To the right of me, next to this keyboard, I have an index card that Louis Armstrong signed for me in April 1967. And I’ve seen many examples of his angular handwriting, the idiosyncratic crabbed loops and slurred letters that a person who signs his name millions of times does.
I love eBay and visit it often — sometimes to purchase an out-of-print CD or book, sometimes to browse. Readers of this blog know that I have returned from my time at the monitor with surprises that I share.
Today, however, I offer an unsolicited yet short lesson in authenticity. I am not a certified specialist in autographs, but I know Louis’ signature as I know his voice. And I am startled to find forgeries being offered at high prices. I’ve given up contacting the sellers, because although they may be innocent (or is it ignorant) they assert that the consigner said the signature was genuine. (Incidentally, I’ve discussed with others a forged Coltrane “manuscript,” and other debatable autographs. I know that there are “fan” signatures — the star’s secretary signs a photograph and sends it off, but the inauthentic Louis signatures are more egregious to me.)
Here, for instance, is a 1949 letter that is clearly Louis: not only the handwriting, but the individualistic prose style, the punctuation, and the sentiments:
And, by the way, the writer’s love for Poppa Bing is also genuine.
Here’s an autograph that also strikes me as the real thing:
I love that the seller identifies Louis as “(DEC’D) TRUMPETER.
Above is a genuinely warm inscription to Chris Clufetos, known better as Chris Clifton, whom Louis befriended.
Here’s an inscription in Wild Bill Davison’s copy of HORN OF PLENTY, the Robert Goffin book about Louis. Again, visibly genuine:
Are you beginning to get the idea? Now, does this signature below resemble the others?
This one’s a harder test, but I have faith in my readers:
Now, here’s the real thing. Forget that some eBay sellers know that the average buyer is trusting and perhaps naive; forget that some people on both sides of the deal are not well-informed.
Good luck! Anyone can use a green pen, but there is only one Louis. Keep hustlin’ and bustlin’ for the real thing. Make your dream come true.
May your happiness increase!