Published: December 20, 2006


I posted a poll recently asking if readers had ever asked a piper or drummer for an autograph. Being an
avid baseball fan as a kid (and now), I kind of just thought that when you meet famous people you ask for
their autograph. (My Dad used to counsel me that a handshake is worth a lot more, and he’s right, but try
telling that to a St. Louis kid in the 1970s who meets Lou Brock.)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I went up to Bill Livingstone in 1979 at Maxville and asked him to
autograph a Piobaireachd Society Collection book that I had handy. Bill had recently won one of
the Medals, so I figured he was a World Champion. I remember him, in his very Bill way, finding “Lament
for Mary MacLeod” in the book and saying that it made perfect sense for him to autograph that page. My
Dad, of course, had his omnipresent camera and telephoto lens trained on the scene, and now I have the
pictures to prove it, Bill with jet-black, Harry Reems-esque moustache; me with middle-parted blond hair.

But I also recall a piping school I attended in 1981 where there was a young, very cool snare-drummer
from Houston. Can’t remember his name. We were sitting around and other drummers were talking about
what kind of sticks they used. The drummer I mentioned said he wasn’t sure what sticks he played, but he
thought they were a “Mex Dumphy” model.

Mex Dumphy? people asked. He took them out and showed the autograph on them: “See, Mex Dumphy,”
he said, and pointed to the embossed autograph that he somehow deciphered as Mex Dumphy, which of
course was Alex Duthart’s signature. (I also remember him insisting that in the AC/DC song, “Dirty Deeds,”
Bon Scott wasn’t singing “done dirt cheap,” but “thunder chief.”) It wasn’t so much his misreading the
autograph as it was not knowing who Alex Duthart is, which is like a budding ballplayer being unfamiliar
with Babe Ruth.

I haven’t asked for an autograph in quite a while, but I will say that one of my prized possessions is a
poster of the 78th Fraser Highlanders’ 1988 concert at Massey Hall in Toronto signed by every member of
the band.


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