Being an amputee, I ended up with an old prototype leg that was just standing in my living room for a long time . . .
I turned to my dear friend Don Hobbs and asked, "What do you do with an old leg? Should I throw it out?" He said no, and suggested that I ask all the performers in the music industry that I admire to sign it. I replied that I'd never ask anyone for their autograph. He said, "You know, a leg is different."
Well, one of the songwriters I most admired was John Prine, and when he came to town to perform at Carmel's Sunset Theater, I had to give it a try. So, after his sound check, I met him coming out and said, "John, would you sign my leg?" He said he would be happy to. Wow! It was so easy that I started really liking the idea, and when any performer came to the area that I admired, I would meet them after the sound checks.
Soon the employees at the Sunset Theater got to know me, and I didn't have to explain why I was there. They'd say to the artists, "You've got to sign the 'leg man's' leg!' So, after their sound checks, that's what they did. Artists who've signed the leg are Graham Nash; David Crosby; Merle Haggard; and Art Garfunkel. Jackson Browne also signed it, but I was also told by the staff that he wouldn't be too happy if he saw my plastic water bottle, so I ditched it in the recycle bin before he came out. Maria Muldaur started singing "Midnight at the Oasis, while she signed the leg. Others were Timothy B. Schmit, from the Eagles; Arlo Guthrie, and his daughter Sarah.
Funny things happen when people sign your leg. For instance, before meeting Arlo Guthrie outside his tour bus he wanted to look at the leg before he signed it, so he could see in whose company he was in. After signing it, he said, I don't want to see it on ebay." He also told me to have Sarah sign it, "Because she's the real star of the family."
Melanie, the great singer/songwriter who influenced me the most in my teenage years, unbelievably signed her name right in the middle of the leg, as if it was waiting for her to sign it there.
35 years later I met Melanie again at her hotel in Salinas prior to a concert. She had read the story in my book, "Life is a Bumpy Road," about how she took me into Carnegie Hall when I was 18, and didn't have tickets to her concert. The night of the concert in Salinas when I was sitting in the audience, she asked me to come up and tell the story to the people who came to hear her. It was a thrilling night for me to be reunited with my biggest inspiration.
(An interesting thing I've observed after all the people have signed the leg is that the women always signed it with colored markers, while men use black.)
As I mentioned, John Prine was the first one to sign the leg, and several years later, I happened to run into him at Walgreens. I told him how much his music meant to me, then added, "By the way, John, I want to thank you for signing my leg a couple years ago. You know, you were the first one. Do you remember signing my leg?"
He answered, "Of course." I was shocked that he even remembered me, and said, "Really?" And he said, "It's the only leg I've ever signed."
And that's how I got known around town as "the leg man."