Mudcat Café message #3202429 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #139575   Message #3202429
Posted By: Big Ballad Singer
05-Aug-11 - 10:04 PM
Thread Name: Lead Belly's autograph
Subject: RE: Lead Belly's autograph
I don't see his signature on either of those documents you linked to. The handwriting is certainly very similar in style to the signature I have seen recently, but it's hard to tell whether it's by the same hand or not.

I have seen the autographs of many old black blues singers, and many of them had what I would call a "sign something"-style autograph that may have been some of the only writing they really knew how to do. Muddy Waters, in particular, was basically illiterate for most of his life, and used to practice a flourishing, looping autograph style so that he would not appear dumb to people.

Here are a few clues that make me tend to think the sig might be real:

1) The handwriting is what I would call "sloppy cursive", brought on by a) trying to sign on a wobbly surface and b) not having very good handwriting to begin with. The signature looks like the work of someone trying to make a fancy-looking autograph, but who obviously did not have great penmanship.


2) The signature is "Lead Belly", two words, rather than "Leadbelly" which is the common, mistaken usage. In my opinion, the average person trying to forge this signature would probably have used "Leadbelly", as that is what was printed on so many song sheets, record sleeves and book covers. I, for one, and many other people did not know that Ledbetter himself used "Lead Belly", two words, as his moniker. I only learned that little fact recently.

These considerations lead me to think that this might be a legitimate autograph from a person who did not sign a whole slew of things like so many other performers.

The one serious question I have is whether he COULD have signed the item that has this autograph on it; I am not sure if it was extant before his death.

Anyone have an opinion or any info about Lead Belly's autograph? Is it considered rare or semi-rare? What kind of value might be associated with it?

Thanks again for the info so far... I hope this works out.