Authors, Artists, Autographs, and the odd places fans want signing…

Autograph Books (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Have you ever owned an Autograph book?

I haven’t owned an autograph book, but my husband owned two in the 1960s.  I came across them during a house move and they are full of the autographed scribbles of the rich and famous, who happily signed his books,

Photo Risdon 2014

Each has different coloured pages on which personal messages, poems, and little ditties have been dedicated to him.

Others have just the much-wanted signature.

Photo Risdon 2014

Many of those signatures are worth a small fortune today, but at the time he got them he wasn’t thinking about any value except to him personally.

Photo Risdon 2014

Little did he know that one day he would be signing autograph books for fans of his band.

As a youngster, he lived by the sea in an area with a huge entertainment-based economy. Stars were always performing at various venues and he attended many shows and gigs, all great opportunities to meet stars and get an autograph.

Back then it was quite common to collect autographs, like a hobby, an interest.

Photo Risdon 2018 by the sea
Father-in-law was a crooner

He grew up in a family that was in entertainment. His father was a singer and performed with various big bands, and his mother was part of a synchronised swimming troupe. Back then it was called aqua ballet.

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Mother-in-law’s Aqua-Ballet Troupe. Photo Risdon family

A great aunt was a Hollywood Movie actress, who began her career in England on the stage and later on Broadway before moving to Hollywood to appear in silent movies and later making over 140 movies between 1913 and 1952. She appeared with actors such as John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Lupe Velez (a/k/a The Mexican Spitfire), to name a few.

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Great aunt and movie actress Elizabeth Risdon

They signed their fair share of autographs.

Like many of his contemporaries in the 1960s, my husband formed his first band with pals from school and they played youth clubs and other venues.

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Photo Risdon 1963. School friends form their first band.

Later he went to live on an island whose economy also relied upon holidaymakers spending their money on every form of entertainment imaginable.

Once again, opportunities to collect that longed-for autograph abounded.

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On an Island

The island is where his own career began formally when he formed a rock band with friends he’d known since his early teens who were born there.

That is where he signed his first-ever autograph.  Such a thrill for a teenager who’d treasured signatures of those he loved and admired.

Have you ever left your autograph on something, such as a book, or on an item belonging to a friend?

Perhaps you signed your name on a leaving card for a school friend or a work colleague?

I wrote a piece on here several years ago when I moved home and was unpacking after the move, discovering all manner of items I’d long forgotten.  Amongst those items, I found my husband’s autograph books and also lots of letters from his fans – back in the day – expressing undying love and asking for autographs.

I wonder where those fans are today, and if they still collect autographs or have even kept those they treasured – have you?

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Santa Anna California Moon Cake Festival 2003 Photo Jane Risdon

 Memories of those heady days when girls camped outside the house, often scratching their initials and lipstick messages all over the group van and anything else they could find to leave their scribbles upon. – later the band graduated to a tour bus which meant an opportunity for more elaborate messages.

I wish we’d taken photos.

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Photo Jane Risdon 2003 Santa Anna California Moon Cake Festival Autograph tent.

Later, working on the other side of the business, in management, we often supervised the queues of youngsters seeking a signed copy of an album, a T-shirt, or photographs, following a performance or a personal appearance by any of our acts.

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Photo Risdon 2014 -Autographs following a concert in the UK

Unlike the days when my husband offered his autograph book to someone to sign, we found ourselves being presented with bare bottoms, bare breasts, and other parts of a fan’s anatomy which they wanted to be signed and dated.  Often in indelible ink!

We heard of fans having their treasured autograph tattooed over to ensure it would always be there, on their body. You have to wonder if they ever regretted having it done or had it removed years later!

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Photo Risdon 2014 – Autographs following a concert in the UK

How things changed in such a short period of time.

Asking someone you don’t really know and have never met before to sign their name and write a message for you – wherever they want it – strikes me as an odd thing to do.  As I mentioned, some autographs fetch vast sums of money if put up for sale, and it is essential that the autograph is authentic and not a facsimile. The Beatles often got their fan-club secretaries to sign their names – so great was the demand it would have been impossible for the band to sign each and every photo or item proffered for their ‘moniker.’

Radio Station Tour USA Photo Risdon 1991

Fans would wait outside the station for a glimpse of their idols, others would call in to request signed photos.

During photo sessions, there would usually be a line of fans waiting to obtain an autograph.

I have never asked for an autograph for myself, but I’ve had to do it on behalf of someone else – often for one of my artists – and I hated it.  When we were working with famous people or our artists were collaborating with them, they’d be too shy to ask for an autograph and I’d be coerced into obtaining one on their behalf.  These were never refused and were given graciously, but I always felt a little silly doing it.

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Photo Risdon 1991 in The Netherlands

Having said that, I have been given autographs I’ve not requested.  An artist’s manager would assume that I might like one too, and obtained one for me thinking that I’d been too shy to ask for myself.

We often attend Music Awards Ceremonies, when it is not the ‘done thing’ to seek autographs from the celebrities there.

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Ivor Novello Awards, programmes. Photo Jane Risdon

I have a drawer full of programmes, and other items signed by famous people which were provided – without ever being requested – for our son when he was growing up. A kind gesture and one we could not refuse, but he was never that bothered. He has several cricketing legends’ signatures that I think meant more to him.

I have some signed to me personally, obtained during the various awards ceremonies and on other occasions. Such as this, given to our son for me as a surprise. I (and my husband) love the Moody Blues.

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Justin Hayward signed my PRS Programme. Photo Jane Risdon

I never imagined that at some point in the not too distant future I’d be asked to write something inside a book I’ve written. If I’d known, I’m sure I’d have wondered what I’d write, how I’d feel, would I disappoint the person offering my book dedication or signature – have you had to sign autographs and dedications?

 It was easy standing beside one of our musicians as they were signing albums, photographs, or whatever, and to watch the fans and enjoy their pleasure. After all, it wasn’t me they’d come to meet.

That’s changed and now I’m being asked for my signature and a few kind words to go with it

So unreal.

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Jane Risdon Photo 2021. Signing Undercover Crime Shorts and Only One Woman.

How would I cope with a bare bottom or breast? I cannot for the life of me imagine, but then I seriously doubt I’ll ever be confronted with bare bits. I guess I’d manage it the same way I did when standing next to a musician. We’d all giggle and blush, and get rid of the person as fast as possible.

God forbid I’ll ever have to face something like that in a Library or Bookshop – I seriously doubt it, but imagine…!

It’s been such a thrill for me to do this. I still pinch myself when it happens. Is this really me doing this?

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Jane Risdon Photo 2021

During tours across America and Europe, I recall personal appearances at radio and video stations, when the artists were asked to autograph endless stacks of photos for the lucky winners of the various phone-in competitions. It took ages and was exhausting.

All personally inscribed, often with a felt-tipped pen (a Sharpie). The winner would chat with their idol, happy as a sand-boy/girl, and then the signature time arrived.

You wouldn’t believe the confusion at times over the spelling of names, and getting the wording right for the person in question: English, American, or the various European accents confusing each other as they often struggled to be understood – phone lines never being perfect when you need them to be.

The same often happened in S. E. Asia.

I have since thought back to those phoning in with their name, message, and address to which the photo was to be mailed. I wonder if half of them reached their intended recipients, and whether or not the messages were what they thought they were going to get.

At least when you are face to face with someone you can ask them to write it down if you cannot understand what they are saying.

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Christina Jones with me signing books in Abingdon

 There can’t be anything worse than having your name spelled incorrectly on a precious fan item, I’m sure.

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Iconic Rocker Graham Bonnet wrote our foreword. Photo G. Bonnet

When Christina Jones and I wrote Only One Woman together, we were thrilled to have the foreword written by iconic rock singer, Graham Bonnet, who also signed copies of our novel.

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Graham Bonnet signing copies of Only One Woman Photo Jane Risdon

It’s always a thrill to be asked to write a dedication for a reader

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Only One Woman: ready for dedications. Photo Jane Risdon

Book store events are always fun; meeting readers, and signing their books.

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Book Store Signing with Christina Jones and myself. Photo Jane Risdon
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Book Signing. Photo Jane Risdon

Bumping into a reader in a cafe and being asked to sign a copy of Only One Woman is always a thrill.

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Photo Jane Risdon. Signing a copy of Only One Woman in M&S for a reader.

I’d love to know if you have a collection of autographs from your favourite author, musician, singer, racing driver, or whoever. Do you use an autograph book or are you happy to have your body signed? Do you present memorabilia signature?

Do you own any valuable autographs?

I would love to know.


Please leave a reply and comment - your input is really appreciated. Thanks, Jane

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