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.