February 6, 2010 7:07:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Clyde Lindley always keeps a spare guitar around, just in case. "You never know who may come along," he offers with a wry grin, indicating a striking, new red instrument kept handy in his Starkville apartment.
Lindley, director of Academic Affairs at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus, is a habitual collector. His lifelong pursuit has resulted in everything from signed baseballs from the likes of Mickey Mantle to memorabilia from the set of "The Andy Griffith Show." But, about two years ago, the educator began to focus on signed instruments.
His living room and the wall of his staircase are lined with, to date, guitars autographed by Paul, George and Ringo, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffet, Charlie Daniels, David Allen Coe and Daughtry. With Daniels, Lindley scored a double when he acquired a signed fiddle, as well.
The glistening instruments reside next to an autographed photograph of Mick Jagger, an Opryland matchbook signed by Roy Acuff, pictures of a younger Lindley with B.J. Thomas and Davy Jones of the Monkees, and one of the collection''s prizes ... his 1966 ticket to The Beatles at the Mid-South Coliseum. Price, $5.50.
"My interests have always been history and entertainment," he said. "I love music. I like it all, although I''m not crazy about hip hop. ... And I love history; even as a small kid, I''d be sitting in the gravel looking for fossils."
As a teenager in Shuqualak, Lindley played drums and sang in the 21st Street Band, "because most of us lived on Highway 21." A framed photo of the band sits on an end table in his living room today; he still keeps in touch with some of the guys.
"Even before I could drive, we''d go to Birmingham, a lot of Columbus guys and girls, to see acts that came to Boutwell Auditorium for the WVOK Shower of Stars," he recalled. "Neil Diamond, Mick Jagger, The Young Rascals, Paul Revere and the Raiders ... "
In days when security was more relaxed, Lindley was able to meet a host of musicians and perfected the art of getting backstage.
"At times, you could just offer to help load in and they''d let you hang around," he said. One incident that still makes him chuckle involves the late Ricky Nelson.
"It was July 4, 1977. Rick Nelson was performing in Greenville. I got with the band and was backstage. He was back there, trying to pull on these tights; so, there I was, trying to give him a hand putting on the tights he wore under his tight jeans."
Along the way, friendships developed. In addition to getting to know B.J. Thomas and Davy Jones, Lindley became good friends with Eddie Hodges of "The Music Man" fame. Hodges is often remembered, too, for singing "High Hopes" with Frank Sinatra in the 1959 movie "A Hole in the Head."
Lindley had some of those he met speak to students at schools where he was teaching. Karolyn Grimes, probably most remembered as Jimmy Stewart''s daughter "Zuzu" ("Every time a ball rings, an angel gets his wings.") in "It''s a Wonderful Life," and Keith Thibodeaux, "Little Ricky" ("I Love Lucy") and "Johnny Paul" ("The Andy Griffith Show") were two of them.
All of his recent collecting hasn''t been for himself. Lindley acquired Willie Nelson''s autograph on a guitar, as well as Charlie Daniels'' on a fiddle, for raffles to benefit the MSMS music program, directed by Dawn Barham.
"Most of these people are really good, especially if you get in touch with their managers in advance," he said.
More than music
Musical instruments are only one of this local collector''s interests. His autographed baseballs number near 30. Most are on display, but Mantle and Roger Maris are safely locked away in a different location.
Lindley''s array of war memorabilia includes cannonballs and bayonets from the Civil War (some found with a metal detector on a farm near Brice''s Crossroads) and a worn 1918 World War I new testament and radio receiver from a B-24.
A framed T-shirt worn by Farrah Fawcett hangs on a wall next to a walking stick signed by Buford Pusser of "Walking Tall."
"He came to Greenville, to a car dealership," remembered the teacher. "I got a sapling and took the bark off of it and got him to sign it."
There are photographs of Lindley with Barack Obama, Shelby Foote, Jerry Rice and Mike Huckabee, among others.
"I missed an opportunity with Mike Huckabee; he plays bass, you know. I could have gotten him to sign a guitar," he grinned.
One of his favorite acquisitions, however, is a hotel bell from an Andy Griffth set.
"I''m most proud of this bell. This was the episode when Andy and Barney went to the big city," Lindley explained of the little piece of history acquired from George Lindsey, who played "Goober."
"Barney is my hero," he stated. "All of us are insecure, and we goof up from time to time. He makes that look human; we can recognize ourselves."
You dirty rat
Lindley''s quests have taken a few unexpected turns. While trying to track down James Cagney''s address to write him requesting an autograph, someone surprisingly gave out Cagney''s phone number.
"He was just very nice," Lindley said of the actor, who was about 90 years old at the time. The signed picture hangs in a place of honor in the apartment -- not far from a framed letter written to a friend by Joan Crawford.
While some pieces have been acquired by direct contact with artists, others have come from auctions, estates and go-betweens. Lindley actually sold a major part of his autograph collection about five years ago. He painstakingly researches authenticity.
"eBay isn''t usually reliable unless you are very sure of the provenance," he cautions. Like everything else, his pastime has been affected by the economy. "Collectibles are really down right now because they''re a luxury item. People don''t have to have them."
Just missed it
When asked about the one that got away, Lindley cites, "Two letters from Elvis; I thought for sure I had them. You kind of play chicken with these things. ... Elvis stuff is very hard to find -- and very expensive."
He does, however, have an unused ticket to a Sept. 16, 1977, Elvis concert in Indiana, exactly one month after the King of Rock ''n Roll died.
The collecting is serious business, done in fun. Lindley acknowledges part of the thrill is in the hunt, the acquisition.
"I''ll be 60 in May, and I''ve decided I never will grow up," he laughed. "But, it''s important you don''t get too caught up in material things," he shared, sitting on the sofa, bathed in late afternoon sun slanting through the apartment window. "One thing you''ll never see is a U-Haul behind a hearse."
Are there any particular autographs he''s on the look out for?
"Whatever suits my fancy," he responded. "You know, Charlie Pride is coming to the Hard Rock in June ... and I always keep an extra guitar handy."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.