Some people collect comic books. Others accumulate fine wines and store them in climate-controlled rooms. Charles "Corky" Byer is a collector of rock 'n' roll memorabilia.
"Rock 'n' roll created the song track of my life," said the Haiku resident. "The songs have gotten me through a lot of things."
Byer's collection includes guitars autographed by rock icons like Paul McCartney and a Led Zepplin album signed by all the original band members.
Charles “Corky” Byer of Haiku is surrounded by some of his rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia.
SEAN M. HOWER photo
Guitar signed by members of the band America
SEAN M. HOWER photo
Paul McCartney signature
SEAN M. HOWER photo
"One of my favorites is a letter from George Harrison's mother to her best friend," said Byer during a phone interview Thursday. In the letter, Harrison's mother details a visit from "the boys" and how a red carpet was rolled out when they took her to the theater for the release of "A Hard Day's Night."
Byer has spent a lot of time collecting autographs and other memorabilia. From 2003 to 2009, he went to every Hollywood Walk of Fame presentation for a new commemorative star recognizing a group or individual.
"I love meeting these people," said Byer.
It was this passion that helped drive Byer's monumental effort to produce the first Rock 'n Roll Autograph Show to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital from Sept. 13 to 15 in Los Angeles. Byer said it's the first event of its kind.
"There are autograph shows for every industry . . . even porn," said Byer. "I would ask people why there isn't one for rock 'n' roll."
Having no experience producing a large event and only modest personal means, Byer nevertheless took it upon himself to make his dream a reality.
"I'm not wealthy," said Byer. "I worked at Picture Plus in Kahului for 18 months. I believe in this so much I put all my savings into it."
In addition to his love or rock and roll, Byer is driven by his desire to "pay it forward" from a woman named Susan Pierce. She helped get him on his feet when he was down-and-out in Los Angeles, living in his car with no job for six months. Despite his destitute situation, Pierce hired Byer to be a security guard with her company, the West Coast Ranger Patrol.
He is also motivated by the memory of his sister, who died from cancer as a child. Her medical costs were paid in full by City of Hope, a cancer research hospital in Los Angeles.
Byer saw a TV commercial for St. Jude Children's Research hospital and started giving money to the organization whenever he could.
A large portion of proceeds from an auction that will take place at the autograph event will be donated to St. Jude, according to Byer. The research hospital also will receive the proceeds from a song being written and produced by guitarist and songwriter Dick Wagner, who has collaborated with such acts as Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and Lou Reed.
An all-star band of more than 30 participating rockers from the show will gather to record Wagner's song, "If I Had the Time (I Could Change the World)."
The Rock 'n Roll Autograph Show will feature more than 70 musicians, including Wagner, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Artimus Pyle and Bob Burns of Lynyrd Skynyrd; Lou Gramm of Foreigner; David Ellefson, co-founder of Megadeth; surviving members of Janis Joplin's band Big Brother & the Holding Company; Black Oak Arkansas featuring Jim Dandy; Elliot Easton, guitarist from The Cars; and more.
How did Byer manage to assemble the musicians despite having little money and no experience producing such an event?
"I used to be a bill collector for 18 years," he said. "I know how to find people. I have no problem cold-calling people."
Byer said life is a "numbers game." He methodically kept at it.
"The very first to say yes was Elliott Easton of The Cars," said Byer. "Finding artists is a grass-roots kind of thing." Musicians started talking to one another. "It started to snowball," he said. Richie Ramone of The Ramones called me up and said, 'How can I be a part of this?' "
"I'm just a guy with an idea," said Byer. "I surrounded myself with people much smarter than me." He credits the people who have helped him on Maui and the Mainland: "People who know what they're doing," he said.
Byer and his team have been publicizing the event heavily with social media, print media and radio. KLOS radio 95.5 in Los Angeles has been advertising the event. The Rock 'n Roll Autograph Show Facebook page has more than 13,000 followers.
Byer is hoping for an attendance between 8,000 and 10,000 people over the three-day event.
But that would be just the beginning. The five-year plan is to have two shows a year the first three years - one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast - then to add an Oahu show in the fourth year and a Japan show in the fifth year.
With someone as determined and passionate as Byer, and with the help of his team, that dream may become a reality too.
* Rich Van Scoy can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.