I have been wanting to start a thread on this for a long time, and i figure now is as good of a time as any. I collect primary guitar players, and have been selling alot of them off recently, but one thing i continue to collect are the great old blues guitar players. Their is something about the Delta Blues traveling lifestyle that holds alot of wonder for me. These guys laid the foundation of modern music and they inspired many, if not most, of the musicians working today. Most think of Robert Johnson when they think of the great Blues players, but their are so so many others that deserve mention and tons of respect.
As anyone who has ever studied early blues signatures knows, they are incredibly difficult to authenticate or even find at times. You have guys like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, BB King just to name a few whose signature examples can readily be found. But aside from a few key players, autographs from these guys are very hard to find. And when you find one, often you really have to trust your source or do some serious research. And even then you often cant find examples.
So i thought this would be a good thread that may help future collectors out with examples we think are authentic. Please post examples of blues signatures that you like and want to share. Guys like Buddy Guy and BB King probably dont need to be posted in mass b/c their signatures are so abundant, but dont hesitate if you would like to post some.
I hope this can turn into a good database, and really the only one of its kind on the net. I have many examples from many different sources and if someone doesnt want their picture posted just leave a comment and i will delete it.
I am going to start this off with Albert King. You can find Albert King signatures from time to time, and of the 3 King's, he is the next most available after BB. Alberts signatures are typically sloppy, shaky, and can take on a few forms. Albert often write "Love You" before his signature, and his typical signature takes the form of A. King. I have also seen variations including "A.B. King". King often would not write out King fully and the formation would flow from the K almost into the g. I have seen my fair share of forgeries with Albert, but his signature can be authenticated in most instances in my opinion. Here are some examples with sources:
This is one album i used to own and recently sold on RR Auction. It came from "Mr. Bebop", of Larrys Books and Autographs. He specializes in blues signatures and this was a great example of king.
These next images came from RR Auction
The Ace of Spades album is a nice example, and the rarer A.B. King signature. The middle cut display is more atypical. This one in my eyes can go either way but is probably good. The A looks typical but the King is a little more unusual. But he did do this from time to time in his shorter signature versions. The bottom example is a typical King signature.
Please Carl, can you contact me in private? I have a question of a Muddy Waters signature. THANKS.
Thank you William. I appreciate the encouragement. I will be listing a bunch more over the next few days.
Ok, i thought i would throw in one of my favorite and most valuable autographs. He is a Jazz guitarist and not a Blues man, although he could play both amazingly. John Leslie Montgomery, better known as Wes Montgomery was possibly the greatest Jazz guitarist to ever live. He influenced probably more modern day guitar legends than anyone.
Wes's autographs are incredibly rare. Wes lived into the late sixties and died fairly early in his career. The relatively early age of death may be why so few examples of his autograph exist. But the ones that do are very valuable and are sought after by many collectors. I am proud to say that i own one such item, and LP in fact, and i will post a pic below. Wes autographs typically dont pop up period, and when they do, its typically on a major auction site. However, i was able to get mine off ebay. And boy was it a deal!!! Wes autographs typically average between 500 to 2500 dollars depending on item and condition. And sometimes they achieve even higher prices.
Below are some signed examples of authentic signatures. Wes often wrote his full name out, but did sign with just "Wes" on occasion. One of the things i find really neat is that Wes was really had great penmanship and his signature would be very difficult for a forger to get right.
This is my signed LP i purchased off ebay for a steal. It is on the inside of a gatefold for the album "Travelin Wes". The album is also in mint condition. This is only the 2nd LP i have ever seen signed. The story on this item was that it was signed by a bar manager that hosted Wes and his band one evening and then put the item away. A true gem.
This image came from google image and is authentic in my opinion. Its the only other LP i have ever seen.
Here is a typical example of his signature from RR Auction
And lastly a signed pic from RR auction. This one signed only with Wes. I have seen so few of these that i am not all that familiar with just his first name signatures. I do know that Wes signed just Wes on occasion, but this is an example that just shows how hard it is to find good examples of these guys. In my personal opinion i dont think this example is authentic. But again i havent seen enough items signed just "Wes" to tell for sure. Wes had a very elegant style and great cursive. He also wrote very small and compact. HIs salutations are also very elegant, the fancy "T" in "To" is quite unique. This item doesnt show his typical characteristics in my opinion though. The only characteristic that looks similar to exemplars i have seen is the "Best" inscription. The B looks similar, and that coupled with the few "Wes" signatures i have seen, leave this up in the air for me.
All in all Wes signatures are extremely rare and valuable. My advice if you are looking for one is watch the major auction houses but also search ebay Uk and USA daily for items. Thats how i found mine by shear luck.
I’m now the proud owner of a Wes Montgomery signed piece. Its condition is not great, but considering its background for me it kinda adds to its charm. It is signed on the inside of a table card from the Bohemian Caverns.
The Bohemian Caverns was/is predominantly a Jazz club (though Blues artists like Muddy Waters did play there), in its time it has featured a who’s who list of Jazz performers like: Holiday, Gillespie, Calloway, Basie, Armstrong, Parker, Davis, Coltrane, Monk and of course Montgomery.
As mention the table card is pretty stained, but you can literarily smell the boozy smoky atmosphere of a 60’s basement Jazz club. It’s signed to ‘Johnny’ Sneed a guitar player who at one time was part of Link Wray and the Wraymen.
So it is safe to say this isn’t a mint condition Wes Montgomery autograph but what it is, to me anyway, is a piece of Jazz history:
Next up is another super rare signer, the delta blues musician, Big Joe Williams. Williams lived into the early eighties but he very rarely signed. Williams was unusual when he played, in that he favored the nine string guitar. He influenced generations and his innovations on the guitar have helped define the possiblities of the guitar. He was a true delta blues master.
Big Joe Williams signatures are extremely rare, i have only seen maybe 5 in total. Note that their are 2 Joe Williams who achieved popularity in music. One was Big Joe (guitarist), and the other was a singer. If you search for examples be careful, b/c the singer Joe Williams is featured in many autograph auction sites, and is worth relatively little. Big Joe was largely illiterate, and his typical autograph was a series of 3 X's. However, he was capable of writing his first name, although crudely, and i have only seen 2 of those and one i own.
Realistically price is something that would be hard for me to put an amount on. They come up for auction so rarely its just hard to say. Despite the giant that Big Joe was in blues, he is overlooked by alot of blues fans who dont recognize his name right off the bat. This leaves the door open for a good deal to be had, despite an incredibly rare signature. I would say you could by a Joe signature for between 2 and 3 hundred if you could ever find one. Mr. Bebop had one that is pictured below, and he had never seen another, so if interested he might still have it. His signature is rarer than any autograph featured so far, but the demand for him is not as high, so a deal can be had. My item, which is a dual signed piece with T Bone Walker, who will be covered later, was purchased for the 200 mark, although the seller didnt know the other signer, as he originally thought it was john Lee Hooker, who will also be featured later.
Here are some examples:
This is the Big Joe pic from Mr. Bebop. Joe signed his first name, like in mine, which is very rare.
Here is my item. It was signed on the inside of a UK Blues festival program which is still in great conditions. The T Bone signature is one of the biggest i have seen and really cool.
This example comes from a private collectors website. Joe's signature is the series of 3 X's. This item also contains Lonnie Johnson and Matt Guitar Murphy. Lonnie i will cover later.
All in all Big Joe williams is an extremely rare autograph but can be had at a great price if you are lucky enough to ever see one for sale. I would stay away from items you may see with the series of X,s. They really cant be authenticated unless the item is unique like the one above with other signatures that add credibility.
The last one for tonight is Walter Brown McGhee, better known as Brownie McGhee. McGhee was a giant of a Piedmont blues player and played with the likes of Blind Boy Fuller. He was a living guitar legend, much like Muddy, until his death in the nineties.
Because McGhee lived until relatively recent, his signatures can be obtained but are not exactly common. Muddy signatures for example are far more common. I would put McGhee's obtainability as around the same as Albert King. His signatures typically come up at least once a year and i would put a value of around 100 for cuts up to 300 for larger items. McGhee signatures are out their in number but alot of people dont want to give them up, as he was a colorful character in the Blues world.
Here are some examples to look over
This is my item purchased from RR recently.
Here is a Brownie and Terry from google
Here is a real cool item from google that has both Brownie, Muddy, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Otis Span and Cousin Joe.
Here is a Brownie from RR
And here is another from RR
Before i leave for the night, i almost forgot too post my own Albert King signature. This is a very rare piece form a collector in Switzerland and features Freddie King, who i will cover later, on the front, and Albert on the back.
I also should add that Albert King signatures are fairly rare. I typically see between 6 and 12 for sale each year between the major auctions and ebay. Best buy for a potential customer, i would say ebay, but you have to make sure you are fluent in his signature, b/c forgeries do pop up on Albert. You can count on that you will probably see between 1 to 3 between ebay UK and USA each year. As long as you know his signature, you can typically get a much better price than at a premium auction. I would put Alberts signature anywhere from 100 to 300 dollars. I have seen a few authentic cuts that went for a little over 100, but most go for around the 200 to 250 mark, and that includes LP's.
I was very luck to have just run into a killer deal on ebay. A storage locker buyer was selling some signed Living Blues Magazines that were in a locker. And i was able to purchase several magazines for a steal. I purchased several including: Albert King, Yank Rachell, Bid Daddy Kinsey, Snooky Pryor, and Luther Tucker. And Paid around 35 bucks for each, and that applied to the Albert King too!!!! Sometimes you can just get really lucky. The same seller sold a beautiful John Lee Hooker signed magazine from the same locker a little while back for 40 dollars BIN, but i didnt see that one, otherwise i would have snatched it too. The Albert King has what looks like a little ink smudge or possible water damage to the lower part of the magazine, but it doesnt really detract form it at all. A great buy at a steal of a price. Here are the pics included the JLH that sold a while back.
I had been after a Yank Rachell for a good while, and i should add that this signature appears to be from late in his life. Yank had a neater signature for a good part of his career, but towards the end of his life, the signatures often became messy, and i have seen several like the one pictured below.
Back again today,
And thought i would start things off with some very rare autographs. Unfortunately i dont have more than one example each of these guys, but sometimes thats all you can get. The first is from Homesick James, the cousin of guitar legend Elmore James. Homesick autographs are very rare, but do appear from time to time. I have seen a half dozen in my years of collecting, including the one i own. Unfortunately i didnt save these items, but they all shared the same common characteristics. Despite his rarity, Homesick isnt a terribly valuable autograph, averaging between 75 and 100 dollars. Homesick lived into the mid 2000's, so he was readily available, he just didnt like to sign autographs.
I have a pretty cool story on my Homesick item that shows his stubbornness with autographs. I purchased many of my autographs from a collector who worked with and was around the blues giants. He was very good friends with Robert Lockwood Jr. and would often hang out with him at shows and afterwords at RJL's house. He told me that he had been after Homesick to sign an item for him all day, up to and after Homesick's performance, but Homesick wouldnt sign. It wasnt until they were all hanging out at Robert Lockwoods Jr.'s that he finally had success. He asked Homesick to sign again, and Homesick refused. Robert Lockwood Jr. stepped forward though and said "sign for the boy", and Homesick signed. I have heard stories like this about Homesick before, and he didnt seem to be to fond of signing autographs for white guys. Not to imply he was a racist, but this man came from a time and experienced things that could build hatred and disgust, so i can understand some hard feelings. But from what i heard he was a pain in the butt. But he was still a great slide guitar player, and he should be, considering he learned from the best slide guitarist that ever lived, Elmore James. Here is an example of Homesick's autograph that i own: Homesick autos are consistent and the others i have seen look just like this one.
While we are talking the James clan, i would like to share an unbelievably rare autograph. I wish i could say i owned it and was sure it was authentic, but i cant say either. Earlier this year in an RR auction, an item came up that i knew i was going to bid heavy on, and others felt the same. It was a signed LP jacket from Elmore James himself. Unfortunately the auction was pulled within days after it opened. The cause of this i cant say. Maybe it was found to be not authentic, or maybe someone made them an offer they couldnt refuse, lol. Its hard to say. What i can say is that i have never found another example of an Elmore James autograph EVER!!. I would love to see one if anyone out their has one that is authentic. Their is just nothing to compare with. In my opinion, finding an Elmore James auto is like finding a Robert Johnson autograph, they are that rare. In any event, i cant guarantee the authenticity of this piece, but at least its an example that is out their to compare with. Elmore James is known as the father of slide guitar and one of the greatest guitarists to ever live. He influenced everyone, and was a true innovator. An Elmore James autograph value is really hard to say. I would guess it would command at least 2000 dollars and probably a good bit more. We are talking low Beatles item prices here. I would guess an autograph would go for between 1000 to 5000 depending on item and condition. But thats just complete guessing. Blues autographs are so popular now, especially in Japan, that prices can easily go through the ceiling.