In the Trenches: Tale of Two Johns

Autograph April 2010

CD insert signed by John Butler, courtesy of Tony Behrendt.

About 10 years ago, I was happy  to see the John Butler Trio perform a few songs in M-Theory Music, a store that holds about 50 people (in between the bins of albums), here in San Diego. While John Butler Trio CDs go platinum in Australia where the band is from, only a handful of their songs get radio play in the States, so I was psyched to be able to see them in my home town.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist John Butler has gained and lost many band members over the years, after starting the group when he dropped out of college. They play roots rock, with long jams like Phish—or Grateful Dead, for you older folks.

Butler’s years studying to be an art teacher paid off for fans: not only has he done a lot of the art work on albums and promotional materials for the band, but I saw one guy hand him a guitar to autograph. He drew flowers, birds, the sun, and various symbols all around it. I said, “It’s cool that you sign guitars. Some musicians don’t like to, because they think we’ll just turn around and sell them.”

Butler said, “I’m just happy someone doesn’t mind me doodling all over their instrument. It’s an honor to be asked for my autograph. If he wants to stand here all day waiting for me to sign a guitar he can sell…well, I don’t mind that either.”

The guy with the guitar chimed in, “I’m never going to sell it! I’m a huge fan.”

They shook hands and then Butler signed my CD and poster.

CD cover signed by John Mayer.

The Second John
Even though The John Butler Trio isn’t a huge deal in the States, they’ve still opened for really big acts like Dave Matthews and John Mayer. John Mayer even briefly renamed his band the John Mayer Trio, which I’m sure created a bit of confusion.

Though John Mayer’s CDs do go platinum in the U.S., to many he’s better  known for the women he’s dated: Jessica Simpson, and the two Jennifers—Aniston and Love Hewitt. Interestingly for autograph collectors, when the James Cameron autograph scandal ran on TMZ, with Cameron hurling expletives at a signature-seeking fan at LAX airport, Mayer wrote a 1,000 word blog on the subject.

He wrote in the “Anatomy of a Smear” blog: “The fact that passenger lists are not available to the general public means that anyone waiting at the airport with any more than the CD from the passenger seat of their car has gotten word of which celebrities will be traveling thru the terminal in the same way the paparazzi do.”

A few days later, Mayer was appearing at a venue in downtown San Diego for a concert. I waited an hour in my car, and when I saw a small crowd of fans gather near the side entrance, I headed over with my one CD. I’m no dummy. More than one item after reading his take on autographs would be a no-no.

When Mayer finally came out, I was on the other side, and called his name, asking him to sign my CD. He rolled his eyes, but he came over.
I said, “I loved what you wrote about James Cameron.”

He smiled and said, “Did you like that? Did you like how I sort of turned the whole thing around?”

I told him most celebrities don’t give the autograph thing as much thought as he had. He said that most people don’t realize that celebrities would love signing autographs for fans, but it’s all the other stuff people don’t see that they have to deal with.

He asked my name and inscribed the CD. He clearly realized that a standalone signature has higher resale value, but that a true fan would love having an item personalized. Just think of owning the guitar John Butler signed for that fan, doodled with suns and birds and flowers! It’s a win-win for everyone.

Except eBay.

About Steve Cyrkin, Editor

Steve Cyrkin is the editor & publisher of Autograph, and focuses mostly on forgery, market and consumer protection issues.