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.
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.)
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.
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.