Autograph City

September 26, 2021


      It was a dreadfully hot summer in 1991. I had escaped the constraints of my hometown and created a new adventure for myself by playing in bands in Hollywood. But after a year or so of tough luck and hard lessons, I found myself back in Arizona. I was twenty years old and had navigated my way from California, back to Vista, and then into the rock scene in Phoenix. I had convinced myself that in order to survive, all I needed was a bag of clothes, a few necessities, and my electric guitar in a gig-bag. That way I was light on my feet, which was an attractive quality for other bands that wanted to tour - if one were interested in that kind of life. I was couch-surfing in the city and landed an audition playing for a band that was signed to a small record label. “Southside” was going to spend several weeks in a recording studio/rehearsal spot and then open up for a few larger rock acts on a regional tour.


     Naturally, I was looking forward to playing guitar in front of larger audiences, but I had to meet up with these new band members on the other side of the city… and I was without a vehicle. I figured out the bus coordinates for various routes, and charted a course from my western location to the eastern destination. I was to meet them at a warehouse of band rehearsal rooms. Each room was outfitted with an air conditioner, enough electrical inputs and a solid locking mechanism. Sounded good to me. Someone from the band would be picking me up at the bus station and I’d head to the rehearsal and do my best to impress in them that I was the right guy for the gig.


     On the bus, I had been the guy with the guitar before, but this time I was overflowing with anxiety and a desire to get that much closer to the lifestyle I wanted. Better to be a working musician than an unemployed one. It felt like I was on my way up.


     There finally was a lull in the trip where several bus passengers around me began to converse. I was difficult to conceal, and was included in the conversation. Shortly after, I was asked by an older woman with granny-sunglasses if I could tune her little ¾ sized acoustic guitar, since clearly I was a guitar player of some unknown quality. I said sure, and began unwinding the tuning pegs to loosen the tension. As I did this, another older fellow asked me what I was doing on the bus. Where you headed, Mr Rock' n Roll?


     I told them I was going to an audition for a band that would be opening up for a few hard rock bands on tour. I absentmindedly mentioned more detail than I should’ve, admitting that the band I would hope to be in was going to open for the acts The Lynch Mob and Great White. This was true, but I shouldn’t have said anything because I wasn’t even in the band yet, I was just auditioning (Later I would get the gig, but that’s another story). But leave it to a young 20-year-old gunslinger to open his big mouth in the center of a crowded bus.


     For some reason I’ll never understand, at that moment the only words that came out of my mouth that people heard were, GREAT WHITE.


     I could suddenly hear a wash of whispering around me, “He’s in the rock band Great White!” It spread before I could deny it loud enough for it to take. Within seconds, I was approached by those around me for an autograph. I politely rejected the asker, knowing I wasn’t anyone famous. I tried to clarify what I had previously stated, but it was too late – the words Great White flew around from passenger to passenger. Next thing I knew, I was approached by two more passengers asking for my autograph. One lady informed me of how much she loved my albums and started singing a piece of the song, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, which was echoed by others who knew the song’s lyrics.


     The more I disputed the case of wrong identity, the less my words were heard. Soon, I had damn near the entire bus asking me for an autograph. I finally gave up, and just started giving out my signature to anyone who asked. “Best wishes, Spiderdan Southard.” I figured eventually they would realize that I wasn’t who they thought I was, and would probably throw away my autograph, but for that moment in time, I was famous, whether I liked it or not.


      I finally gave the older lady back her little ¾ acoustic guitar, freshly tuned. She gave me a pack of Kool Menthols in return. People gradually allowed me to breathe for the remainder of the trip, but by the time we had reached our destination at the other bus station, I had a vehicle full of friends and admirers.


     The singer of “Southside” was waiting in the lobby for me to get off the bus, and was puzzled to find that I had a group of fans waving and shaking my hand before I met up with him. It was as if I had my own strange entourage of middle-aged mothers and odd neighborhood folks. Needless to say, it was an impressive entrance into this new band. I’ve never gone through anything like that ever again, and whenever I did have a legit time to be asked for my signature, there’s a part of me that will always remember this humorous experience.


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TAGS: Rock' n Roll, autographs, signatures, audition, cautionary tales, tour stories,  

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