Autograph was formed in 1983 originally as a solo project for singer-songwriter/guitarist Steve Plunkett (also known as "Plunk"), who had recently left the band Silver Condor, due to his frustration with their lack of interest in recording his songs. Plunkett then began playing and recording his own material with a group of his musician friends, most of whom had previously played with him in other bands.
On lead guitar was Steve Lynch, who had played with Plunkett in the band Looker, and who has a distinctive two-handed, fretboard-tapping technique, which eventually won him the "Guitar Solo of the Year" award from Guitar Player magazine for his work on Autograph's signature song, "Turn Up The Radio." Bassist Randy Rand knew Plunkett from their days together in Wolfgang, a club band in Los Angeles, which has been described as a local legend and of which Kevin Dubrow (lead singer of Quiet Riot) said, "They smoked us all....They got better response than us and Van Halen". Steve Isham keyboard player and longtime friend of Plunkett's, had earlier played with Holly Penfield, and on drums, Plunkett called on Keni Richards, his bandmate from John Doe, and whose friendship with Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth led to Autograph's big break.
Over time, this group of musicians recording together took the form of an actual band. Plunkett chose the name "Autograph" for the band, having been inspired by hearing Def Leppard's similarly-titled song, "Photograph," on the radio. They recorded their first demos in late 1983, but gave copies of the demo to a few friends only. One of these friends, Andy Johns, a record producer, played their demo for David Lee Roth of Van Halen, who subsequently invited the band to open for them in their 1984 tour.
The band rose to prominence as an opening act for Van Halen on their 1984 tour, an act of distinction for an unsigned band. Autograph signed a contract with RCA Records following a performance at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1984.
The band’s debut album, Sign in Please, was completed and released in October of that year, but did not make an appearance on any record charts until January, 1985. Sign in Please contains the band’s only major hit and signature song, "Turn Up the Radio." Interestingly, according to Autograph's Turn Up the Web website, the tune was the last song recorded for the album, and the band members were initially very lukewarm toward it. The song became a top-30 hit, pushing album sales past the gold mark (500,000 copies sold). The album later went platinum. "Turn Up The Radio" was featured on an episode of Miami Vice entitled "Little Prince."
The band also recorded a song titled "You Can't Hide From the Beast Inside" for the film Fright Night.
A second album, That’s the Stuff, was released in the fall of 1985, and the group went on tour in support of several other bands, including Mötley Crüe and Heart. Although record sales were disappointing in comparison to their first album, it still achieved gold status (supported by the single, "Blondes in Black Cars" and the title track, a minor-hit), and eventually peaked at #92 on the Billboard album charts.
The band then recorded a song titled "Winning Is Everything" for the film Youngblood.
The band remained at RCA to record a third album which took longer to record than the other two. Loud and Clear was released in the spring of 1987 and was produced by their friend Andy Johns. The title song "Loud and Clear" featured a music video with Ozzy Osbourne and Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe as extras. The band also made three appearances on Headbangers Ball in 1987. In October of the same year the band made a cameo in the Dudley Moore, Kirk Cameron movie Like Father Like Son about a father and son switching bodies. The first song featured was "Dance all Night" which played briefly, and the song they were prominently shown performing was "She Never Looked That Good for Me," both of these tunes being from the Loud and Clear album. Despite the three songs being released as singles the album was not a big success and did not bring the band much more than they had before, mostly due to poor support from RCA.
The band left RCA in early 1988 due to the poor support and not long after RCA coincidently went defunct anyway. Steve Isham left the band to pursue other options but was not replaced, as the band felt they no longer needed keyboards and wanted to take a newer and heavier direction. The remaining members began recording a new album from 1988 to 1989, which they hoped to release between October, 1989 and January, 1990. Recordings for this album would later surface on the Missing Pieces album (see below). The band would eventually find a new deal with Epic in 1989, but it fell through at the last minute, and the members called it quits soon after. Frontman Steve Plunkett recorded a solo album shortly after the breakup that eventually saw release in 1991, while drummer Keni Richards went on to work with Dirty White Boy. Keyboardist Steve Isham joined up with Gary Moon, who later replaced Jack Blades in Night Ranger, to form The Pack, and he later went on to tour with Vince Neil during his solo era. Lead guitarist Steve Lynch formed another band, Network 23.
Though the band had disbanded, a few of their music videos from all three albums, most commonly "Turn Up the Radio" from their debut, continued to be played on channels and programs such as MTV and Headbangers Ball for a few years afterward. As that genre of music was still widely popular, every now and then a video from the first two albums Sign in Please and That's the Stuff would appear on MTV, while videos from the then more modern Loud and Clear appeared frequently on Headbangers Ball between 1988 and 1990. However, with the explosion of Grunge around 1991-92, older videos in the pop metal/glam metal genre were neglected altogether in favor of the newer style of rock music. Thanks to the recent advent of channels such as VH1 Classic, several classic Autograph music videos can once again be seen on television today.