How about purchasing an autograph book?

No, not my fifth-grade one where cute Suzanne DeVeaux signed her name and then wrote “Yours till bacon strips,” which was not the declaration of love it might have seemed to be, alas.

But THIS autograph book is something special — even given the twenty thousand dollar price tag on eBay.  Its owner was a deep swing and jazz fan in the Thirties, and (s)he got everyone’s signature . . . at gigs, at the Arcadia Ballroom, and other places.  It is the calligraphic companion to the late Bob Inman’s SWING ERA SCRAPBOOK, summoning up a magical and vanished time where you could wait patiently at the stage door and get “Art Shaw” to sign his name as well as his new singer, “Billie Holiday.”

Feast your eyes.

And, just as an aside, several people — musicians and collectors alike — who have seen this — keep muttering something about how their birthdays are coming soon.  I don’t blame them.  The eBay link is


Here are some sample pages.  WOW is all one can say — and that’s even before one encounters the signatures of Eddie Durham, Maurice Purtill, a young Milt Hinton, and the others.  And as my friend David Weiner has pointed out on other occasions, the pencil and sometimes odd handwriting prove that these are on-the-spot signatures, not neat calligraphy done in someone’s office by the hundreds.

I don’t know who Anthony is on the left, but there’s Billie and “Art” on the right.

Earle Warren (Every Good Wish, Count Basie, Billie, Buck Clayton, Eddie Durham.  And — I think from a later date! — Paul Gonsalves.  “Roseland Shuffle,” I think.  And this comes from the era when musicians, signing a fan’s autograph book, identified themselves by the instrument(s) they played.  That suggests a sweet lack of ego: I’m not a star yet!  (And Buck’s signature was very much the same about forty years later.)

Sincerely, Nat King Cole, Johnny Miller, and Oscar Moore — people who knew about sincerity.

Harry Goldfield (father of Don Goldie) on the left — and some other trumpeters named “Satch” and “Red,” as well as drummer Sammy Weiss.

Another trumpet player.  He could get started — don’t let his theme song fool you.  But why do these trumpet players all have nicknames?  Wouldn’t “Bernard” have done just as well?

1936.  The Blessed Thomas Waller.

Did someone say HI-DE-HO?  And there’s youthful Milt — not yet the Judge.

The Duke is on the page — along with Ivie, Sonny, Rex, Juan Tizol, Cootie Williams, Fred Guy, and one or two others.

Noble Sissle and his Orchestra with Sidney Bechet, Wendell Culley, Don Pasquall, and Sara Turner . . .

Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, Part One: Johnny Mince, Maurice Purtill, Carmen Mastren, Bud Freeman, Gene Traxler, Jack Leonard, Lee Castaldo (later Castle), Andy Ferretti, Freddie Stulce, and one or two others.

Part Two!  Mince signs in again, the Sentimental Gentleman himself, Edythe Wright, and Pee Wee Erwin.

Hamp, before FLYIN’ HOME.

Isn’t this frankly astounding?

I knew you’d agree.

And what we have here is perhaps fifteen pages out of one hundred and twenty.


  1. I have many autographs including Max Kaminsky,Anita OdayDinah Washington,Count Basie,Wild Bill and wanted to donate them to Berklee School of music and they never returned my call.

  2. What a festival for the eyes! From all those who caress our ears.
    I have several that I collected in the 70’s & 80’s– Sarah Vaughn, Cab Calloway, Maxine Sullivan, Anita O’Day, to name a few, which I cherish. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. “Frankly astounding?” YES, absolutely.

  4. John P. Cooper

    Great assembly, but…..what does one do with them? How do you reach a state of reverence to appreciate written signatures? Amazing. Astounding/ Marvelous. But….only scrawled shadows of the music makers on faded paper.

  5. John P. Cooper

    And more – who will spend 20K these days on such an item? Even 5K seems like a stretch as the era of the 30s grows further and further away.

  6. @ Judy — Well, I collect jazz autographs, you could donate them to me, and I would return your call! Hehehe. Amazing.

    @John — There are those of us that value and collect such things, silly as it may seem. Just as there are those who collect original sheet music, rather than settling for xeroxes of same, and those who enjoy having their photo taken with their heroes, and those that collect photos of their heroes, or film ephemera, such as costumes worn by actors in famous movies, or Civil War relics.

    I wouldn’t doubt it if the reserve is met on this collection, but perhaps you are right. They are probably worth that much to serious collectors.

  7. Also–notice there is a “best offer” button one can press there.

  8. So cool! Wendell Culley is my Great Uncle and I love anything to do with him and the music he played and the Groups he played in. Thanks for sharing.

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