Autographs Tell Stories

I don’t consider myself an autograph hound, but these three signatures are special to me because they each have a story behind them.

The August 1963 issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland featured a lengthy interview with its editor, Forrest J Ackerman. This enthusiastic, scholastic fan of the fantastic opened my eyes and legitimized my deep interest in weird genres. Suddenly I was not alone – the magazine even published letters from other kids! Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of friends who liked horror, science fiction, and fantasy, but I wanted to study it, collect it, and create it! I finally met Forry in 1999 at a convention known as the Monster Rally in Crystal City, Virginia. Since I live in Florida, I asked him to autograph the photo where he pretends to carve a stuffed alligator in my dog-eared copy of that same August 1963 Famous Monsters magazine.


I faced a quite a dilemma when I checked out Jeff VanderMeer’s Veniss Underground from the public library. To my surprise, it was a special limited edition, only 750 printed, and each one signed by the author. I didn’t want to return it to the library! Someone suggested I tell the library I lost this beautiful hardbound volume and offer to pay for it, but the idea troubled me. I actually did that once, by accident, at the University of North Florida when I couldn’t find Witchcraft At Salem by Chadwick Hansen. I had to pay for it before the college would release my grades and then found it a year later in a box of Christmas decorations where it had fallen. But in the case of Veniss Underground, I thought, what if the library doesn’t purchase another copy? I would hate to take even one book out of circulation. On the other hand… 

Jeff VanderMeer is such a brilliant writer, I think meeting him would be like meeting Borges, Poe, Nabokov, Lovecraft, Tolkien, and DeQuincey all rolled into one. His tour-de-force City of Saints and Madmen, is destined to become a classic, and the sequel, Shriek, is sublime. His non-fiction book, Why Should I Cut Your Throat, whisked me back into the space-time continuum of writing, publishing, and promoting weird literature. I also recommend The New Weird, an anthology of stories by other writers, edited by Jeff and his wife, Ann VanderMeer (the fiction editor of Weird Tales Magazine).

Fortunately, I came to my senses before the book was due back. I found another signed copy for sale on, ordered it, and returned the library’s copy so someone else could enjoy it.

Alexis Korner, John Mayall, Cyril Davies, and Long John Baldry are the founding fathers of blue-rock. In 1961, Korner and Davies formed a band called Blues Incorporated. Musicians who performed with Blues Incorporated, at various times, include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Graham Bond, and Dick Heckstall-Smith, and most of the Rolling Stones.

One of the best concerts I ever attended was Alexis Korner opening for Humble Pie. It must have been around 1971 or 1972 (I know that Dave “Clem” Clempson had already replaced Peter Frampton in Humble Pie), and both bands ROCKED. When the show ended and the crowd was leaving out the front doors, my friends Roger Bolen, Bruce Showalter, Mike Lancaster, my brother Jeff, and I all gravitated toward a backstage entrance. The cop at the door knew Roger, whose dad was also a police officer. He let us pass. Not only did we meet all the members of Humble Pie (Steve Mariott, Greg Ridley, Jerry Shirley, Clem Clempson) and the legendary Alexis Korner, we chatted with them excitedly for about twenty minutes and they were all extremely cool. Korner said, “There comes a time when you have to follow your heart and do what you want to do.” As an afterthought, we got all their autographs, and I’m glad we did.

Note the numbers in the upper right corner of the card. This was the combination to my wall safe – a little post office box door that my father brought home and helped me install in the wall behind a row of books on my bookshelf. Dad’s regular job involved repairing typewriters and adding machines, but he did locksmithing on the side. The Post Office paid him to open post office boxes that were stuck, and for some reason they gave him one of the doors. He knew secret doors were right up my alley!

5 responses to “Autographs Tell Stories”

  1. BRUCE! This is amazing. It’s good to hear from you! We definitely got some catchin’ up to do. Wow, I’m not believing this.

    Was that also the King Crimson show? I was thinking we saw King Crimson with Jethro Tull at a different show, but Lord knows I may have it wrong.

  2. Wow! Talk about flashbacks! I just stumbled on this — didn’t know what had happened to any of the old crew. I’m in Massachusetts now. I still remember the Korner/King Crimson/Humble Pie concert well. It was a small crowd, but that didn’t stop them from putting on an awesome show. And they were really cool back stage — appreciative of the fact we paid money to come see them. Totally unlike Chicago who I had seen earlier and acted like they were doing us a favor by just being there.

  3. Michael, I would start with City of Saints and Madmen. Rather than trying to describe it, let me recommend this review.

  4. Bill, you have often mentioned Jeff VanderMeer and you have piqued my interest. Not being familiar with his work, where would be a good place to start?

    An autograph of Alexis Korner! That is truly impressive.

  5. ha! brilliantly related, bill.
    i kept only one autograph (perhaps my only autograph) – jaki byard. i snapped his photo when i heard him play down in the village back in ’80 or so and then, by chance, he came to israel in ’81. There in the concert hall by the Mediterranean Sea, i brought out the photo and asked him if he’d sign it.

    He did. What a fabulous piano player. Anyway, brings back memories.

    You’re a lucky dude to have such fabulous tales x 3 autographs.

    hey, let me look, do i have your autograph?
    hang on….yay! it’s still there inside your Time fAdes inTo nexT…and other stories by Bill King!

    i’m keepin that safe.

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