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The Hatfield-McCoy Fued for Autographs -- Juliana Hatfield Edition

I went and saw singer/songwriter Juliana Hatfield the other night. I was surprised that there were only 45 people at the show (I counted). It was an amazing set, too. She was in the bands Some Girls, Blake Babies, and The Lemonheads…but her solo work is better. She’s had hits with “My Sister” “Universal Heartbeat,” and “Spin the Bottle.” The album “Become What You Are” is a classic. And here I’m watching her, with less than 50 people in the crowd.

I saw her 10 years earlier and there were about 400 in the crowd. I walked in, and she was working the merch booth. I had brought 3 CDs for her to sign, so it was convenient. As she was standing there autographing them in front of the merchandise, I figured I’d buy a T-shirt. After all, these folks are trying to make a living.

She didn’t sign autographs after the show last week, but it got me thinking. If you have musicians you like and they’re playing small clubs in your town – go! You’re going to see a great set of music, often at the same price or just above, the price you’d pay for a movie ticket. You can usually bring your favorite album or two, and get them signed. Instead, we get people that try to get U2 or The Eagles to sign albums after a concert at the arena. That’s not going to happen. Not only would security keep you away, but even if you were right there, the band would probably blow you off.

Now, I’ve gotten Chris Robinson when he’s played solo…but when he’s with his band The Black Crowes, they all blow us off and just walk right by us (his brother, guitarist Rich Robinson, is the worst).

The Eagles have gotten tough over the years, but were nice in their early days. Even solo shows are hard.

When Don Felder played the House of Blues in San Diego, I went against my number one rule. That is…if you have a T-shirt from the band, wear it. It immediately lets them know you’re a fan, and not going to sell their signature on eBay. I had a Hotel California shirt (which was $38 at an Eagles concert!). He wrote the friggin’ song! I forget to wear it, and when he came out, he stood right in front of me. I held out the two albums I had. He said, “No. I won’t sign. I’ll sign before the show tonight.”

He then got into a taxi.

There was a person there that got a guitar signed, but he had been talking to him online for the previous week and was brought backstage during the soundcheck.

Another guy there was a friend of mine. He went back before the show, and surprisingly, Felder signed for him. All four albums, too. I wasn’t going to the show, so I didn’t have that option. It was bizarre to be walking away downtown, and seeing him in the cab at each stoplight! Now, had I been wearing the T-shirt, I’m sure he would’ve just signed. Instead, I looked like an autograph dealer.

I thought about this after the Hatfield show. So many bands I loved in the ‘80s and ‘90s, play at smaller venues, and their so accessible. Except for my friend that always brings damn guitars for signatures (which most hate to do), it’s a great way to get signatures.

One of the most underrated singer/songwriters around is Stan Ridgeway. You all know his song “Mexican Radio” from his band Wall of Voodoo, but this guy has lots of amazing songs from his solo career (Google them, and thank me later). He’s a storyteller, and I say it’s like putting Raymond Chandler to music, in a 5 minute story.

The number of times I’ve gotten him to sign stuff before and after shows is ridiculous. And, you’re seeing a great band, too (his long time wife Pietra Wexstun of “Hecate’s Angels” plays keyboard).

I’ve even seen people ask Ridgway to sign Wall of Voodoo albums he didn’t appear on, and he informs them of that. Many still want him to sign (in which case, he’ll draw his own caricature standing by the other band members).

Nancy Sinatra played a venue that holds 700 people. It was close to selling out. There were signs stating she’d sign autographs after the show. It was a nice signature she slapped on my “These Boots” album, but she was selling her latest CD for $5. Can’t beat that, especially when you can get that signed, too. I was embarrassed when an autograph collector I see at many of these shows was asking her to sign a blank CD of songs she had burned off the internet. Yeah, nothing artists like more than you asking them to sign a CD that they didn’t make money from.

Going to see these artists at smaller venues is really the best way to go for the autograph collector. For example, every member of The Eagles (aside from Don Felder), signed when playing solo. Yet when I tried to get singer/drummer Don Henley to sign…from a friend that plays poker with him many times a year in Arizona, he told him, “Sorry, I don’t do the autograph thing anymore.”

When somebody turns down his OWN FRIENDS for autographs, they’re going to be tough to get. Yet when they’re playing a show at a small venue, their mindset often changes.

Kenny Rodgers played that same venue as Nancy Sinatra (Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach). The show sold out, but he signed some autographs and took photos before the show (even though he could barely walk from bad arthritis and other medical conditions). I got there late, but all I had for him to sign was a poker chip (clever, huh?). My friend said his manager told him, “He already signed autographs, but…I’ll take your album on the bus and he’ll sign it.”

It was brought back with a signature.

Obviously, most people won’t have a T-shirt of the band they can wear (who the hell has, or even wants, a Kenny Rodgers T-shirt?), but…here are some other tips. Don’t bring 10 albums. It turns them off. Don’t bring guitars, drumheads, or other instruments. They think you’re an autograph dealer. For example, Annie Lennox (Eurythmics), showed up. Me and one other guy were waiting. She smiled at us. She signed my CD (I only had one of her solo records, and wasn’t a fan of The Eurythmics). She looked at the other guy’s microphone and turned him down. So, he just wasted an hour standing there with nothing to show.

Try to have a ticket for the concert, and if you do, have them sign that FIRST. This way, they see you’re a fan and aren’t just some ebay autograph dealer. My friend said Taj Mahal made him show a ticket to prove he was going to the show (he wasn’t going). He said, “I left it in the car.”

Taj didn’t buy it and walked passed him. My friend, realizing he had nothing else going on that day, went and bought a ticket for $40. He waited 45 minutes, and when Taj was done with the soundcheck, he showed him the ticket. Taj smiled, and signed the 7 items my friend had.

Views: 409

Tags: Annie Lennox, Belly Up Tavern, Chris Ronbinson, Don Felder, House of Blues, Juliana Hatfield, Kenny Rodgers, Nancy Sinatra, Stan Ridgway, Taj Mahal, More…The Eagles, Wall of Voodoo

Comment by Coachgd on March 24, 2015 at 10:09am

I agree, meeting the artists at smaller venue's is they best way to  get autographs.  I've only been getting rock stars for 2 years and I've met quite a few.  I just got Leon Russell last night.  However, I have no problem getting musical instruments signed.  I would rather see a full size guitar then a dozen pick guards from someone.  There is a couple from Cleveland that has a music room in their house and they have many different guitars, drum heads and even a cello signed by Trans Siberian Orchestra.  They are not dealers and they keep everything for themselves.  Most of their stuff is personalized too.  

I have a few mini guitars and I have a regular guitar waiting to get signed by the right person.  However, I wouldn't get a microphone signed.  I would rather have an lp.  To each his own, I guess.

Seven items- didn't you tell him about the 2-3 item limit?  I guess that was worth the 40 bucks!

Comment by Brian Burger on March 24, 2015 at 4:35pm

Nice post! 90 percent of the time if your standing next to a guy with a microphone, a guitar, or a drumhead you are still looked at by the artist the exact same way even if you only have an album in your hand you are labeled as an ebayer and sometimes small clubs are nice but sometimes it makes no difference where you're at.

Comment by Josh Board on March 25, 2015 at 12:34am

That is true, BB. That's why I give my friend Doug such a hard time. He is NOT a dealer, but when he's standing next to me, I get lumped in with him. We now have an arrangement. He has his guitar out of sight. I GET MY STUFF SIGNED FIRST, then he presents them with his album (or whatever), and we start talking about our favorite songs or whatever. Then my friend will say "I brought my guitar. Would you mind signing it?" Hes' hit and miss, but at that point, who cares if he/she walks off, I got my stuff signed! He did this with Steve Martin (I didn't go to that). Martin signed an album for him, and he said "I have a banjo in my car, would you mind signing that?" Martin sighed and said "Isn't one thing enough?" But then he said, "Yeah sure, go get it." My friend scored, because Martin can be a tough signer most times.

Comment by Brian on March 29, 2015 at 5:04am

I'll never stop kicking myself for not getting more autographs at club shows in the 1990s.

So, I have a question. I don't know if the venue size matters (or the popularity of the performer), but do collectors have better luck before or after the show? I always assumed after the show, waiting near the bus/van was the best option. But, like Kenny Rogers, obviously some prefer to sign earlier in the day. Just curious if anyone has figured out any rhyme or reason to it...

Comment by Coachgd on March 29, 2015 at 8:24am

If anyone has figured out artists whims, please let us know.  I also wish I would have started music when I started collecting sports autographs in 1995.  I would say that I have had more success after shows than before.  However, Jackson Browne's manager told a group of 10 people that he doesn't sign after shows, but he will take pictures.  I did talk with someone that did get Jackson to sign before the show.  I've known people who got Pat Benatar before the show, but she makes a b-line to her bus as soon as she drops the mic.  

I think the smaller the venue, the easier access you have to the artist.  If they are playing an arena, the best chance to see them is at the hotel.  

I think it just depends on what kind of mood the artist is in, but generally I would say after the show is better.

Comment by Rich on March 30, 2015 at 2:12pm

Smaller venues are great for autographs, and those shows tend to be the people I actually want anyway.  Every once in a while, you get someone who's not big into sticking around and signing, but many bands who play smaller venues in the neighborhood of 500 - 3000 (or smaller) tend to be pretty accessible. You might have a to wait a bit sometimes.

I don't think it's accurate to lump U2 together with The Eagles in terms of signing habits and accessibility.  Bono and the Edge especially have a solid reputation for being good to their fans, though they're generally probably a bit easier to meet preshow than postshow.

Comment by Rich on March 30, 2015 at 2:15pm

Seems like smaller bands are also more apt to sell signed items at the merch stand. By smaller, I don't necessarily mean minor either - The 1975 and Sleater-Kinney were both selling signed items at low prices at recent shows.

Comment by Josh Board on April 2, 2015 at 2:06am

Yep, smaller venues are better, for sure. I will say this. I'm a huge music fan and collector of musicians autographs I dig...and I'd say, without a doubt, it's easier BEFORE the show. After the show -- EVERYTHING is wrong with trying for an autograph. I'll tell you the reasons -- they're tired. They want to get laid. They want to get drunk. They want to get something to eat. They want to go back to the hotel (sometimes to do all the things I just mentioned). But more important -- MORE PEOPLE ARE THERE! All the people that left the show, stand around the limos and buses, and that makes it harder, too. Before the show...nobody. But...that also makes them wonder about your intention (is this an autograph dealer?) which means you gotta wear a shirt to show you're a fan, or....start out with something. For example, with Cake -- the singer had been tough to get before. So I said, "Why don't you guys ever do 'Opera Singer' in concert." He laughed and explained why. Then signed my items. It showed I was a fan, and had a question.

Comment by Rich on April 6, 2015 at 12:41pm

I've found the opposite, but perhap it's the type of shows I'm seeing. Most of the shows I got to are smaller bands on the rise - definitely not "nobodys" but not quite household names, i.e. acts you certainly might see on Letterman or SNL. Those shows tend to be intimate, and I seem to have a pretty high success rate at meeting them post show.

I usually ask for a personalization. It tends to make the item a bit more special to me, and it also lets the artist know that I have no intention of selling it. Sometimes it might also get you a neat inscription or a nicer than average autograph too.

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