Truth and Doo-Wop
Can't tell a fake from the original? How one man's campaign against musical impostors might help.
By Jerry Adler
June 4, 2007 issue - Let us consider two great experiences of Western culture. One is viewing "Girl With a Pearl Earring," by the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, which hangs in a museum in The Hague. The other is a performance of "Up on the Roof" by the 20th-century R&B group the Drifters. For that, you have many choices, including Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters and Charlie Thomas's Drifters, various "cover" bands (which do their own versions of classic hits), "tribute" bands (which mimic the original performances down to the white shoes) and a shadowy category of groups that perform under the original names and may benefit from the audience's assumption that at least one of the elderly gentlemen on stage once crooned the selfsame lyrics on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Fate decreed there would be only one Vermeer, but many Drifters—and Coasters and Platters and other rock groups from the era before MTV. "How many?" asks Jon Bauman rhetorically. "As many as you can pay for. On New Year's Eve, one in every city."
Bauman is better known as "Bowzer," the T-shirted lunk from Sha Na Na (the band in "Grease"). Now 59, he runs his own oldies shows and heads the Truth in Music committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, crisscrossing the country at his own expense promoting laws to penalize bands who falsely advertise a connection to an earlier group. Nine states now have such laws—New Jersey was the most recent—and bills are awaiting signatures in seven more. Impostors are "a form of identity theft," he says, "against artists whose music changed the world. I look on this as an extension of the civil-rights movement."
To the dwindling cadre of doo-wop pioneers who can still snap their fingers without wincing, Bauman is a hero. "Jon is a dedicated soul," says Herb Reed of the first group to call itself the Platters. More than a half-century later Reed still sings bass as part of a group descended from the original Platters by a genealogy only slightly less convoluted than the Plantagenets'. "Those impostor groups are destroying the market for me," he says, competing for bookings by cutting their prices, so that in his late 70s he's down to a mere 180 dates a year.
But supporters of the Truth in Music bills are also positioning it as a consumer issue, appealing to a quirk of human nature that prizes authenticity above phenomenology. "Consumers are being confused," says Maxine Porter, manager of Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters. "There's a history, a specific identity with a name, and all that is part of the consumer's decision-making process." Economists struggle to understand this phenomenon.
"Even well-established art experts are at a loss to explain why a (perfect) copy is considered so much less valuable than the original," Bruno S. Frey of the University of Zurich wrote in a 1999 paper. To return to Vermeer for a moment, most people will never see the original "Girl With a Pearl Earring," but last week a new Vermeer museum opened in Delft containing only reproductions. Or if you'd like a hand-painted copy on stretched canvas to "impress your friends," you can buy one online for as little as $155, compared with $100 million for the original. You could probably tell them apart, especially if you chose to supersize your copy—the original is just 16 by 18 inches, but you can have copies in sizes up to three feet by four feet. But would you be confident in your ability to know which was the Vermeer? And if not, then does it matter?
For that matter, how many casual R&B fans could pick out an original member of the Coasters from a distance? (That's a trick question; the last surviving original member, Carl Gardner, retired from touring recently after a stroke.) Early R&B groups were mostly faceless voices on the radio, in part because record companies weren't eager to remind audiences that their faces were usually black. And yet, in doo-wop as in painting, an undeniable aura clings to the authentic, the genuine, the original. Which is why if you go to a concert by the faux Drifters or a performance by the Platters manqué, you will always see, says Bauman, one guy in his 70s there so that you, the discerning doo-wop consumer, can nudge your seatmate and say, "That's the real one!"http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18881824/site/newsweek/
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Mar. 02, 2007
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Not so great pretenders
Originals support 'Truth in Music'
By SEAN WHALEY
REVIEW-JOURNAL CAPITAL BUREAU
Mary Wilson, left, an
Mary Wilson, left, an original member of the Supremes, and Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, former leader of Sha Na Na, testify on Thursday.
Photo by Gary Thompson.
Sonny Turner, right, of the original Platters singing group, testifies from Las Vegas during a teleconference meeting Thursday of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor in Carson City.
Photo by Gary Thompson.
CARSON CITY -- Bowzer broke into song before a Senate panel on Thursday.
Jon Bauman, better known as the former leader of the oldies group Sha Na Na, testified in support of a bill that would make it a deceptive trade practice for musical groups with no original members to pass themselves off as the Coasters, Drifters, Platters or others.
"Get a job," Bauman intoned, quoting the 1950s Silhouettes hit.
"For too many years, these impostor musical groups have been duping consumers out of their hard-earned entertainment dollars and cheating the pioneers of rock music out of their rightful legacy," Bauman told the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
Bauman was joined by Mary Wilson, an original member of the Supremes, and Sonny Turner, an original member of the Platters, who testified from Las Vegas, in supporting Senate Bill 53, dubbed the "Truth in Music" bill.
Wilson told lawmakers that at least five groups are performing as the Supremes. Breaking into song, Wilson said she tells those groups: "Stop! In the name of love, before you break my heart."
The bill is intended to protect both consumers, who may not know they are buying tickets to a fake group's performance, and artists who only have their legacy as performers to rely on to make a living, Wilson said.
Turner continued the musical testimony in the hearing. "Only you, can pass this bill for us," he sang to the melody of the Platters' hit "Only You."
The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed the bill out with a few minor amendments, including one making it clear that venues that offer such acts, including hotel-casinos, are not responsible for any bogus act. The bill will have to pass both houses and be signed by the governor before it becomes law.
Commerce Chairman Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said the bill would become effective upon passage and approval, to provide protection to the performers as quickly as possible.
Bauman, who is chairman of the Truth in Music Committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, said he is pleased with support for the bill that the group has received from Nevada's casino industry.
"We're completely on the same page," Bauman said. "We're not interested in acting as if the venues are culpable here. Because we feel that they are not."
The bill was introduced by Sens. Joe Heck, R-Henderson, and Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, on behalf of some Las Vegas performers, including Wilson.
Bauman told the panel that the Truth in Music Committee has succeeded in passing similar legislation in nine other states and is seeking approval in 12 more, including Nevada.
The bill would prohibit a group from calling itself the Drifters, for example, unless one original member of the group is part of the performance. Exceptions would be made for groups clearly identifying themselves as a "tribute" band. Individuals holding rights to a group name also would be exempted from the provisions of the bill.
Civil fines of $5,000 to $10,000, for violating a court order, could be assessed against promoters or groups failing to follow the provisions of the law.
The attorney general's office had reviewed the bill and didn't foresee any additional costs associated with enforcing the proposed law because the office already has a deceptive trade practices unit.
Bauman said the legislation has reduced or eliminated imposter groups in other states. It has succeeded by placing the burden of proof on the imposter groups to show they can legitimately use a name, he said.
It has been effective because it allows an attorney general to stop a performance before it occurs to ensure there is a legitimate right to the group name, Bauman said.
He described the phony groups as a form of identity theft.
Wilson, a Las Vegas resident, said she has spent millions of dollars trying unsuccessfully to prosecute fake Supremes groups. Wilson, who does not own the Supremes name, tours as Mary Wilson or "Mary Wilson formerly of the Supremes."
Bauman said performers are backing the legislation because they have to compete for jobs against fake groups that may charge $5,000 for a performance, while a group including original members might charge $20,000.
Wilson said there are more serious issues the Legislature needs to deal with, from homelessness to care for the elderly, but the bill is important for performers.
"It is helping Americans who have given music to the world," Wilson said.
Also testifying from Las Vegas was 1950s music fan Donald Riggio, who said he knows which groups have a legitimate claim to a group name and which are fakes because of his love of the music.
"I take it as a personal insult to my intelligence to have these fakers heaped upon me and the other members of the sometimes unsuspecting audience without calling them what they are -- a tribute band or review," Riggio said.
No one spoke in opposition to the measure.
Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, said he was embarrassed that Nevada has not been at the forefront in protecting the artists affected by imposter groups.
But Bauman said the effort to pass the law in Nevada was intentionally delayed until the organization could see how well the measure worked elsewhere.
Nevada is an important state for such a law because of its prominence as an entertainment capital, he said.
"Existing law has proven to be completely ineffective in stopping the practice," Bauman said. "This is a grey area. These people have learned how to work within existing law."
TRUTH IN MUSIC BILL ADVANCES
Jon "Bowzer" Bauman (AP Photo)
New Law Promises Fines For Knockoff Music Acts In NY
Posted: August 22, 2007
ALBANY, NY -- Knockoff music acts that impersonate the real performers can face fines up to $15,000 under a new law in New York.
"Music artists work for years to build names for themselves in the entertainment industry," Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Tuesday after signing the amendments to the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. "We should not allow others to impersonate their work and profit from that deception." Called the "Truth in Music Advertising Law," it prohibits copycat performances that attempt to cash in through false and misleading representations like names, billings and promotions similar to the original artists. Enforcement by the state attorney general's office can bring civil penalties ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.
The measure was inspired when well-known recording artists like the Platters, the Coasters and the Drifters suffered financial losses when their acts and routines were copied without permission, according to the governor's office.
The Drifters, a doo-wop vocal group, first formed in the 1950s at Atlantic Records, had a string of '60s hits like "This Magic Moment" and "Under the Boardwalk," and an array of members through decades of recording and performing. Several early members are dead.
The legislation has been dubbed the "Bowzer Bill" for Jon "Bowzer" Bauman of the band Sha Na Na who has lobbied lawmakers in Albany and other state capitals. He says that while there are Drifters, Coasters and Platters performing with an authentic recording member of the band, there are many others with none.
"There are some groups that have been really very heavily damaged by this, for the most part the groups that had the most hit records from the doo-wop era," Bauman said. "Unscrupulous people have abused those names and they are putting out multiple impostor groups under those names. We don't even know how many there are."
The law requires performing groups to have at least one member of the recording group that they claim a connection to and a legal right to use the name. Or else they must label the production a "tribute" or "salute" or else own the recording group's trademark or have its authorization.
Sen. John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who sponsored the bill, said that while some old hits endure, the law should protect both the band's reputation and concertgoers from fraud.
"Fans want to see the groups they love and should get what they pay for," said Assemblyman Peter Rivera, a Bronx Democrat and another sponsor.
Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, South Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas and Nevada have enacted similar laws, according to the Truth in Music Committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation. California and a few other states are expected to follow shortly, said foundation President Bob Crosby.
"A lot of these groups have spent their life savings chasing the predators in litigation. It's been really tough because there's always another gig and the gigs happen faster than the litigation," Crosby said. "No one is in favor of fake groups except for the impostors. It's a form of identity theft."
The next step is enforcement, Bauman said. There are ongoing actions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with one coming soon in Nevada, he said.
Attorney William Charron, representing Singer Management and Live Gold Operations, obtained a temporary restraining order Friday in a New Jersey federal court to block the attorney general from interfering with a show at the Atlantic City Hilton by their groups the Elsberry Hobbs Drifters, the Cornell Gunter Coasters and the Platters, he said. They're scheduled to return to court Sept. 7, seeking a preliminary injunction.
"The arguments were constitutional, that our clients have valid licenses to these trademarks," Charron said. He said the law "has the potential for misuse. That's where our clients find themselves unfortunately caught. They deserve to have their names cleared," he said.
Drifters sure get around
By John L. Mitchell, Times Staff Writer
March 15, 2007
click to enlarge
Excerpt from The Drifters' "On Broadway"
Excerpt from The Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk"
You won't hear George Treadwell harmonizing on any of the classic hits by the Drifters, not "Up on the Roof," "Under the Boardwalk" or the song that declares "the neon lights are bright on Broadway."
But whenever Tina Treadwell listens to those old tunes, she hears a sound that her father pieced together some 50 years ago, music she considers her birthright.
George Treadwell was the ironfisted manager and principal owner of the registered trademark for the Drifters, a singing group that formed in the 1950s and went on to record dozens of hit songs. During an era that saw rhythm and blues sweep into popular culture, the Drifters led the way with romantic lyrics, orchestral strings and a touch of Latin flavor.
"My father had a vision of what the sound should be," said Tina Treadwell, 48. "He found artists whom he felt would best express the tone, quality and vibrancy of what it meant to be 'a Drifter.' They weren't just four guys who came together off the street. This was his group."
George Treadwell took the reins in 1954, made the singers salaried employees and required each to sign contracts relinquishing any claim to the Drifters' name. Anyone who complained was usually fired and replaced with another eager crooner from a ready pool of young talent.
Over the years, more than 50 men performed with Treadwell's Drifters, among them: Clyde McPhatter, Bill Pinkney, Gerhardt Thrasher, Ben E. King, Elsbeary Hobbs, Charlie Thomas, Rudy Lewis and Johnny Moore. Dozens of voices — but only one group.
Today, however, there are a number of groups that call themselves "the Drifters." Pinkney and Thomas still perform with their own Drifters. And there are Drifters onstage in Las Vegas and London and others available to sing "This Magic Moment" and "There Goes My Baby" at oldies and doo-wop festivals.
But none of them performs with the Treadwell imprimatur.
That's why Tina Treadwell put on hold a promising career as a movie casting director and left a position as vice president of talent and alternative programming at the Disney Channel. She wants to reclaim a legacy she believes is worth millions.
Treadwell says she doesn't begrudge Pinkney and Thomas the fees they can command by performing as Drifters. They both worked for her father. But in December, she filed lawsuits in New Jersey and in London against the promoters of other groups she has accused of illegally performing under the name.
"It's a travesty," she said. "They've diluted the brand with impostors."
She is not alone in battling over the lineage of vintage music groups. The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pa., has encouraged states to adopt legislation making it illegal to use the name of a famous band unless it includes at least one original member or unless management holds a trademark. A bill in California, sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Ca–ada Flintridge), would outlaw the practice of marketing "new" versions of original groups, similar to laws approved in several other states.
"It's a sophisticated form of identity theft," said Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, formerly of Sha Na Na and the chairman of the Truth in Music committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. "There's usually at least one really old guy in the phony group so that you can sit out in the audience and say: 'That must be "the real one." ' "
In 1953, McPhatter, a soaring high tenor from North Carolina, left the Dominoes, a group known for the R&B hit "Sixty Minute Man," and signed with Atlantic Records. He formed the Drifters, and their first hit record on the R&B charts was "Money Honey." A few singles later, he teamed up with bassist Bill Pinkney to record "White Christmas," a soulful rendition of Bing Crosby's hit single that was, years later, included on the soundtrack for the 1990 movie "Home Alone."
In 1954 McPhatter sold his half-interest in the group to manager George Treadwell and his backers, and launched a solo career. The sale gave Treadwell — a former jazz trumpeter and former husband and manager of singer Sarah Vaughan — power to make lineup changes on a regular basis.
"He was one of the first to realize that individual singers can come and go, but the group takes on a life of its own," said Rickey Ivie, one of Tina Treadwell's attorneys. "He made everyone sign personal service contracts. He was a pioneer in that sense."
It didn't take long for Treadwell to begin shuffling the members of the group.
In 1958, he canned the entire lineup before an engagement at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and replaced it with members of a local doo-wop group called the Five Crowns.
At the end of the run at the Apollo, all of the new Drifters signed contracts with Treadwell. They made about $125 a week.
When one member accidentally saw a contract detailing how much money the group was taking in, singer Ben. E. King was deputized to complain to Treadwell about their salaries.
"I stood up and said, 'We need more money,' " King said. "Then he told me, 'You can't speak for the group. You speak for yourself. If you're unhappy, you can leave.' I turned around and walked out the door, assuming they were going to follow me. They didn't."
The man who later co-wrote "There Goes My Baby" and also sang the lead on "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "This Magic Moment" was out of the Drifters and out of a job.
At the time, King remembers thinking his music career was over, but in the early 1960s, he scored as a solo artist with "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand by Me."
The Drifters, too, continued to record hits — with various lineup changes — that catapulted the group into a golden era. Rudy Lewis led the group on such songs as "Up on the Roof" and "On Broadway." But Lewis died in his sleep one night in 1964 before a session for "Under the Boardwalk." Johnny Moore took over as the lead of what turned out to be the Drifters' last major hit.
George Treadwell, who at one time counted Billie Holiday and Sammy Davis Jr. among his clients, died in 1967. A few years later, his wife, Faye Treadwell, moved the group with Johnny Moore as lead singer to England.
Meanwhile, Pinkney and former members were busy touring separately as "the Original Drifters." And around the same time, New York promoter Larry Marshak signed other former members and began marketing his groups independently across the United States.
Faye Treadwell's Drifters performed in England for years. But Johnny Moore died in 1998, and behind the scenes, things were starting to unravel.
"My mother's life was such a struggle," Tina Treadwell said. "She knew the Drifters, she knew what it took to be the Drifters, but the money wasn't always easy."
Tina Treadwell had established her own show business career at Disney. By 2001, she was a vice president who had spearheaded a concert series, including events for Brandy, the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson. But when she received a call from London about her mother's deteriorating health, Tina Treadwell took a severance package and flew across the Atlantic.
Her mother was living like a recluse. Bills weren't paid. Taxes were owed. Before she brought her mother home, Tina Treadwell said she asked the London tour manager and agent to fulfill any remaining concert obligations and then suspend operations. The Drifters were to be silenced, at least for a time.
Tina Treadwell moved her mother into the guest apartment behind her house in Glendale. Then she started to investigate the Drifters and their trademark.
She came to question whether the manager and agent who had been working for her mother in London had been truthful about finances. In the United States, she said, she discovered Marshak was marketing Drifters groups without her mother's permission.
In December, her attorneys filed papers on both sides of the Atlantic seeking to exert control of the Drifters' name.
Solicitor Tom Frederikse, Tina Treadwell's attorney in England, said that even though she had directed the group's former managers to stop scheduling performances, "they have been doing gigs and earning a lot of money."
Phillip Luderman, once employed by Faye Treadwell to be the Drifters' agent, said he was advised by his lawyer not to comment. "We're waiting for the court case," Luderman said. "We can tell the real story then. We've got nothing to hide."
In Newark, N.J., Tina Treadwell's attorneys accused Marshak of violating a 1999 federal court injunction prohibiting him from booking groups using the Drifters name. She said the New York promoter was booking Drifters into venues all across the United States, including nightly performances at the Sahara in Las Vegas.
Marshak's attorney said his client denies any wrongdoing and plans to ask the court to void the injunction in light of a 2004 ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office giving singer Bill Pinkney of "the Original Drifters" exclusive use of the Drifters' name. Marshak said he has an understanding with Pinkney to schedule and promote various versions of the group.
In addition to the Drifters, fans and original members of such legendary groups as the Platters, Coasters, Supremes and the Shirelles have long complained that music promoters were billing groups as authentic even if they didn't include members who performed on the records.
"I don't think anyone wants to see great rock 'n' roll artists not be given the respect they deserve," Portantino said. The legislation he introduced last month would bring "some artistic justice to those artists and their legacies as well as providing consumer protection. I don't see any problem in saying, 'This is a musical tribute,' but don't say you are the Drifters, the Platters or the Coasters if you are not."
The legal squabble has done little to disrupt the lineup at the Sahara in Las Vegas, where an act billed as the "Coasters, Drifters and Platters" plays seven nights a week to sellout crowds, outdrawing an impersonator who does a "tribute to the King."
"They do terrific business seven nights a week," a spokesman for the Sahara said. "We are operating under the assumption that they are totally licensed. They are not phony, impostor groups, but they are part of the lineage of the name."
But Maxine Porter, a longtime manager for Pinkney, has seen the show and disputes the claim.
"There are a bunch of guys saying, 'This was our hit,' " she said. "I said that that's a lie. I've got Drifters records older than you. Consumers don't take time to question. They just believe."
In Glendale, dementia has erased most of Faye Treadwell's recollections about the good times with the man she married 50 years ago and her work with one of the hottest groups in the record business.
Her daughter has her own struggles. Tina Treadwell did some casting for the 2006 movie "The Guardian," but work has been slow. She rents her house from friends who purchased it to prevent her from losing it to foreclosure. The caregiver she hired for her mother is a drain on finances.
"We need a new roof, my mother's waiting for a royalty payment," Tina Treadwell said. "Sometimes I look at this woman living in my guest house and wonder, 'How did this happen?' She had a beautiful home in New Jersey, and now she's living in my guest house."
Fortunately, she said, her mother is not completely aware of how much her life has changed.
"She always loved to read the paper, and still does. Sometimes she sees that the Drifters are playing somewhere, at the Sahara, and I can see the frustration in her face."
But sometimes, the music eases the pain. "She'll remember the good times and she lightens
New law requires ‘knock off’ groups to use disclaimer in advertising.
- Illinois Government New Network
GREAT PRETENDERS: A guide to who's really playing in the vintage bands headed for metro Detroit. - The Detroit Free Press
Limits on fake music groups heads to governor's desk.
- The Associated Press
Senator Robbins' Truth In Musical Advertising Act" Signed Into Law.
States Silence Musical Copycats.
- by Elizabeth Wilkerson, Stateline.org
50's and 60's Bands Aim To Stop Copycats.
- by Susan Haigh, The Associated Press
New Law makes it illegal to pose as musical group.
- by Laure Coiffe, Vindicator Pennsylvania
New State Law makes phony bands face the music.
- by Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette
Facing The Truth.
- by Mitchell Peters, Pollstar
Getting Imposters to sing a different tune.
- by Maura Possley, Chicago Tribune
Ex-Supreme sings blues to Legislature over copycat acts.
- by Philip Ewing, Post-Dispatch Springfield Bureau
Supreme justice would silence pretenders.
- by Tracy Swartz, Chicago-Sun Times
Put a stop to doo-wop imposters, states urge.
- by Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
Editorial: No jukebox jive / Pa's do's and don'ts of doo-wop.
Stop! In the name of the law: Music copycat bill passes in House.
- by Tracy Swartz, Chicago-Sun Times
Bill to protect musicians, fans from knockoffs heads to House.
- by Joe Pinchot, The Sharon Herald
Copycat music acts may face penalties.
- by Associated Press
States move to protect legendary band names.
-by Av Harris, NPR
State legislatures asked to stop imposter bands.
- by Susan Haigh, The Associated Press
Yes, They're great pretenders.
- by Jon Bauman, LA Times Op-Ed
10 Questions with...Mary Wilson.
- Andy Cohen, Bravo's VP of Production & Programming
Gov signs bill curbing copycat musicians.
- by Dave McKinney, Chicago Sun-Times
Old Rock-'n-'Rollers get 'Truth In Music' boost.
- by Ted Landphair, NewsVOA.com
Music vets bring down House for 'Truth in Rock Act'
- CNN.com & Associated Press
Pioneers of Rock Music fight imposters.
- by Doug Levine, NewsVOA.com
'Truth In Music' crusade gaining steam.
- by Joe Pinchot, The Sharon Herald
Sha Na Na frontman endorses music honesty.
- by Laura Coiffe, Vindicator Pennsylvania
Bowzer tells musical impostors to 'get a job
And so, as Singer Management v. Milgram passes into history, our movement goes forward to pass the Truth in Music Law in more states. Now that the constitutionality of the Law has been upheld, we will begin the federal effort as well. This will be a good public relations vehicle to educate the public if nothing else. We’ve always been certain that the most effective enforcement will come at the state, not the federal, level.
Despite the dramatic downturn in the economy and consequent shortness of funds, we have several states in progress in the 2009 legislative session. We have already been signed into law in Utah and Washington and Oklahoma and our current state total is 30!
New Hampshire should be completed soon, and Kansas, Oregon and North Carolina are in progress. Georgia passed one chamber and will complete next year in its two-year session, as will New Mexico and Arkansas. And we are close to sponsorship in Louisiana, which has a very late session that is just beginning. I hope to have passed all 50 states by 2011, 2012 at the latest.
In other enforcement news, we still await the results of an investigation and a projected hearing at the Nevada Consumer Affairs Division with regard to a show at the Sahara Hotel.
This would potentially impact the names “Cornell Gunther’s Coasters”, “The Platters” and “The Marvelettes”. The Governor of the state of Nevada has now called for the dismantling of the Nevada Consumer Affairs Division, which has obviously impacted their investigation.
We have no idea what will happen there, but trust of course that the state of Nevada will ultimately enforce its consumer laws in the proper fashion. Many fans in Nevada are very concerned about the lineage of the groups at the Sahara.
On the whole, it’s clear that the Truth in Music movement has had substantial impact on solving the impostor group problem. Venues and even agents are doing much better due diligence as to whom they hire and promote. Even some of the most hardened and greedy agents are now hawking “Tribute” shows instead of pretending they’re selling the real thing. We estimate that the impostor group business is down about 90% since the beginning of our effort.
Please continue to alert us to any dubious shows that come to your attention, and I promise to keep you updated in a more timely fashion. This volunteer work is a daunting task in a down economy when one is trying to maintain one’s own business, but it’s well worth it!
Also, if you can think of ways to help The Vocal Group Hall of Fame itself with its efforts to annex or relocate, please contact Bob Crosby at Crosby@vocalgroup.org.
Chair, Truth in Music Committee
The Truth in Music Law
is designed to stop unscrupulous concert
from deceiving the public with“impostor groups” which have
or otherwise, to the
authentic groups. Fundamentally, this is a consumer protection bill,
as the public
see a show and has no idea what it’s even
The bill makes it mandatory for a live performance to include at
the group who still has the right to use
the group name.
the act must
be billed as a
“tribute” or a“salute”
so that the public knows what it’s paying for.
An ancillary effect of this
bill is to help the authentic artists themselves,
who have been
for many years to try to stop impostors to no avail.
The impostor groups
their money, their legacy and their applause.
The bill is necessary because existing law has completely failed to work and
have multiplied. There may be as many as
50 groups of “Coasters”
and “Platters” performed nationwide, often at the same time in different venues.
The bill shifts the burden to those groups to prove that they actually have rights
to the group
The specific guidelines the bill provides give clarity to venues
to whom to book,
the state attorney general’s office as to what
constitutes a violation.
This is much more efficient and cost-effective than
any other way of
this very specialized area."Truth In Music" Has Arrived! The Truth In Music Bill was created to protect the
and to protect the Consumer from being mis-lead to
believe they are seeing the
legendary artists that made the hits
fact they are not.
The Truth in Music Law
is designed to stop unscrupulous
from deceiving the public with “impostor groups”
which have no connection, legal
or otherwise, to the
Fundamentally, this is a consumer protection bill,
as the public pays hard-earned money
to see a show and has no idea what it’s
even getting. The bill makes it mandatory for
a live performance to include at
least one recording member of the group who still has
the right to use the group name. Otherwise, the act must be billed as a“tribute” or a “salute” so that the public knows what it’s paying for.
An ancillary effect of this
bill is to help the authentic artists themselves,
who have been struggling for many years to try to stop impostors to
no avail. The impostor groups take their jobs, their money,
and their applause.
The bill is necessary because existing law has completely failed to work
and impostor groups have multiplied.
There may be as many as
50 groups of “Coasters”
and “Platters” performed nationwide,
often at the same time in different venues.
The bill shifts the burden to those groups to prove that they
actually have rights to the group names. The specific guidelines the
give clarity to venues as
to whom to book, and to
the state attorney general’s office as to what constitutes
This is much more efficient and cost-effective than any other way of
with this very specialized area.
Because of the above,
we have passed the
Truth In Music Bill Now Law in 32 States
South Carolina Bill Amended
Existing Law to be Amended - North Dakota
Ohio jumps on the Truth in Music bandwagon | Tribune Chronicle
Hi everybody! Hope you had a great summer!
We at Truth in Music had a wonderful summer enjoying how few impostor group shows appeared on our radar screen! Again, by a conservative estimate it would appear that the major perpetrators of this problem have lost about 90% of their business this year. Only the show at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas seems to be keeping this problem alive.
Three successful actions were taken with regard to shows over the summer. In all three cases, Worcester and Barrington, MA and Cheshire, CT, the Attorney General's offices forced the show to become a "Tribute." This is a very good outcome for us, as we now have actions in PA, MA and CT which have set precedent for the other states with regard to specific shows.
I am also most pleased to report that the trademark registration of "The Marvelettes", previously held by people who had no connection to the actual group, has been cancelled!!! An application for the registration has been filed by Gladys Horton and Katherine Anderson Schaffner of the original group.
We are now beginning to line up sponsors in the 23 states we still have to go. The legislative season will begin in January, and we hope to add 12-15 states in 2009. We should then complete the country in 2010.
Thank you all for your continued support!
Jon "Bowzer" Bauman
Chair, Truth in Music Committee
Vocal Group Hall of Fame
Vegas Concert Goers Duped by Fake Band Members
When you drive into Las Vegas, it's hard to miss the billboard for the big show at the Sahara Hotel. Advertised as a chance to "experience rock and roll history," the show features the Platters, the Marvelettes and Cornell Gunter's Coasters. The hits put out by the groups on the bill include "Please Mr. Postman" and "The Great Pretender."
Now, critics say the show itself is a pretender – putting out people who had nothing to do with the original acts and passing them off as the real thing. When KTLA called the ticket office to inquire about the show, we were twice told that each group on the ticket included at least one original member of the group.
In person, a lady at the ticket office told us that all of the Marvelettes were originals and that one of the Platters had been with the group for 38 years. That claim was repeated on stage later that evening at the show.
Last week, we took Sonny Turner and Charlie Duncan to the show with us to find out if any of those claims were true. From 1959 to 1970, Sonny Turner was the lead singer on a number of the Platters hits. For more than a quarter of a century, Charlie Duncan performed with Cornell Gunter in Cornell Gunter's Coasters – a spin-off of the original Coasters. Charlie and Sonny recognized nobody on stage as having anything to do with their groups. As for the Marvelettes, none of that group's singers even looked old enough to be alive when "Please Mr. Postman" topped the charts in 1961.
When Sonny confronted the "38 year" Platter after the show, story-line changed. In Sonny's presence, the performer 'he' had never claimed to be a member of the Platters, but instead claimed he had only worked for a former member of the group.
The day after the show, we stopped by the Sahara to try to get an explanation. When Andrea Sun, a hotel spokesperson, came down to talk to us, she repeated the claim that each group contained at least one original member and said the hotel was unaware of any dispute over that statement.
However, she later said she couldn't make any more comments after learning that the hotel was facing litigation over a previous act that was once part of the same show. The hotel referred us to the show's promoter, National Artists, Inc. for further comment. Sun said National Concerts, Inc. is responsible for booking the acts in the show.
National Artists' Bill Caron admitted to us that none of the performers we saw on stage were part of the original recording groups. Caron said that nobody should have ever made claims otherwise, but he defended the authenticity of the show by claiming that the promoters of the show owned the trademarks to the groups' names, and therefore had the right to put up any group of people it wanted to on stage.
People connected to the original groups challenge the trademark claims made by the promoter. Such claims have been part of a lot of much litigation, and more is likely in the near future. There's also been requests made that the Nevada Attorney General step in and apply a recently passed "Truth in Music" law, that some feel gives the state the authority to step in and try to have the show shut down.
Sun Feb 10, 2008 at 06:00 AM MST
|Tomorrow, "Bowzer," the deep-voiced leader of the band Sha Na Na --
you know, the greaser who does the arm thing -- will be at Colorado's Capitol.
Expect to see lawmakers, maybe Dianne Primavera and Ray Rose, doo-woppping
around the joint. "You have to have one fun bill a year," explains Rep. Jim Riesberg,
who is pushing a "Truth in Music" proposal.
|Cara DeGette :: Doo-Wop Colorado: Pol On 'Truth In Music' Quest
Riesberg wants Colorado to join 18 other states
with a law targeting fake bands and musicians. His idea initially came from a constituent, he says, who came to him after a sell-out performance of a well-known band that filled the civic center in Greeley, which Riesberg, a Democrat, represents.
"[This constituent] was a real fan, and at the concert he realized that the music was the same -- but no one on stage had ever been affiliated with that band," Riesberg says. "He discovered they were doing it all over the country. He said, 'How could they do that?' And I wondered the same thing."
Riesberg doesn't remember which fake group it was that played Greeley, but nationally, some bands with familiar old-time names like the Drifters, the Platters and the Temptations go on tour and perform the old music -- but none of the musicians were actually part of the original band.
Which brings us to "Bowzer," the doo wop leader of Sha Na Na. Now nearing 60 years old, the musician, whose real name is Jon Bauman, is the chairman of the Truth In Music Committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. And he's on a mission to protect original artists from identity theft -- and music aficionados from being misled. Riesberg calls his proposal, House Bill 1196, "truth in advertising" and Bowzer is scheduled to be at the Capitol to testify in favor of it on Monday.
Riesberg says he's not trying to put tribute groups -- who play the music of past greats -- out of business. He just wants to keep them honest. The proposal, modeled after a similar Pennsylvania law, would install civil penalties of $5,000 for pretenders who engage in false and deceptive tactics.
"It's really very simple," Riesberg says. "You can't claim to be someone you're not, and the audience has the right to know, when they're plunking down their hard-earned dollars, who they're listening to."
Stay tuned: Check in tomorrow for a classic story of greed and depravity --
a man with a schtick who was busted in Colorado Springs after impersonating one-hit wonder Terry Jacks in the mid-1990s.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at The Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at email@example.com
Alabama Legislature may silence impostor performers
al.com - Birmingham,AL,USA
In Atlantic City, a casino had been advertising the Cornell Gunter Coasters,
the Elsbeary Hobbs Drifters and the Platters, but changed the ads to say the ...
Alabama Legislature may silence
|2/10/2008, 12:43 p.m. CST
By PHILLIP RAWLS
The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Sen. Bobby Denton, who hit the record charts 50 years ago, and
Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, the comedic vocalist from Sha Na Na, are singing the same song — politically speaking.
Denton, D-Muscle Shoals, is sponsoring and Bauman is promoting a bill in the Alabama Legislature that would silence impostor performing groups. To Denton and Bauman, the fake singing groups are committing a musical form of identity theft.
Most often, they use the names of vocal groups from the 1950s and 60s, but these impostors have no original members in the group and no legal title to the name. To get bookings, they charge a cheaper fee than the original performers.
"Audiences are being taken while the real artists sit home wanting to work as a result of this sophisticated
form of identity theft," Bauman said.
Bauman was the lanky vocalist in Sha Na Na who cracked up audiences by wearing black sleeveless
T-shirts and trying desperately to flex the muscles on skinny arms.
He still tours today with "Bowzer's Rock N' Roll Party" and is still honoring the 50s and 60s performers who
inspired Sha Na Na's singing and comedy. When not touring, he leads a drive by the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pa., to try to get every state to pass a "truth in music advertising" law to crack down on impostor groups.
So far, 18 states have passed laws, including Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina.
Bauman has not visited the Alabama Legislature yet, but he's told Denton that he's ready to flex his muscles if needed.
So far, Denton is doing fine solo. He got the bill approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and it is now awaiting a vote by the Senate.
Like impostor laws already on the books, Denton's legislation prohibits the use of a group's name unless the performers have the registered trademark on the name or there is at least one original member in the group who has legal rights to the name.
The legislation authorizes the attorney general and county district attorneys to enforce the restriction and it provides for penalties ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.
Bob Crosby, president of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, said Pennsylvania and New Jersey have used the law to crack down on shows. In Atlantic City, a casino had been advertising the Cornell Gunter Coasters, the Elsbeary Hobbs Drifters and the Platters, but changed the ads to say the performance was a "tribute" to the three groups.
The legislation has no impact on singers performing other artists' songs provided they don't assume the artists' name.
"There is no law against singing someone else's song. I do that all the time, but I don't do them as Frank Sinatra or Elvis," Denton said.
Denton, 69, first hit the charts in 1958 with "A Fallen Star." He followed up with "Back to School" and "Sweet and
Innocent." His work and that of many others from northwest Alabama helped establish Muscle Shoals as a popular recording center for rock and soul acts.
Bauman, who has traveled the nation promoting the legislation, contacted Denton for help in Alabama.
"Sen. Denton's history in the music industry helps him to understand this issue from the point of view of the
authentic artist as well as the consumer," Bauman said in an e-mail.