The bottom one for sure is not authentic. I've studied the heck out of Merle's autograph and I have a number of in person exemplars from which to work. At some point, I've been meaning to put together a signature study on Merle so that others might benefit from the years I've put into this but it's a big job and there are a lot of complexities so it will definitely take time.
With respect to the bottom photo, Merle's signature just isn't right for many reasons. Although I see a lot of these dual signed Merle and Willie photos pop up on eBay, I don't recall seeing a single one of them that I considered to be authentic. Also, although I've spent only a fraction of time studying Willie's autograph that I have on Merle's, I know the basic characteristics and different variants of Willie's autograph and, in my opinion, the bottom photo isn't right for Willie either.
As for the top photo, the Willie autograph looks authentic to me albeit a later, more truncated version of his signature (not unlike what I've seem him sign from the stage). As for the Merle autograph in the top photo, it's not a slam dunk for me to say whether it's authentic or not but I believe that it is probably in fact an authentic, rushed signature. It's just not a particularly good exemplar of Merle's signature and it has some real problems that concern me. It's not something I would want in my collection, and if it's something you're thinking of buying, my recommendation is to pass.
Early on (in the 1960s, around the time he was married to Bonnie Owens), Merle's signature was fairly consistent. Later in life, however, Merle's signature began to change a lot--even from moment to moment--and there are a great many variants he would use (sometimes one right after another). If there's a word I would use to describe Merle's authentic autograph later in life, the word is "unpredictable." Identifying all of its different variants and getting my hands around the common characteristics that they share was a real effort but also a labor of love. Not only do I love the Hag's music but his authentic autograph is really beautiful in my opinion. There are far less authentic Merle autographs in the marketplace than anyone realizes. A lot of them are proxy signatures from well-meaning secretaries and band members. And ever since he passed away, the forgers have been churning out fakes non-stop.
In any event, if you ever need an opinion on a Merle autograph before purchasing, feel free to reach out to me. I'm always happy to help.
All the best,
Thanks. Ive seen the M in Merle change a lot in different signatures over the last few years. Sometimes it looks like a traditional M and sometimes its just plain weird. A study would be great sometime, as there are many variables as you stated.
pass on the bottom one
the top could be a recent willie sig