2020 – Collections: Buttons, Pins and Picks
(ignore publication date of May 1, 2017 – this was published on January 27, 2020)
I got an email last week from a guy named Zak Wilson:
“Totally random question. Aside from being a graphic designer in the music biz I’m also a collector / historian of musician’s guitar picks. I’m on a quest to find some picks for the collection and thought I’d throw out some random inquires to folks from the music world. A needle in a hay stack but one never knows…
Was curious if you ever saved any band guitar picks (the one’s w/ band names or other printed on them) over your years working in the music biz?”
I didn’t actively collect them, but I knew I had a bag somewhere where I would toss any picks, buttons, etc., that came my way. It was probably in my closet.
Yep. Not only did I find the bag there, but I also found a cloth-covered cardboard thing that an ex-girlfriend created just for displaying buttons/pins. Behind all that was an old buttons poster from Trouser Press (I think I have ONE of their buttons).
Inside the bag were not only buttons and picks, but also patches, a bottle cap and a bowtie.
I’m sure I have more somewhere (and maybe I’ll add them as I come across them), but here’s what was in the bag:
Of those, the first 3 rows are the two-sided ones. The 4th row was included in this next pic primarily to show what’s on the blue pick (“G.E. Smith”, who was the goofily-grinning guitarist/band leader on SNL way back when, Gilda Radner’s husband in the early ‘80s (pre-Gene Wilder) and Hall & Oates’ lead guitar on tour.
I knew G.E. through a guitarist friend of mine named Danny Shea. They used to play together. Here’s a shot from my site of them in 1987:
Somewhere around that time period, George (G.E.) asked me for a picture of him because he was going to be in Bob Dylan’s band (late 80s/early 90s) and needed the shot for the tour booklet. I gave him an appropriate image, but never saw the tour booklet, so if you’re out there, George, and have an extra booklet from that tour lying around………………….
Scott St Clair Sheets was in both The Brats and Pat Benatar’s band. I shot both, but don’t know where I got this pick. I’m guessing that the Brats were probably too poor and too punk to have personalized picks, so that could be a clue.
This pic shows what’s on the reverse of those first 3 rows. I have no idea who wrote “sucks” on one of the Bobby Messano picks (or why). Bobby’s been a friend since 1976. (maybe HE wrote it!)
Equally puzzling are the “Pick ASCAP” picks (or why I have five of them). I know what ASCAP is, but if they were flooding the guitarist community with these picks to drum up some business, why can’t I find a single one for sale anywhere?
Let’s start with the display, going left-to-right and top-to-bottom and see how many I can explain/figure out:
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours needs no explanation
Elvis Presley: Never shot him – fat or skinny – and don’t know where I got this. BTW – this is one of those double-image buttons where if you move it slightly, a different image shows up. I have a few of these, but can’t seem to photograph clear separate images. There’s always seems to be part of the other picture in the image. Anyway, there’s one posed shot and one in performance (see below closeup).
WPLR/David Johansen: PLR is in New Haven, CT. I shot a bunch of shows in NH around 1977-8, but not DavidJo, so I must have gotten this from PLR.
Tomato: A good friend of mine worked for Tomato Records in the 70s, so that must be where this one came from.
Elvis Costello: could be from anywhere…………probably the record company.
Iron City Houserockers: Same as above, but I only shot them once when they opened for Hunter/Ronson in Asbury Park in 1980. They’re a favorite of Bruce Springsteen.
Nils Lofgren: Who knows where? Maybe the Bottom Line in 1975 (4 days after Springsteen’s famous stand there).
Led Zeppelin: This is the first of many radio station – mostly WPLJ – handout buttons at concerts you’ll see here. This one was from their June 1977 stand at Madison Square Garden.
Stranglers – Who knows?
The Boyzz (AKA The Boyzz from Illinoizz): Probably from when I shot them at Great Gildersleeves in 1978.
City Boy – I shot them in ’77 and ’79, but probably got this from Atlantic Records.
Relax – Probably NOT a Frankie Goes To Hollywood button.
“We can’t go on meeting like this” – It also says “A&M Records and TAPES”, so “tapes” makes it old. The only related band I can find online is an A&M group called Hummingbird, but I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of them until I just found this online info.
“Slowhand” – Could be from anywhere (but not from the Slowhand coffee-table book I shot the cover for – that came out 14 years after the album)
Peter Frampton – Another PLJ show handout button for Peter’s memorable 3-night stand at the Garden in 1976
Leo Sayer – No idea………..
Stiff – Ditto
Rolling Stones – PLJ show handout for the Stones’ 1975 MSG stand
Fandango – This was Joe Lynn Turner’s local NJ band that I used to shoot before they were signed to RCA and before he hit it big with Rainbow and Deep Purple.
Sgt Peppers – no idea
“I Want You” – I photographed Marvin Gaye once in 1983 at Radio City Music Hall, so I must have gotten it there.
Elton John – PLJ handout for his 1976 MSG show
Vox Rules – No clue
KISS – PLJ handout for their 1977 MSG stand
The Who – PLJ handout for their 3-10-76 MSG show that got postponed to the 11th due to Keith Moon being “sick”.
The Dickies – no idea where I got this
Meat Loaf – shot him a zillion times, so I probably got this from his office.
Sacred Reich? – Never shot them, no idea why I have this
The Boyzz – shot them once, but dunno where I got this
Stiff – who knows?
Bottom Line Be Stiff Route 78 Tour – I shot that tour at the Bottom Line. I’m guessing the club handed these out that night.
As I write this, someone’s selling one on eBay for $100.00. Don’t recall where I got this Cheap Trick neckwear:
This photo of Stanley Snadowsky and Alan Pepper (The Bottom Line owners) is 3.5 x 2.25 and is inside a pinnable plastic holder. I didn’t recognize the saying until I saw it on a button that you’ll see later on. (reason to continue reading!)
OTHER DOUBLE-IMAGE BUTTONS (I think they’re called 3D lenticular images)
The 3” button is from the old “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” TV show, but I have no idea why I have one.
Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds were the two main guys in Rockpile and here’s my poor photographic attempt to show Nick (left) and Dave (right):
Here are some more WPLJ handouts at shows. I went to 2 nights of the Stones and you’ve already seen one on the display piece, so this is the second button. I shot all 3 nights of Frampton. One is on the display piece and these are the other two.
I have no memory or record of having seen Journey in Central Park, so I have no idea where I got their PLJ button.
John Scher might appreciate that I kept these 3 buttons from my favorite venue:
Two more radio station handouts: WPLJ’s for the Agent Orange Benefit in 1982 and WPIX’s plug for themselves (and the Elvises). The Agent Orange show had a pretty good lineup:
Not listed was Lenny Kaye (w/Jim Carroll Band).
Looney Tunez Records was located in the Packanack Shopping Center on Rt 23 in Wayne NJ. It was run by some guys who later became Dramarama. They managed to get a lot of bands to visit, like the Plasmatics, David Johansen, and – as you can see – Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson:
A few pairs. When was the last time you saw a Slim Whitman button?
MEDIUM AND LARGER BUTTONS (almost half of these have nothing to do with music)
Deacon Jim was a character on the Uncle Floyd Show and I’m sure you know the Jukes, but the prize here is the one where I had forgotten who they were (sorry, “Suzy” and friends). Look it up if you also drew a blank:
I shot for WNEW-FM in the late 70s and early 80s. Rock doesn’t live there anymore.
You can read most of the names, but I’ll run through them anyway:
Row 1: Billy Squier, the BusBoys, Savoy Brown, Blue Oyster Cult, Red Light (does anyone know anything about this band? I’ve never heard of them and am wondering how I got this button.)
Row 2: Sammy Hagar, Bruce Springsteen, Adam & the Ants (2), Nude Ants (call the exterminator!)
Row 3: The Replacements, The Blockheads, Phil Garland, The Who, something by Philip D’Arrow
Row 4: The Manhattans, Tom Petty, Lene Lovich (3)
Row 5. Sid Vicious, Patti Smith (from the Wave album), The Photos, Armored Saint, The Cars
This is a closeup of the unreadable Blockheads one (dunno why it doesn’t say “Ian Dury & the Blockheads”) and the back of the Cars one:
For good measure, I found a much clearer Blockheads one:
Row 1: The Boyzz (from Illinoizz – 3), the Smiths
Row 2: Blotto (4), Bob & Doug McKenzie (2)
Row 3: Cheap Trick (I think), Dirty Looks, The Photos, Bram Tchaikovsky (3)
Row 4: Plasmatics (2), David Werner (4)
STIFF (all…………..that last one sound familiar?):
Row 1: Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Carolyn Mas (4)
Row 2: not sure, Benny Mardones, Patti Smith, Joan Armatrading
Row 3: Ian Hunter (2), see Row 1 #1 (2), the only person I ever heard mention laughter from the stage was Robert Plant (“Does anybody remember laughter?”), but this button has nothing to do with that (but the combination of the three of them DOES sound like the atmosphere at a lot of 70s shows).
Row 1: More organizations I shot for (2), Remember the Tomato Records button? My friend who worked there was also a legendary DJ at WFMU. If you’d like to read about him, go here: https://iaintjustmusic.bobleafe.com/?p=7764
Row 2: Touting Columbia Records’ publicity department’s publication, something from Relix magazine, the legendary Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove, NJ, where I shot a lot of bands:
Still bagged within the big button bag:
Row 1: Five souvenir pins I got at the “New Jersey” album party at Roseland in 1988
Row 2: Bram T, NYC’s WAPP “The Apple”, Creem magazine’s Boy Howdy (strange – he doesn’t look Taiwanese), Relix redux
Nothing to do with music, though the slump/lump one puzzles me (5):
There’s an interesting suggestion by John O’Toole in the comments regarding Slump/Lump (hmmm…….the button’s coloration DOES look a bit minty, no?). If he’s accurate, you’ll want to see this:
I have no idea why this beer bottle cap was in the bag – maybe because of the leaf on it – but where would I have gotten it? I don’t drink beer.
That’s it! Everything’s back in the bag and the bag is back in the closet.
So Zak, does this answer your question? 😉