Hollywood icon John Wayne once asked for David Coverdale's autograph

A composite picture of David Coverdale and John Wayne
(Image credit: David Coverdale Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage, John Wayne Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

David Coverdale has recalled being starstruck by Hollywood icon John Wayne – who asked the singer for his autograph and some tickets to a Deep Purple show.

It was the 1970s and Coverdale was Deep Purple frontman at the time, hanging out in Los Angeles before a sold out gig.

He spotted 'The Duke' across the room and says he was stunned by the presence of Hollywood royalty.

Coverdale says in a new episode of QT with DC: "There used to be a lovely dark bar at the Beverly Regent hotel called the El Padrino bar. And the amount of discreet assignations that went on there was quite remarkable. Anyway, I'm sitting there with our agent at the time, having a drink, and we have a show coming up at the weekend – this is Deep Purple.

"And I went, 'Oh my God. There's John Wayne, for God's sake.' John Wayne in the corner with this beautiful young blonde. I'm sitting there tortured, going, 'I should get an autograph for my mum. It would be amazing.' And I'm going, 'I can't. I can't do it. Oh, fuck it.'

"So I got up, and I'm in those big snakeskin high-heel platform boots, and I wander over. And it's happened to me a thousand of times. I said, 'Excuse me, Mr Wayne. I'm so sorry to disturb you.' And the blonde just sort of looks away, like, 'Here we go.' 

"And he goes, 'Yeah, kid.' I went, 'Listen, my mum's a huge fan.' I said, 'Could I ask you for your autograph?' He said, 'Yeah, sure.' And he got a coaster and he wrote 'To Win. Love, The Duke. John Wayne'.

"And I went, 'Oh my God. This is amazing. Thank you so much.' He said, 'What are you doing in this place?' And I said, 'Oh, I've got a show at the weekend.' He went, 'Really?' And he stands up, still a very imposing man. But his suits were kind of hanging off him – he'd kicked cancer.

"And he went, 'What's the name of the group?' And I said, 'Deep Purple.' He went, 'God, my daughter's been driving my office mad. It's been sold out forever. Could you do anything?'

"I said, 'Just a moment, Mr Wayne.' So I went over to the agent, got all the numbers for his office and came over. Then they asked me for my autograph. So I thought that was pretty spectacular."

Coverdale's recollection of the incident is backed up by his then bandmate Glenn Hughes, who in 2021 told Classic Rock his own version – which included a brilliant anecdote about exactly what they signed for the actor.

He said: "David Coverdale and I were walking through the Beverly Wilshire hotel and we spotted John Wayne in the lobby. He was a big man, girthy, massive. He completely filled up the room. We walked up to him and said we were fans of his. He asked us who we were and we told him we were in Deep Purple. He said, 'Oh, my daughter would be so happy to get your autographs.' 

"So David and I got John’s autograph on a piece of paper and we both signed his cowboy boots so he could give them to his daughter. We still talk about that incident."

Stef wrote close to 5,000 stories during his time as assistant online news editor and later as online news editor between 2014-2016. An accomplished reporter and journalist, Stef has written extensively for a number of UK newspapers and also played bass with UK rock favourites Logan. His favourite bands are Pixies and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Stef left the world of rock'n'roll news behind when he moved to his beloved Canada in 2016, but he started on his next 5000 stories in 2022.