(As an aside, I'd like to point out how lucky we as country fans are, in that the people we look up to are so accessible to us, since most country singers are still willing to sign in person and through the mail. Most movie stars are too busy wrecking cars and marrying Tom Cruise to sign autographs. And can you even imagine rock stars participating in an event similar to the annual CMA Music Festival?)
So, I started collecting autographs and like most of my pursuits that began as simple hobbies it became something of an obsession. By the time this column sees print I will probably have 1,000 autographed books, photos, postcards, CD covers, magazines and just about anything else that will retain ink.
When I hear that a person I admire has passed away - like Buck Owens recently - my first thought is always sadness for their family and loved ones and for what we all have lost. But I have to admit it's quickly followed by my second thought: "Do I already have his (or her) autograph?"
And yes, I realize how bad that sounds, how mercenary. In my defense, I can only say I don't write to people I don't respect. I'm not in it just for the sigs. I put a lot of time and thought into the letters that I write. They're all heartfelt, not form letters. And an autograph is just concrete proof of the fact that I took time out of my busy schedule to thank someone for the work they do.
Honestly, letting someone know how much I appreciate their music is as important to me - if not more - than getting the autograph. The idea that we should tell our family and friends how much they mean to us while they're still with us is a good one, and I believe it should be expanded to include artists and others who touch our lives even though we may now know them personally.
So that's it. Signatures are incidental, it's all about spreading the love. But still, I'm glad I did get Buck's autograph before he left us.
The views expressed in this column are Robert Loy's and do not necessarily reflect those of CST.