. The third autograph on my favorite cover, Lovers' Luau, came out the worst, with Les accidentally smudging his signature with his hand as he signed the cover.

It’s easy to second-guess the decisions I made when getting these records signed. Perhaps I should not have handed him the records in the order of least favorite to favorite, but I've had other experiences where I wished I had done this but hadn’t (see Gil Scott-Heron). Perhaps I should not have used a new sharpie, but I have autographs written with old sharpies that don't look very nice (see Pete Seeger). I suppose that if there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that much of autograph collecting is luck, not science. As I stated in the beginning of this entry, I'm just happy I got to see the legendary Les Paul at all.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Anton Karas

I love that the stock photo used for this Austrian LP cover shows a group of people eating, drinking, and smoking, all at the same time. It reminds me that Anton Karas’s zither makes wonderful dining music, not just a brilliant soundtrack to a great film. I salvaged this album from a local thrift store and had no idea the sleeve was signed until I pulled the record out when I got it home. It’s not the most attractive item, but it’s certainly worth the one dollar price tag.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dink Embry

And now for something totally obscure. I've noticed that the lesser known an artist is, the more likely someone will stumble upon this website when searching for that artist.

Dink Embry was a country music entertainer and personality who spent most of his career in the radio business. He worked as a disc jockey at WHOP in Hopkinsville, Kentucky for over 50 years, serving as their farm director and hosting the "Early Bird Show." He was much loved in the community, receiving all sorts of awards and honors, including the title Kentucky Colonel. His only musical contribution to the Happy Day Combo album pictured above is the humorous recitation "Just Looking," but he also deserves credit for promoting his son Drury in several different places on the back cover (click to enlarge picture).

I don't know anything about The Happy Day Combo, other than what I read on the back of this LP. They worked The Kentucky Lake Amphitheater in Aurora, Kentucky in the early 1970s and their record made its way to a thrift store in Athens, Georgia where a friend of mine found it 12 years ago. The Embrys (Dink and Drury) and The Moseleys (Jim and Gayle) comprised the core of the band and were led by vocalist Ross Sisk. The guitar player Gayle Moseley is surprisingly talented, adeptly playing in the difficult styles of Chet Atkins ("Black Mountain Rag") and Joe Maphis ("Chicken Leg"), and I'm sure he was highly regarded in the Aurora area and anywhere else he played. I'm not sure if and how Gayle is related to harmonica player Jim Moseley, who is also quite skilled at his instrument.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Charley Pride

I sent this 1966 LP to Charley Pride’s post office box in Dallas earlier this year and got it back in the mail, signed, about a month later. The comment "my first album" leads me to believe he may not sign this one that often. This record features Charley’s first single, "Snakes Crawl at Night," as well as the great "Atlantic Coastal Line," both written by Mel Tillis and Fred Burch. I like the uncluttered, simple cover design, which is typical of late 60s RCA country LPs.

It’s worth noting that Charley’s early singles were distributed to country radio stations throughout the South without any pictures of Charley, for fear that racism might keep them from receiving airplay. At the time this LP came out, many folks assumed Charley Pride was white, and, consequently, this perfectly ordinary album cover likely surprised a few people.

Charley Pride still keeps a busy touring schedule, but he doesn’t play the Mid-Atlantic States very often. If he ever makes his way out here again, I’ll be sure to be in the audience.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hank Snow

In May of 1994, some friends and I took a road-trip from Atlanta to Nashville, with the express purpose of meeting the venerable and relatively inaccessible country music legend, Hank Snow. Though Hank was still performing weekly on the Grand Ole Opry, he was not known for welcoming visitors. When we arrived in Nashville, we checked into a fleabag motel, hit a few used record stores, and then caught a Friday evening performance of the Grand Ole Opry, which was still regularly featuring Hank Snow in the final time-slot. Looking over the Opry program now, I see that Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner, Grandpa Jones, Skeeter Davis, Jean Shepard, Charlie Walker, Jimmy Dickens, and Connie Smith were all part of the same show. Not bad for an evening's entertainment, even if the Opry hasn't really been the Opry since it moved from the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville to the suburbs of Opryland in 1974.

Hank's performance that night was rather unmemorable, as age had considerably slowed him down. I remember him playing a slow Hawaiian song and having some difficulty reading the cue cards for whatever announcements he was supposed to make. He was dressed impeccably in one of his trademark Nudie Suits and just seeing him on stage was enough to make the trip to Nashville worthwhile for me. The following day, my friends and I drove out to Hank's modest but well-guarded estate in Madison, and rang the buzzer at the foot of the gated driveway. A woman answered through the speaker and courteously but firmly told us that Hank was not (and would not be) available to meet us and sign our records. This unceremoniously ended our attempt to meet Mr. Snow, so I had to resort to eBay to acquire the signed Hank Snow record pictured above.

This Award Winners LP popped up on eBay earlier this year with a "Buy it Now" price of $6.00 and it is one of the few prominently signed Hank Snow albums I have seen on eBay -- most are signed on the back cover with a faded ballpoint pen. Interestingly, this record once belonged to United Shows of America carnival operator Ed Gregory, who owned the rights to Jim Reeves and Faron Young before he filed for bankruptcy in 2002. I can only guess that Hank signed it for Gregory while he was performing at a United Shows of America carnival. A decade or two later, Gregory and his wife were convicted of bank fraud in Alabama and soon to be (controversially) pardoned by President Clinton in 2000. A report by the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform concluded that United Shows paid Clinton's brother-in-law Rodham $240,000 for undocumented consulting services before Gregory received the pardon.

It seems very fitting that, out of all of Hank Snow's LPs, and he has over 100 of them, I would end up with a signed copy of this relatively obscure 1971 LP called Award Winners. Believe it or not, Award Winners was the only LP I was carrying under my arm that day in 1994 when I showed up at the Rainbow Ranch and tried to meet Hank Snow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Red Simpson

During that same trip to Bakersfield where John and I saw Buck Owens at the Crystal Palace (see previous entry), we caught one of Red Simpson's regular Monday night gigs at Trout's in a town called Oildale, which is a few miles north of downtown Bakersfield. The 73 year old nightclub is the last remaining authentic honkytonk in the Bakersfield area.

Monday evenings are advertised as "SENIORS & SINGLES MIXER - LIVE MUSIC Featuring RED SIMPSON & LARRY PETREE!" and the music is really meant as accompaniment for dancing, the way it is at most of the best honkytonks in the country. On the warm September evening that we were there, the dance floor was packed, and most of folks dancing were over the age of 60.

Red and steel player Larry Petree played mostly country standards that night and surprisingly few truck driving songs, the style of country music Red is famous for singing. We had been in contact with Larry the previous week and he knew we were going to be in the audience that night. Shortly after we arrived, he introduced us to Red and Red asked me what song I wanted to hear, to which I responded "Roll, Truck, Roll," without thinking that there's not much room for Larry to play on that song--not that that really mattered. They played "Roll, Truck, Roll" early in the set and they played "Hello, I’m a Truck" shortly after and I don't remember them playing any other truck-driving songs. They mostly played music that was more suitable for dancing. This was definitely entertainment for locals, while Buck's show was geared more toward out-of-towners.

Red and Larry were very friendly with us and we all had a beer together after the show, where Red introduced us to his wife Joyce and signed our records. The entire place--the management, the wait staff, the bartender, the performers--were unusually welcoming and friendly, and this evening is my fondest memory of the Bakersfield trip.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Buck Owens

In September of 2003, my friend John and I took a weekend trip to Bakersfield to see Buck Owens at his Crystal Palace establishment. We weren’t able to meet Buck, but we were able to get a couple of LPs signed, thanks to our waitress who took our records backstage before the show started. Buck’s performance was decent, but I felt that he gave a little too much time to other (non-Buckaroo) members of his band, such as the backup singer pictured above. Even when Buck was in the spotlight, he wasn't exactly doing the things you expected to see him do. I distinctly recall him playing "Steel Guitar Rag" on the resonator guitar, which I would have gladly traded for a performance of "Streets of Bakersfield." In fact, the evening's entertainment was more akin to a variety show than a Buck Owens concert. Fortunately, I was able to catch a much more engaging Buck Owens performance at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco about a month later.

When John and I got our signed LPs back after the show, our waitress examined the signatures, confirming that Buck himself had, indeed, signed them. Earlier that evening, she had told us that other people sometimes sign for Buck, but that one could tell an authentic Buck Owens signature by examining the "B."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Patti Page

What initially looked like a disaster turned into an attractive cover thanks to a little can of Goof Off. I sent Ms. Page this cover back in January along with a note mentioning, among other things, my father’s memory of escorting her to the stage in the early 1950s at a University of Detroit carnival. I received it back yesterday with two(!) inscriptions on it: one for me and one for “Ms. Griffin,” whoever that is--certainly no relation to me. It appears that Ms. Page got her mail mixed up and inscribed my record to someone else and then corrected her mistake by adding a second inscription. Maybe it took her eight months to decide if she should mail it back to me or not. Fortunately, this being one of those Mercury records with the thin glossy laminate coating, I was able to wipe off the accidental inscription with a rag and a dab of Goof Off. That would not have worked with any non-laminated record and very few are laminated--Mercury, Elektra, and CTI are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. The fact that this trick worked at all lets you know how vulnerable some autographs can be. I’m just glad the “2010” was on the incorrect inscription and not the one meant for me. This way I don’t feel guilty wiping it off. Who wants to see “2010” on a 1959 record?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Senator Robert Byrd

Make no mistake: Senator Robert Byrd is an outstanding fiddler. Had he never entered politics, I have no doubt he could have had a career in music. When I found this LP in a record store in Chincoteague, VA, I thought I had found one of those celebrity curiosities like a Terry Bradshaw or Bruce Wilis record. I was pleasantly surprised when I dropped the needle and heard some real down-home fiddling. I've seen this record two or three times since I encountered it on the Eastern Shore and I think it's been signed every time. I wonder if Senator Byrd went on tour in 1978 to promote this release. He would have been House Majority Leader at that time, so I kind of doubt it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Ramblin' Jack Elliott signed this 1960 Monitor record for me after a show he played at B.B. Kings Blues Club in 2006. He shared the bill with Peter Rowan, both playing separate sets. At one point Jack and Peter attempted to play a song together, but Jack's guitar was tuned to itself and was quite a bit off from standard tuning. Before Peter had a chance to re-tune to match Jack's guitar, Jack launched into a song. Since Peter was already standing there with his guitar in his hand, he had no choice but to try to play along by bending his strings into tune. This didn't work too well. Peter was obviously embarrassed, Jack was oblivious, and I was amused, finding the incident rather fitting for a Ramblin' Jack Elliott show.

After the performance, Jack came out from the back stage area and was immediately cornered by some guy who brought about 30 records for him to "look through" and sign if and when he "felt like signing something." After the guy ushered Jack to a table, Jack picked up the first record in the collection, an early and obscure EP from the 50s, and bitterly commented that he never received any money for it. Reluctantly, he signed a few of the guy's records--very sloppily--working his way through the stack, obviously feeling a little trapped. It was at this point that I introduced myself and asked if he wouldn't mind signing my record, "after all, I only brought one." I hated to butt in like that, but if I hadn't, I'm sure the guy in front of me would have occupied all of Jack's time until he had had enough of the guy's collection and got up and left. Jack did sign my cover--also very sloppily--noting afterward that he added a couple extra "T's" to his name "because you can never have too many." I don't think Jack intentionally added the extra T's, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stonewall Jackson

Here is another country music autograph that I got through the mail. Stonewall Jackson was extremely fast in signing this record and getting it back to me. One of my favorite things about receiving the return package was seeing how he writes his return address -- apparently Stonewall's so well known in Brentwood, TN that "Stonewall 37027" is all he needs to write.

Friday, April 23, 2010

George Jones

George Jones signed this Musicor cover earlier this year, after I mailed it to his fan club, and it's one of my favorite autographs I've gotten through the mail. I had met George while he was on his book tour about 15 years ago, but he wasn't signing memorabilia back then. Shortly after that book tour, I saw George in concert with Tammy Wynette, but he didn't sign stuff on that occasion either. Finally I decided that the best way to get him to sign a record was to mail him one, which I did, and I got it back within two weeks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Porter Wagoner

I got these two Porter Wagoner records signed backstage at Joe's Pub in New York City on March 30, 2007. After the show, I wrote up this short review and posted it on a guitar forum:

Tonight I had the incredible opportunity to see Porter Wagoner backed by Marty Stuart at Joe's Pub in New York City. My wife and I got there early and grabbed a seat right in front of the stage. I had a couple records with me I was hoping to get signed, so I asked the guy in charge if Porter would be signing autographs after the show. This guy unbelievably brought me to a small back stage room to meet Porter and Marty. I shook hands with them and they were as friendly as can be. I was particularly taken with how nice, down to earth, and cool Marty Stuart is. He basically treated me like a good friend, even though we had just met.

Porter's show was one of the most touching shows I have seen. He played a great set: Satisfied Mind, Dooley, I'll Go Down Swinging, Green Green Grass of Home, Rubber Room (!), Cold Hard Facts of Life, and more. Porter was really enjoying himself, as was Marty. I gather that Porter didn't know what to expect coming to New York City after all these years. He ended up absolutely loving it.

At the end of the show, Porter and Marty came on for an encore. Porter didn't need his guitar for the song and there was no guitar stand. He handed the guitar to Marty who had nowhere to put the guitar so, recognizing me from before, he reached across the stage to my table and asked me to hold the guitar. So, I sat through the encore (I'll Go Down Swinging) holding Porter Wagoner's guitar. After the song, I gave Marty back the guitar and he shook my hand, giving me his guitar pick in the process as a token of thanks. This was a moment I won't forget.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Donna Stoneman

I salvaged this gem from a stack of records my next door neighbor was taking to the Salvation Army. Donna Stoneman is the daughter of the legendary Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman and was a member of the Stoneman Family country/bluegrass group that was popular in the 1960s. In the early 70s while Donna's sister Roni joined the cast of Hee Haw, I think Donna had some sort of religious conversion and toured with Cathy Manzer singing gospel music. As far as I know, this is their only record together.

The noticeable contrast in looks between these two ladies and the over-the-top graphics are both amusing--I only wish Donna had signed the front cover rather than the back. The record itself is a pleasant but bland mix of bluegrass gospel and Christian light-country-rock, with the best cuts featuring the always-spirited mandolin playing of Donna Stoneman. It’s not a bad record, but I’d rather listen to the Stoneman Family.

I've also posted a wonderful picture of Donna and her sister Roni that was taken by Leon Kagarise at the New River Ranch in 1963.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Faron Young

Faron Young died in December 1996, before I had a chance to see him perform live. I consider him one of the all time greats and am sorry he died feeling forgotten and unappreciated--it wasn’t until 2000 that he was inducted posthumously into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

This boldly-signed 1963 Mercury LP popped up on eBay a couple weeks ago and I won it for $17, which is about my upper limit for these things. Not only was I drawn to this item for the cover, I really wanted to hear Faron sing western music, which I thought would be a natural fit for his singing style--I wasn’t disappointed.

It was only after I won this record that I looked at the picture of the cover carefully and saw that the original owner had written his name in ballpoint pen just below the track listing (you can see it in the photo I posted along with the scan). Fortunately, Mercury records from this era have a thin coating of gloss over the entire cover so the ballpoint ink did not penetrate the actual paper and I was able to carefully remove it using Goof Off--this almost never works, but I got lucky.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dave Brubeck

Like my last post, this is an autographed LP that I found in a dollar record bin--this one came from the budget bins at Amoeba Records in San Francisco, CA. I'm willing to bet Mr. Brubeck signed this after a concert appearance in '79 or '80, back when this record was new. Even though sharpies existed in the late 70s (they came out in 1977), artists were still frequently signing stuff with ballpoint pens back then. The autograph on this record was probably overlooked by the employees at Amoeba Records, otherwise it could have sold for somewhere around ten dollars--that's still not a lot of money, but this isn't a great autograph, nor is it a classic record.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fats Domino

Sometimes you find signed items in dollar record bins that probably wouldn't have been on sale for a dollar if the store owner or employee had noticed the autograph. This happens more often with records that are signed on the back cover, which used to be the trend back in the days before sharpies when artists signed stuff with ballpoint pens. Ballpoint pen autographs typically stand out better on the back cover where the background does not have an image on it.

I found this signed Fats Domino record in a dollar record bin in an antique store in Vienna, Virginia. The record and the cover aren't in great shape, but this is an interesting artifact, particularly since it was likely signed back when this record was new in the late 50s. Note that Fats signed his name "Antoine Fats Domino." Judging by what I've seen on eBay, I don't think he signed his full name like this very often.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Arlo Guthrie

This was the first record I ever got signed and it’s an aesthetic disaster, but it has sentimental value. I got this signed in the late 80s at a daytime show at the Frederick Fair Grounds in Frederick, Maryland. The price of admission was $5 and after the show Arlo sat down in the grass, talking with folks and signing autographs--mostly on cassette tapes. When I handed him this 1981 LP, he said something like "Look at this old thing." It’s funny how a 1981 record can seem more dated than a classic record from the 60s or 70s, but that’s exactly how this one seemed back then and it still does now; I mean, a signed Alice’s Restaurant is a timeless artifact, but a signed Power of Love--Arlo’s last major label record--is in a category all its own. The funny thing is, I had Alice’s Restaurant on LP at the time, but I chose to bring this record to the show instead. I guess I thought it would be a nice gesture to bring a record from the current decade. Something that would not have occurred to me back then is that this "cut-out" copy probably reminded Arlo that this record did not sell very well. I wish that the notched spine was the only issue with this cover, but equally problematic is the fact that the autograph is totally lost in the Hawaiian shirt, not to mention that the pen was obviously running low on ink. There’s also the hideous cover design--at least Arlo’s got a nice tan.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Harry Belafonte

One of the benefits of maintaining this blog is that it motivates me to write letters to the legendary artists I admire like Harry Belafonte. Calypso was probably the first album I ever heard, since it belonged to my parents, and I distinctly remember playing it on my toy turntable when I was a child. When I stumbled upon an incredibly clean copy of this 1956 LP in a dollar record bin last month, I knew I had to mail it to Mr. Belafonte and ask him to sign it. What I got back in return was much nicer than I anticipated. While I often prefer simple, clean signatures without a personalization, I do like autographs like this one that indicate a legitimate interaction took place; it’s nice to know that Mr. Belafonte appreciated my letter, making our exchange much less one-sided than it could have been. Calypso is one of the most popular records of all time--the first LP to sell over one million copies--and the elegant cover design is perfect for an autograph.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dave Van Ronk

The only time I saw Dave Van Ronk was in Blind Willie's in Atlanta in the mid 1990s. At the time I wasn't actively collecting autographs, so I didn't bring a record for him to sign. I remember regretting not having done so and it wasn't long after this show that I started bringing LPs with me to live performances.

Dave Van Ronk autographs don't show up on eBay much, but this one did. The condition of the cover isn't great and the autograph is somewhat difficult to see, but I was happy to pick this record up for less than ten dollars.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bert Jansch

I got a chance to see Bert Jansch perform a solo show at Southpaw in Broolkyn, NY in 2006. I arrived an hour early to the show and sat next to a gentleman in his 60s who was surprised to see that someone my age (mid 30s) had come to see Bert perform. At that time there were about ten people in the venue and we were all comfortably seated in the only seating area--a small group of couches and chairs in a raised platform towards the back of the room. As people started to trickle in and stand in front of the stage, I decided to do the same so I would have a better view. An hour later the entire club was filled to capacity and most of the audience was in their 20s and 30s and I thought to myself that the surprised guy on the couch must be flabbergasted by now.

Bert was captivating on stage, which is an extremely difficult thing to be when you're performing as a solo act. After the show, Bert came out from the backstage area and into the club to sign a few autographs. While I was waiting for my turn, it was brought to my attention that there were several more autograph-seekers on the sidewalk outside the venue--these were guys who hadn't even seen the show and were probably just looking for stuff to put on eBay. It always annoys me when I see this--fortunately Bert seemed to know what was up and he signed our stuff first.

Recently Bert had to cancel a North American tour due to illness. I really hope he's feeling better and I get a chance to see him perform again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tom Paxton

I got Tom Paxton's first LP signed after a recent show at the Barns of Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. I wish that every autographed record turned out like this one, with a clean, prominent signature and without a date.